Welsh Assembly Translation Sparks another Round of Debate

News & SocietyNews

  • Author Steve Greenwood
  • Published July 23, 2010
  • Word count 546

The decision whether to translate all the English speeches delivered during the Welsh assembly into Welsh sparks another round of debate. The latest independent review supports that any English written record of proceedings should no longer be translated into Welsh.

The earliest proposal to stop the translations was in August 2009. The Assembly Commission wanted to cease the translations because the move can save about 250,000 sterling pounds per year. Some Assembly Members (AM) argued that it may be illegal to do so under the Welsh Language Act 1993. However, the Assembly Commission is of the opinion that the Welsh Assembly does not come under the 1993 Act and the statutory sanction will not apply to it. In order to silent the critics, an independent review was initiated in December 2009 to find out whether the translations should be stopped. The review results were published in mid May 2010.

The independent review panel supports that the speeches of AM speaking in English during the assembly should not be translated into Welsh, but the words of AM speaking in Welsh should continue to be translated into English.

The Assembly Chair Menna Machreth said that the decision was a disgraceful one because the Assembly Commission is not treating the Welsh language equally. The English language will soon become the only business language in the Assembly and the Welsh language will be marginalized.

The Welsh Language Scheme created under the 1993 Act made it compulsory for every public body providing services to the public in Wales to set out their services in Welsh. In addition, people who attend public meetings arranged by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) in Wales will be able to speak in Welsh if they want to. There is also a proposal for a new law to fine businesses which do not outline their services in Welsh. Therefore, the language scheme is primarily designed to position Welsh and English on an equal footing.

Therefore, the contention now is why the move by the Welsh Assembly Commission is not in line with the Welsh Language Scheme? Many Welsh language activists also demanded for the Assembly to reconsider their decision on stopping the translations. Some are even thinking of mounting a legal challenge. Wales’s nationalists have been working very hard in recent years to increase the use of Welsh. The language is now being taught to students in Wales at certain Welsh-medium school. The Welsh government also recently set up six centres of excellence in the teaching of "Welsh for Adults" in North Wales, Mid Wales, South West, Glamorgan, Gwent and Cardiff. Currently, it is only being spoken by around 20 percent of the Wales population in household and communal establishment. The nationalists are very passionate about preserving the language because it is their identity. However, many of them are now predicting a grim future for the Welsh language because even the Welsh politicians in the Assembly are not taking it seriously.

The CBI Wales director David Rosser takes the view of stopping the translations being a sensible move. He also said that he hopes this sensible measure will also be applied to businesses operating in Wales. It is foreseeable that businesses will start pressuring the Welsh government soon to relax the Welsh Language Scheme based on what is happening in the Welsh Assembly.

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