[lg policy] UK: Business and the Welsh language

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Thu Apr 5 15:10:16 UTC 2012

Business and the Welsh language

    by Chris Kelsey, Western Mail
    Apr 4 2012

Spreading the use of Welsh in the private sector will require
demonstrating its commercial potential, writes Wyn Mears
The Welsh Government’s five-year strategy, Iaith Fyw: Iaith Byw A
Living Language: A Language for Living, focuses on the role of
technology and new media in boosting the language.

“Our ambition and expectation is that Welsh speakers should be able to
conduct their lives electronically,” said Education and Skills
Minister Leighton Andrews, when he launched the strategy last month.

The headlines fail to mention the key role of business in helping to
achieve the Government’s aims, but the strategy does explore a number
of areas that relate to business and pose some challenges that relate
to those companies which come within the scope of Welsh language
legislation, and private sector enterprises which are encouraged to
adopt new initiatives on a voluntary basis.

Ultimately the availability of quality services provided by business
has to meet the expectations and demands of the consumer, whether as a
fluent Welsh language user of services, or, for example in the tourism
sector, as someone who wants to experience the value and impact of the
language as a reflection of Wales’ distinct culture and identity. The
strategy rightly stresses that “the experience of the consumer through
the medium of Welsh should be first-rate not second-rate.”

>>From a business perspective action point 22, “to continue to explore
the links between the economy and the language and respond to those
links”, needs to be developed and clarified as soon as possible, as
many businesses in Wales remain to be convinced about the need to
adopt a language policy.

While the Welsh Language Board’s (WLB) efforts have borne fruit as
some 500 new voluntary schemes have been adopted, there is scope for
the new Commissioner to persuade more businesses to actively embrace
the language and to be prepared to offer Welsh services to their

According to research undertaken by Wyn Mears Communications and
Training in 2010, on behalf of the WLB, there is a greater tendency
among consumer-facing businesses to embrace the language as a positive
force for their enterprises, notably in the tourism, food and drink,
sport and leisure and retail sectors.

Not surprisingly, there would also appear to be a stronger overall
commitment to prepare policies among businesses which are owned or
managed by Welsh speakers, reflecting their greater confidence in
conducting their affairs through the medium of Welsh.

To date the introduction of a language policy template has acted as a
successful catalyst in persuading businesses to consider their
strategies, and as a result a significant number of initiatives have
emerged in more Anglicised parts of the country.

According to the research, businesses found the template to be an easy
and convenient planning tool. “It allowed us, in a comfortable and
friendly manner, to embrace a policy through a practical and sensible
approach,” reported one national retail chain, while a North Wales
solicitor said: “It gave us a structure for our policy and showed us
areas where we could improve with some overall guidance and examples.”

Although the majority of respondents to the study felt that the
adoption of a policy had not made a difference to their use of Welsh
(many because they were already fully bilingual), most recognised that
there had been an influence on their awareness of the language, and
that it had enhanced the image of their business. More than two thirds
also felt that there had been some growth in the use of their services
and products by Welsh-speaking customers.

More than one half of the businesses surveyed felt that the adoption
of a policy had made a difference to their business. A self-catering
agency said: “It was something that we were doing anyhow, but we hoped
that it would create some goodwill with our Welsh-speaking property
owners, and give us a competitive advantage.” A national chain store
reported: “It has given us credibility in the marketplace and
generated a positive attitude towards us, rather than what potentially
may have been a negative perception.”

But where does business go from here? The research showed that there
was no unanimity among businesses over the future status of Welsh
language policies in the private sector.

Most seemed to be content with the current voluntary arrangement,
which will continue to provide the freedom to use the language as a
business tool, rather than yet another official compliance burden, but
that alone cannot be sufficient to facilitate a significant and
visible growth in the active application of the language.

The new Commissioner needs to actively address those business sectors
and geographical areas of Wales which appear to be under-represented.
These include communities where the Welsh language is prominent. Areas
to be targeted should include the South Wales valleys, Bridgend and
the Vale of Glamorgan, Pembrokeshire, Powys and north-east Wales.

If the strategy’s target for growth is to be met, a concerted effort
to develop new contacts will be required. There will be a key role for
representative and local business organisations in promoting the
language, and in persuading their members to develop policies.

The real value to businesses, however, lies in demonstrating the
potentially commercial value of the Welsh language, and in making
Welsh speakers themselves aware of the opportunities to conduct their
affairs in the language of their choice.

Wyn Mears is director of Wyn Mears Communication and Training.

Read More http://www.walesonline.co.uk/business-in-wales/business-features/2012/04/04/business-and-the-welsh-language-91466-30658934/#ixzz1rB9wOWNy

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