A Django site.
March 3, 2010
» BBC Strategic Review

I have always considered the BBC’s online Welsh language news service and material for people learning the language to be significant landmarks on the Welsh language virtual linguistic landscape. Therefore the potential impact of the recent Strategic Review on this provision has been a point of concern for me; is this provision under threat?

Having read through the Strategic Review, I am not really 100% certain one way or the other.

On the negative side the Review talks of spending 25% less on the BBC’s website by 2013, and closing “lower performing” sites (lower performing in what sense?).

On a positive note, the Review confirms the BBC’s commitment to “services that both reflect parts of the UK to the whole and serve specific areas with content that meets their needs and interests” and the long term strategy to achieve this includes “Continued support for the UK’s indigenous minority languages including through a renewed strategic partnership with S4C, and through Ulster Scots provision and BBC Alba.”

I imagine that leaving a clear space for commercial providers of local services has less relevance to Welsh language services than other local services, and if they had been planning to axe either of both of the online services I mentioned that the Review would have mentioned this. However, perhaps irrationally, I just can’t shake a slight sense of unease.

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 29, 2008
» No politics here - just milk labels

Once again I find myself musing about bilingual packaging. This time Daioni milk has caught my attention. Is there something about dairy products or the dairy industry that particularly lends itself to being branded as “Welsh” or do I just spend more time staring at dairy packaging than other packaging? With the Exception of Halon Môn, all my examples of bilingual packaging are dairy products.

Anyway the Daioni label actually contains almost no Welsh, in fact I guess we could debate whether or not it should even be considered bilingual. But what did strike me was their website – fully bilingual. After several examples of the use of Welsh in branding NOT being extended to the website, it was refreshing to find an example where the opposite is true.

The website is actually quite nice too – I am a sucker for pictures of cute animals and that whole “these are the people (and cows) who make your milk” personal touch thing. Of course it isn’t perfect, would you like “Saesneg” or “Welsh”? And I’d suggest that the cross language links would be better leading you to the same page in the chose language rather than the homepage. But , come on – cute animals, who can resist?

As an aside, I see that the feed to BlogCymru is once again working, which means that my ruminations on milk labels and cute animals will shortly be appearing amidst some very earnest discussion about Welsh politics. No politics here – just milk labels.

January 17, 2008
» Rhif deg

In these times of the phony non-election campaign it is good to learn that the Downing Street website is now available in Welsh. This reveals to us all manner of interesting information, for example a page in Welsh about Tony Blair appears in the breadcrumb navigation as “You are here: home > Welsh homepage > Welsh PMs in history > Welsh Tony Blair”. Who would have thought that so many previous Prime Ministers were Welsh.

Of course, once they remove the news story from the Number 10 homepage the Welsh homepage will be rather harder to find. A search on “Cymraeg” doesn’t actually return the Welsh homepage, but it does return this page Welsh guide to Government which might come as a bit of a disappointment to anyone who thought they might actually get some information about Government in Welsh. The Welsh homepage is, somewhat un-obviously linked via the “other languages” button which is in the “Newsroom” section, listed after latest news, media centre, email updates, photo galleries and webchats. Just as well that they are “keen to make it more accessible to people in the UK and around the world”, just imagine if they were reluctant.

Yes of course I’m being grumpy and critical and I should be celebrating the fact that they have at least started and that they have started with Welsh. It’s a Monday, I haven’t had a cup of coffee yet and I have a cold. It’s my blog and I’ll be unsatisfied if I so choose! Anyway it’s Mike’s fault he sent me the link to the story.

November 9, 2007
» Bilingual website wins award

Plaid Cymru’s Adam Price has won the British Computer Society’s best MP website award, as reported in a piece on the BBCs website. It is not entirely clear what the criteria used were, though they are reported as “design, engagement, accessibility” with the best overall considered to be an outstanding example of the very best incorporation of all three qualities.

What encourages me about this is that Adam’s website is bilingual, showing that it is entirely possible to have an excellent site and make a bilingual provision – the two are not mutually exclusive as many people who resist making a bilingual provision might like us to believe.

However it is interesting to note that his blog, whilst featuring entries in both Welsh and English is not bilingual (not every story is available in both languages). This pattern of presenting relatively static content bilingually and more volatile content monolingually (usually in English) has certainly been a characteristic of Welsh political party websites, though Plaid has adopted a fully bilingual approach since the launch of their redesigned and rebranded website. Similar attitudes towards volatile content can also be seen on some commercial sites, Outlook Expeditions for example state “Due to the dynamic nature of this website we apologise we are unable to produce a Welsh translation. ” They do however offer to send a copy of their bilingual brochure (again static content). Once again we see the Welsh language being minorised not only in terms of content availability, but also in terms of a language of consumption (after translation) rather than original creation.

Thanks to Beverley for pointing this story out to me.