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Up until 1900, however, almost half the population still spoke Welsh.
In 1967 the Welsh Language Act was passed, recognizing the status of Welsh as an official language.
During the eighteenth century a literary and cultural rebirth of the language occurred which further helped to solidify national identity and create ethnic pride among the Welsh.
Central to Welsh culture is the centuries-old folk tradition of poetry and music which has helped keep the Welsh language alive.
Wales is surrounded by water on three sides: to the north, the Irish Sea; to the south, the Bristol Channel; and to the west, Saint George's Channel and Cardigan Bay.
The English counties of Cheshire, Shropshire, Hereford, Worcester, and Gloucestershire border Wales on the east.
At the same time, many Welsh people from rural areas left to find work in London or abroad.
This large-scale migration of non-Welsh-speaking workers greatly accelerated the disappearance of Welsh-speaking communities.
Language has played a significant role in contributing to the sense of unity felt by the Welsh; more than the other Celtic languages, Welsh has maintained a significant number of speakers.Welsh epic poetry can be traced back to the sixth century reflect a literary and cultural awareness from an early point in Welsh history.Although there were many factors affecting the Welsh language, especially contact with other language groups, the Industrial Revolution of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries marked a dramatic decline in the number of Welsh speakers, as many non-Welsh people, attracted by the industry that had developed around coal mining in the south and east, moved into the area.The popularity of Wales as a vacation destination and weekend retreat, especially near the border with England, has created a new, nonpermanent population. There are approximately 500,000 Welsh speakers today and, due to a renewed interest in the language and culture, this number may increase.Most people in Wales, however, are English-speaking, with Welsh as a second language; in the north and west, many people are Welsh and English bilinguals.