Cultural Playing Field

Working bilingually in Wales by Robin Simpson
February 27, 2009, 3:25 pm
Filed under: meetings | Tags: , ,

On Thursday I was at the Senedd in Cardiff – the spectacular home of the Welsh Assembly – to attend the VAW Welsh Language Policy Review event. Representatives of voluntary arts umbrella bodies heard presentations from the Welsh Language Board, Estyn Law (an organisation funded by the Welsh Assembly to support voluntary organisations in developing bilingual working), the Welsh Language Officer from the Wales Millennium Centre and Alun Ffred Jones, the Minister for Heritage. The Minister started by saying “this is an interesting and exciting period for the Welsh language and for Wales”. The Wales Assembly Government wants to create a bilingual Wales: “a Wales where the Welsh and English languages can coexist and people can choose which language to use in their everyday lives”. He told the voluntary arts umbrella bodies: “you have a special opportunity to contribute to the task of making the Welsh language an essential part of Welsh identity” and urged them to consider how the Welsh language could be integrated into their activities for the benefit of all. Alun Ffred Jones referred to the new powers being requested by the Wales Assembly Government (announced at the beginning of February) which would give the Assembly the right to legislate on the Welsh Language. He finished by saying: “The Welsh language is something for all of us, not just those who speak Welsh. We should all be able to take ownership of it.”

Throughout the event there was a strong emphasis on understanding the needs of Welsh speakers and investigating what aspects of bilingual working should be prioritised – particularly in situations where resources are limited. There was a clear message that effective bilingual working does not need to involve translation of every piece of print material you produce and that, in many cases, the recruitment of more Welsh speaking volunteers to provide opportunities for dialogue in the Welsh language is more important than translation services. It was a really interesting day and great to meet so many umbrella bodies. Congratulations to Jacquy, Sioned and Gwenan for a very successful event.

Robin Simpson.

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