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December 13, 2010
» Iaith Fyw : Iaith Byw

WAGs proposed new Welsh Language Strategy is now open for consultation, or perhaps not as it appears to be listed as a “closed” consultation

http://cymru.gov.uk/consultations/welshlanguage/wlsconsultation/?lang=en&status=closed

September 10, 2010
» Video on the language measure

The WAG has uploaded a short video about the Proposed Welsh Language Measure onto their YouTube channel.

It is interesting to see how web2.0 is gradually becoming an accepted part of the media world – press release, check! – Tweet, check! – YouTube, check!

Two things in particular about the content struck me – firstly the strong mention of mobile phones (1:20) – and secondly the extent to which the cattle auction rooms (2:56) resemble the Assembly debating chamber (don’t get me wrong, I love the building, was just struck by the resemblance!).

May 20, 2010
» A less bilingual Welsh Assembly

I see from a story on the BBC that English language speeches in the Welsh Assembly will no longer be translated into Welsh in the official record of proceedings. While this has raised eyebrows/objections/hackles in various quarters for a variety of different reasons, it is interesting that part of the argument in favour of this refers to “…proposals to make the records of our debates and proceedings more user-friendly by imaginative use of modern technology.” Given the importance of parallel bilingual texts for technology such as Google Translate, I can’t help wondering whether this will in fact inhibit the use (imaginative or otherwise) of Welsh in future modern technology and whether the strategic goal to “increase participation in the democratic process here in Wales”, will ultimately result in cementing English as the language of Welsh politics.

While this may be an easy way to save £250,000 in austere times, we should perhaps be mindful of unintended consequences, both directly for the language and indirectly in terms of the erosion of the Assembly’s claim to be “an exemplar organisation in its delivery of bilingual services.” Exemplar organisations are needed to develop and demonstrate innovative, effective, affordable, responsive bilingual organisational practices – if the Welsh Assembly can’t fulfil this role, who else will?

March 17, 2010
» Is having a language enough?

Last night I watched Week In Week Out: A Broken Heart – “Reporter Phil Parry returns to the village of Llangeitho after twenty years as he investigates the health of the Welsh language in its traditional strongholds, and asks some uncomfortable questions about its future.” Part of the programme was an interview with Alun Ffred Jones, the Minister for Heritage. A couple of the comments he made brought me back to thinking about what it would mean for Wales to be a truly bilingual country…

The particular comments (around 20:43) were: ”...the success is that people have two languages, whether they choose to use both of them in equal measure is not [interrupted by interviewer]” and ”...and that is the important point; that it [the Welsh language] is there for them to use…”

Does this suggest that the WAG would consider a Wales in which everyone could speak Welsh, but no-one actually does, to be a truly bilingual country? I’d like to think not. But is does raise the critical issue of how we move from speakers who are bilingual (in the sense of being able to use both Welsh and English) to a bilingual society where both languages have vibrant communities of users. Without users, individual competence and confidence diminishes, opportunities for use diminish and the production of new, quality materials in Welsh also diminishes. This distinction between speakers and users is an important one, and whilst producing speakers might be relatively easy, it is not clear how government policy can create users.

March 1, 2010
» EBLUL closes

One of the mailing lists I subscribe to has just carried an announcement that the European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages has closed. From their site I notice that the news service Eurolang is also currently closed.

Does anyone know if there is a story behind this, or is it just coincidence – perhaps funding sources that just happened to run out at more or less the same time? Are new organisations emerging to champion the cause of lesser used languages or is the language agenda less important in these times of economic crisis?

October 24, 2008
» Politics, Schmolitics... or not?

Regular readers may well have formed that view that I am not a particularly political animal – and they would be right. I have been viewing the whole USA presidential race (more a marathon than a sprint) with at best a rather abstract interest in as much as there will be a winner – a sporting event in which I am pretty much indifferent about who actually wins.

Now, thanks to YouTube I suddenly find that I actually care who wins…

...however as it is YouTube I also find myself wondering if it is actually a fake (albeit a good one!) which perhaps tells us something about the problematic status of YouTube as a genuine source of information. My colleagues and I had a similar debate about whether you could really remove the glass front of an iMac with a sink plunger as shown on YouTube (we still haven’t tried!).

So what is this movie that has stirred me into some form of political awareness with respect to the USA? Barack’s Message for First Americans.

Please tell me this isn’t a fake!

February 21, 2008
» Missed Opportunity?

Well, I’m sure I don’t need to draw any of my readers attention to the recent announcement by Heritage Minister Rhodri Glyn Thomas which gave a “clear indication of this Welsh Assembly Government’s support to the Welsh language print media.” The announcement of funding “to fulfil the government’s commitment” to “expand the funding and support for Welsh language magazines and newspapers, including the establishment of a Welsh language daily newspaper” has perhaps not been greeted with as much enthusiasm as the rhetoric might have suggested it would be.

Was there a missed opportunity here? Well, certainly I think that Rhodri Glyn Thomas missed at least one trick; if he had waited until today to make his announcement he would have been making it on International Mother Language Day, during the International Year of Languages. Surely such a momentous announcement for the future of Welsh language print media could have waited a few days in order to coincide with this auspicious date?

Of course this blog doesn’t really concern itself with print media – other than labels on milk – so can we put an internet slant on this? Of course we can. Firstly, many people have suggested that a print publication is simply too 20th (19th?) century and that really a Welsh language daily newspaper should be on the WWW. To be honest I haven’t yet had time to check this out – but are there any examples of commercial successful purely online newspapers? Is there a business model that could deliver the editorial and journalistic quality Y Byd aspired to, but only through online provision? It is important to remember that Y Byd was embracing online provision – and indeed provided online only subscriptions. Was the commitment to paper a commercial necessity or was there something more symbolic about being a “proper” newspaper?

Secondly, part of the response to the announcement has been conducted online. Y Byd themselves link to a variety of online sources, Heini Gruffudd is using email to collect signatures for a letter of protest and Cymdeithas have launched an online petition which is also being promoted by email. Perhaps there are other on and offline activities that I am not aware of, but the internet is clearly a tool that comes easily to hand these days when protest needs to be organised.

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.

November 7, 2007
» 2008 International Year of Languages

UNESCO has proclaimed 2008 as International Year of Languages with February 21 2008 having particular significance as it is also International Mother Language Day. The UNESCO announcement is interesting for a number of reasons.

Arguments presented in support of the crucial role of languages include: “Languages are indeed essential to the identity of groups and individuals and to their peaceful coexistence. They constitute a strategic factor of progress towards sustainable development and a harmonious relationship between the global and the local context.” Their role in eliminating extreme poverty, combating AIDS/HIV and other diseases, and safeguarding of local and indigenous knowledge and know-how with a view to ensuring environmental sustainability is also highlighted.

While some of these arguments apply to to own interest in the Welsh language, it is always nice to be reminded of the wider contexts and the significance of language in those contexts. It also causes me to pause for reflection on the term “indigenous language” which tends to be used to only to describe certain types of indigenous language (and would typically not be used to describe Welsh, or indeed English). Of course finding an appropriate term to cover a whole variety of contexts is difficult, 'minority', 'lesser-used', 'disadvantaged’, 'threatened', 'endangered', 'indigenous', 'heritage', 'local’, 'non-state', ‘regional’ and so on.

The significance of the internet is also strongly stated in the announcement: ”...within the space of a few generations, more than 50% of the 7,000 languages spoken in the world may disappear. Less than a quarter of those languages are currently used in schools and in cyberspace, and most are used only sporadically…Our common goal is to ensure that the importance of linguistic diversity and multilingualism in educational, administrative and legal systems, cultural expressions and the media, cyberspace and trade, is recognized at the national, regional and international levels.”

My impression is that television used to be the holy grail of minority languages, is the internet perhaps rivaling it for significance – and if so is it significant only as a symbol or as a real tool of use by speakers?

September 27, 2007
» Celebrating linguistic diversity, plurilingualism, lifelong language learning

Once again the European Day of Languages has come and gone. For those of you (us) who missed it, it was yesterday. Once again I seem to have managed to miss the huge celebrations which I am sure must have been arranged – much as I managed to miss them last year, and the year before… In fact I don’t even particularly remember the European Year of Languages (2001) when it was started.

This year was actually worse as I forgot to ask for my free cool European Day of Languages posters and stickers with which I managed a small celebration last year (assuming putting a poster up on a wall counts as celebrating, it’s not exactly a mardi gras is it).

Actually there were over 100 events organised in the UK, though many of them are rather unhelpfully just described as “European Day of Languages” on the website and I can’t be bothered to click through to find out more details.

Did anyone notice any events? Did the Assembly do any particular to celebrate?