A Django site.
February 18, 2008
» The same the world over

In the context of our recent discussion of the Welsh language provision on the Arriva Trains website, I was excited to receive an email from one of my mailing lists which stated “Mesa Air Group’s interisland carrier go! has released an airline website entirely in the Hawaiian language.” Following the link to the story at the Honolulu Star Bulletin confirmed the story, “Mesa Air Group’s interisland carrier go! plans to unveil the world’s first airline Web site using only the Hawaiian language.”

Great I thought, a good example of a commercial company providing a complete, high quality minority language web service – perhaps Wales can learn something from this story. Perhaps not. Reading through the comments reveals that the site www.lelegowau.com is in fact almost all in English – only the initial page and some of the booking process (mixed with English) appears to be in Hawaiian. Definitely not “entirely in Hawaiian”! The comments actually provide a nice insight into the range of peoples feelings about the service and the company and have in the main avoided the kind of rants that generally seem to follow stories of this type.

I can’t help feeling that the combination of over-hyped claims and poor minority language provision is likely to disappoint and perhaps irritate even the most ardent supporter of the Hawaiian language.

February 1, 2008
» Arriva Trains website low take-up

One of the statistics mentioned in the Dragons Eye program last night was from Arriva Trains. Apparently 4% of people use their website in Welsh. This is high relative to some of the other services mentioned, does this mean it is a good service? Or does the overall low figure suggest that Welsh speakers are not using it for some reason?

Certainly the Welsh provision is highly visible – a language choice splash screen is used, the site remembers my language preference and on most pages it is easy to switch between the languages. So, does this mean that Welsh speakers simply don’t want this information in Welsh? Well, perhaps.

On the other hand, perhaps they are not satisfied with the service provided. One thing they might have difficulty using the site for is finding trains or buying tickets. Try finding a train from Caerdydd to Abertawe for example. They may also be disconcerted by the quantity of English on the Welsh pages, for example in the advertisements.

Of course we are still no closer to understanding the reasons in this particular case – maybe Welsh speakers don’t travel by train much, maybe they don’t use the internet as a source of train information, maybe they are very relaxed about travel arrangements. Taking a simple statistic without considering the causes behind the statistic may be giving a very misleading impression.

January 31, 2008
» Low take-up of services

An interesting piece on the BBC suggests that there is a Low take up of Welsh language services. Typically they are reporting an uptake by around 1% of customers. Unfortunately the article makes no real mention of why this should be the case. Indeed one of the interesting, though rather underplayed, parts of the story is that Dŵr Cymru reported that demand for its Welsh language call centre rose by 50% after an advertising campaign. While this still only raised it to 9% it does suggest that low take-up is not simply as case of Welsh speakers not wanting to use a Welsh service.

It seems to me that we only have half the story here – and not the most interesting half. I presume that if these companies were marketing a product that wasn’t selling, they would want to know why. I wonder how many of them have surveyed their Welsh speaking customers to find out why they aren’t using the service; perhaps they don’t know it exists, perhaps the service is poor, perhaps they just choose not to. Are there differences in the demographics of people who do and don’t use the service – perhaps young Welsh speakers are taking up these services, which would suggest that in the longer term there will be increased demand. One of the most insightful and thought-provoking comments I have come across regarding this was from Jeremy Evas (2000) who suggests ‘supply creates demand’ when it comes to minority language provision

Not much specifically about online services, but on the Welsh assembly’s website “visitors were almost 30 times more likely to visit the site via its English domain name assemblywales.org than its Welsh domain name, cynulliad.org.” It is not clear whether this refers to actual use of the site once they got there, or just the domain name the used initially. In either case, the reasons behind this are likely to be complex and not simply a case of Welsh speakers not wanting Welsh language services.

Of course what I would really like to be able to do is to get my hands on a copy of the actual report, rather than just the articles and the TV program itself (due to be on Dragons Eye). I presume these are paid for my the license fee, so perhaps they are publicly available? Anyone have any idea how to get hold of it?

Evas, J. (2000) “Declining density: a danger for the language?” in C. H. Williams (ed.), Language Revitalization: Policy and Planning in Wales (Cardiff: University of Wales Press), pp.292-310.