Is the Welsh language under threat?

As the year races on and the start of Spring rolls round again, our attention turns to Wales, who celebrated the feast of their patron, St. David, on the 1st of March. This year, however, it’s not just the traditional reverie that has made the news, with the Welsh language at the forefront of media discussion.

While Welsh and English hold equal status as official languages in Wales, growing concern exists regarding what some see as a continuing tendency to place higher value on English than the indigenous language.

Recently business owner Tudur Owen of North Wales received national coverage for his humorous stand against what he describes as a disregard for the Welsh language. Tired of reading bilingual signs containing ‘gobbledygook’ Welsh which has been mistranslated from English, he created his own signs which purposefully turn this trend on its head – perfect Welsh with a careless, computer-generated English translation.

Welsh sign with English translation

While the signs are very much tongue-in-cheek, they succeed in raising the serious point that when proper measures are not taken to ensure the quality of a translation, the results that ensue can be ridiculous and downright disrespectful.

Welsh language legislation

In the same week it was revealed that the Welsh government are taking action to overturn two of the regulations listed in The Welsh Language Standards, a set of rules which was written and approved by its very own staff in order to preserve the right of the people of Wales to use the language.

The rules in question state that all documents prepared for public use must be available in Welsh, and that all audio announcements made in a place of work must be made in Welsh before they are made in English.

What can we do to protect Welsh?

It is easy to forget that not very long ago Welsh was burdened with a reputation as being an out of date and irrelevant language, which hindered its speakers from progression.

Remember, it wasn’t until 2012 that the Welsh Language Act was passed and Welsh finally received status as an official language of Wales.

Over the years many people have fought to shake this notion, to reverse centuries of decline in the use of the language, and to ensure the Welsh language receives its proper recognition as an essential aspect of Welsh culture and identity, not just historically, but today.

Whether a Welsh speaker or not, the language and its speakers should be treated with the respect they deserve. The use of correct Welsh, in translation or otherwise, and its availability on an equal basis to English, would be a good place to start.

When Welsh translations go wrong…

When we talk about bad Welsh translations, how bad do we actually mean?

This Welsh road sign inexplicably reads: ‘bladder disease has returned’

welsh sign

A sign in Cardiff directed pedestrians to ‘Look Right’ in English but to ‘Look Left’ in the Welsh translation

Road sign - pedestrians look right

The word ‘spirit’ was mistranslated to great comic effect, with one shop sign reading ‘Wines and Ghosts’ in Welsh

Shop sign - wines and spirits

Another bilingual road sign which got well and truly lost in translation instructs Welsh-speakers to beware of “exploding workers”

Welsh road sign

Welsh speakers have complained that this supermarket sign is complete gibberish

Welsh supermarket sign

Last but not least is my personal favourite – another bilingual road sign (what is it with these road signs?!) which unbelievably takes an automated email message to be the Welsh translation. While the English makes perfect sense: “No entry for heavy goods vehicles. Residential site only”, the Welsh version states: “I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated”

welsh sign 7

Now you’ve seen the effects of using poor quality, free translation tools, next time your business needs to translate or interpret to and from Welsh, put your trust in the professionals.

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