Welsh Language Board promotes private sector bilingualism

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Fri Nov 24 13:22:56 UTC 2006

Welsh Language Board promotes private sector bilingualism
By Marjorie Delwarde, 23 Nov 2006

The Welsh Language Board (WLB) is increasingly encouraging the private
sector to provide bilingual services and websites. In addition to a set of
guidelines for bilingual computing, the WLB has recently released a free,
downloadable Language Control Centre, which will switch the interface
language of Windows XP and Office 2003 from English to Welsh. Ping Wales
spoke to Meirion Prys Jones, chief executive of the WLB, about
bilingualism, technology, and businesses in Wales.

Ping Wales: Currently, only the public sector is legally required to
provide bilingual services in Wales. Do you think the Welsh private sector
will follow suit? Meirion Prys Jones: The Welsh Language Act of 1993
places an obligation on the public sector to draw up a language plan in
order to deliver their services bilingually. By now, many private sector
companies voluntarily decide to introduce firm approaches to use and
include Welsh in their dealings with customers in Wales. This includes the
provision of bilingual signage, the use of bilingual marketing materials,
the adoption of Welsh language policies, bilingual websites and the
employment of bilingual staff who can deliver the companies services
through the medium of Welsh.

Businesses acknowledge that the language provides them with a unique
selling point when marketing their products in Wales as well as
demonstrating their commitment and respect towards the linguistic make-up
of the country. There are over half a million Welsh speakers in Wales and
as consumers they sincerely value the use of Welsh by private sector

PW: What are the common problems faced by businesses that want to offer
bilingual services?

MPJ: Many companies think about using the language but change their mind
at the last minute because they don't know how to go about it. Some feel
nervous about it because they don't speak Welsh and they tend to worry
about the translation and cost issues. How can they overcome those issues?
The Welsh Language Board private sector unit is there to help businesses
on their way to bilingualism. Our role is to promote and facilitate the
use of the language and our services include practical advice and
assistance by a private sector officer, grant assistance and advice on
developing bilingual signage and bilingual marketing material, free
translation services up to 30 words and advice on commissioning
translation via the Welsh Association of Translators. We also offer advice
on how to develop a company's Welsh language policy and assistance on
issues such as recruiting a complement of Welsh speaking staff and
developing awareness of bilingualism as a customer care issue.

PW: What are the various steps companies have to undertake to ensure their
website and software can be accessed with equal ease in Welsh and English?

MPJ: Earlier this year the Board issued a detailed set of guidelines and
standards for this exact type of thing. There's no 'one size fits all'
answer to this type of question but one of the main points to bear in mind
is that you need to offer a proactive choice, both at the very start of
the website and on every page that's available bilingually, for example by
using a Cymraeg-English language switch at the top right hand corner.

PW: Open source office software has been available in Welsh for a while
now. Microsoft is catching up though. Would you recommend businesses to
choose OSS or Microsoft technology when it comes to easy English-Welsh
language choice?

MPJ: And there's Linux available in Welsh too and volunteers translating
Macintosh systems and a whole host of other things. Our strategy is to
encourage people to use the Welsh language version of whatever product
they've chosen, not to choose the product for them.

Dr Jeremy Evas, head of research, and Meleri Wyn Williams, private sector
development officer, WLB, will discuss the provision of bilingual services
in Wales at the next ITWales event, to be held on Thursday 30 November
2006, at Technium CAST in Bangor



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