The history of the Welsh language took another turn last week with the adoption of the Welsh Language Measure of 2010.
Back in 1536 the Act of Union specified that English would be the official language in the courts, non-English speakers were barred from public office and the Welsh gentry became increasingly English-speaking. Then in 1847 the event known as the Treachery of the Blue Books caused outrage in Wales when government school inspectors claimed that the Welsh language was responsible for the alleged backwardness of the Welsh. The Welsh Not (or Note) was used to stigmatise children who spoke Welsh at school and the status of the language was diminished. In response to the decline in the number of speakers in the 20th Century, Saunders Lewis gave a speech on the Fate of the Language in 1962 which inspired language protestors to campaign for equal status for the language. Activists have been battling for bilingualism ever since.
7 December 2010 was a milestone for the Welsh language. The new Welsh Language Measure confirms the official status of the Welsh language in Wales. Public bodies and some private companies will have to offer services in Welsh. The law also provides for the appointment of a Language Commissioner to protect the rights of Welsh speakers, the creation of a Tribunal where complaints can be taken and a Partnership Council to advise the government on strategy. The new law will come into force in the new year.
The last Welsh Language Act dates back to 1993 and made public bodies responsible for providing services in Welsh. The new Measure of 2010 will also cover some large private companies, including utility and telecommunication companies.
Many businesses have already embraced the Welsh language. As the Welsh Language Board points out, Welsh speakers appreciate these services and independent research has shown that both Welsh speakers and non-Welsh speakers believe that it is important for businesses to use the language.
Whether your company comes under the scope of the Measure or is one of the growing number of organisations voluntarily deciding to increase bilingual services, Business Language Services Ltd. can help you. As a Cardiff-based company we specialise in English-Welsh and Welsh-English translation and interpreting. As a past winner of the Language Training Awards, we are also ideally placed to offer Welsh courses for your staff.
*For more information on the Measure, see the web site of the National Assembly for Wales.