A target to reach a million Welsh speakers by 2050 is “almost impossible” to hit due to real-terms budget cuts, with demand for courses outstripping capacity, a committee heard.

Dona Lewis, chief executive of the National Centre for Learning Welsh, gave evidence to the Senedd’s culture committee as part of a one-day inquiry into post-16 Welsh provision.

Ms Lewis warned that the “massive” growth the National Centre for Learning Welsh had hoped to achieve this year will no longer be possible.

She told the committee there are waiting lists for people who want to learn Welsh, “so the demand is higher than what we can reach at the moment”.

Ms Lewis said: “Our work has grown since the centre was established back in 2016 and funding has grown with that. But, to reach more people, clearly, more funding is needed.”

Llŷr Gruffydd warned that budget pressures jeopardise the chances of meeting the target of a million Welsh speakers and doubling daily use of the language by 2050.

The Plaid Cymru MS for North Wales said: “Reaching the targets of Cymraeg 2050 was challenging already and almost impossible now.”

Mr Gruffydd suggested it is a tragedy that the National Centre for Learning Welsh cannot meet demand, saying: “There’s a risk that we’re missing out on an historic opportunity.”

The Welsh Government’s 2024-25 budget allocates £53.5m to support Welsh language spending, with a near-£3m reduction compared to last year, according to a report.

Ioan Matthews, chief executive of Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol, said further education and apprenticeships are crucial.

Dr Matthews told the committee that opportunities to study through the medium of Welsh have been few and far between until relatively recently.

Pressed about whether the Cymraeg 2050 targets are realistic, Dafydd Evans, chief executive of Grŵp Llandrillo Menai, was not confident the aims are achievable, saying: “If we’re going to have new Welsh speakers then we would need a lot more resources in the pot to reach that target.”

Dr Matthews agreed that budget pressures will make the 2050 target more challenging.

He said: “What we need is a plan and trajectory which sets out milestones for us. But any slowing down of that momentum will make that trajectory more challenging.”

Mr Evans stressed the importance of focusing on transitions from education and promoting the value of Welsh in the workplace, so young people see the language as a skill.