By Sioned Wyn, Welsh Language Adviser, Electoral Commission
To celebrate International Translation Day our Welsh Language Adviser, Sioned introduces the history of the Welsh language and why we work bilingually in Wales…
Shwmae (Hi)! I’ve been the Commission’s Welsh Language Adviser (Cynghorydd yr Iaith Gymraeg) since May 2013. Welsh is my first language, and it’s the only language I speak with my family and most of my friends. I’m not sure what would happen if I tried speaking in English with my Mamgu (Grandmother)!
You may be surprised to find out that Welsh is the oldest living language in Europe, dating back to the 6th century. Its roots are in the Brittonic language, which was spoken as far north as Scotland. While these days you’re not likely to hear a lot of Welsh spoken among the Scots, you can still see some traces of it in place names across Scotland, like Edinburgh.
Today Welsh is an official language in Wales. In fact, 27.8% of people in Wales are able to speak Welsh and all children up to the age of 16 learn the Welsh language in school, whether they attend a Welsh or English medium school.
The aim of the 2011 Welsh Language (Wales) Measure, where the Welsh language standards come from, is to make it easier for Welsh speakers in Wales to live their life in Welsh. The standards mean people have the right to ensure the services they receive from public bodies, such as the Commission and local authorities, are available in Welsh to them if they wish. It also follows on that making sure that all children in Wales learn Welsh is a little pointless if they don’t have any chance to speak it socially and in their day to day lives.
The standards vary between each organisation, depending on the work they do, and who their stakeholders are. But there is a common thread of equality – ensuring that people in Wales can use our services, documents and see our campaigns in the language of their choice.
Here at the Commission we’re committed to ensuring that all communication with people in Wales is done bilingually in Welsh and English in line with the Welsh language standards. In practice, this means that we translate documents from English into Welsh for our Welsh audiences. Since March this year alone we’ve translated around 300,000 words!
The process of translation itself is not as simple as it may seem. It’s about creating new text and making sure that whatever the reader is reading, they believe it was written in that language. It takes time to consider sentence structure (which is very different in Welsh and English), and ensuring that the tone and feeling of the piece is carried over to the translated language.
Welsh is a part of who I am, and I’m proud to ensure that my fellow Welsh speakers can get the information they need to exercise their democratic right in the language they choose.