A Django site.
November 18, 2010
» Interactive map of Welsh speakers

Wales Online has provided a mildly diverting interactive map showing percentage of Welsh speakers, by age, by region. I am not sure that the title of the article is actually very helpful in understanding what the map is showing, or about some of the implications in the article. It’s also not clear what data it is based on – I guess the last census. Still mildly diverting on a wet Thursday afternoon.

August 20, 2010
» Lack of census

It has been reported by the BBC that the 2011 census may be the last census of its type and that other sources of data, such as that available from the Post Office, local government and credit checking agencies will be used instead.

I wonder how many credit checking agencies record Welsh speaking ability in their records?

It seems to me that the end of the census would result in the loss of one of the most important sources of data about the Welsh language and the detailed analysis that can be done of the data, e.g. Aitchison, J. & Carter, H. “Spreading the Word: The Welsh Language 2001”. The census data informs much of the language planning activity in Wales and elsewhere in the UK. I wonder what alternative plans there are to gather this data and how this will be paid for.

July 26, 2009
» Welsh Language Blog Deficit 2

This morning I woke up and knew where the mistake was in the calculations.

So the estimate was wrong, but how wrong…

...and wrong where?

The base of the 22% from the OII was internet users, whereas for the Welsh language estimate I used the whole poulation. Doh! Should have spotted that one!

Now I don’t have the historical figures to hand, but I have good reason to belive that a reasonable current estimate for use of the internet by fluent Welsh speakers is 67%.

This would give a base of 18,3342 internet using, competent Welsh writers, if 22% of these were blogging, we would have about 40,335 blogs.

Well I guess we have accounted for 20,000 “missing” blogs, now we just need to account for the other 40,000.

Actually once I get back to work (yes I am on holiday) I should be able to calculate a pretty accurate estime for 2006 as I think I have a complete set of all the necessary statistics for that year.

July 24, 2009
» Welsh language blog deficit?

I was reflecting on my last blog post about opportunities provided by new media and whether or not the Welsh language was taking advantage of these opportunities, and this led me to wonder how many Welsh language blogs we would expect there to be, and how many there actually are. So I set out to do some estimates…

According to the Oxford Internet Institute’s The Internet in Britain 2009 report (pdf 1.9MB) 22% of people in Britain aged 14+ write a blog.

Messing about rather crudely with figures from the Welsh Language Board’s The Welsh Language Use Surveys of 2004-06 report (pdf) I arrive at a figure of 273,646 Welsh speakers aged 14+ who describe the extent to which they can write Welsh as “very well” or “well”.

Now these numbers are somewhat rough around the edges and the time periods don’t match – but if we assumed that 22% of these Welsh speakers were blogging, that would suggest they would create somewhere in the region of 60,200 blogs. If we use the 2005 figure for blogging in Britain (17%) that would suggest somewhere in the region of 46,500 blogs.

So how many Welsh language blogs are there? Well, I would put a hugely optimistic top figure of 200, including blogs produced by learners, people from overseas, blogs which are pretty much inactive and so on. If we are talking about blogs produced from within Wales, written “well” or “very well” in Welsh and updated at least every couple of months, I would be surprised if there were more than 100.

Whichever way you look at it I recon we are somewhere in the region of 46-60,000 blogs short. Now my first instinct is simply to think I have a decimal place wrong somewhere – embarrassing as that would be, I would actually be quite relieved! Feel free to point out the obvious error I have overlooked! However, you need to move that decimal point quite a lot to reduce the deficit to zero.

So how can we explain this apparent deficit?

1) Actually blogging isn’t evenly distributed across Britain – people in Wales don’t blog much.

2) Actually blogging isn’t evenly distributed across languages, Welsh speakers don’t blog much.

3) Actually 22% (or 17%) of Welsh speakers do blog, they just do it in English.

4) Actually my maths was just horribly wrong and there is no deficit.

5) Errors and differences in the statistics have been compounded and multipled to give an inaccurate estimate.

6) Open to suggestions…

Even if I am only vaguely right on my numbers, and if the explanation is 1, 2, or 3, this seems remarkable. It certainly for me raises some interesting questions about the vitality of the Welsh language online.

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.