Is There Any Hope for the Welsh Language in the Digital Age?

british banks

AFTER hearing about the Welsh language Commissioner’s report into banking services available through the medium of Welsh after a flood of complaints one question came to my mind. Is there any hope for the Welsh language in the digital age?

The question comes after reading Meri Huws' comments that banks have failed to ensure on-line services through the medium of Welsh.

Of course, we have become used to seeing bilingual signs in branches and I’m able to write cheques in Welsh in my Welsh language cheque book. But then I realised … …. I am not going to the Bank physically that much anymore and when I think about it …6 months have passed since i wrote my last cheque. When was the last time i use online banking? I’m logged in right now!

The point I’m trying to highlight here is that the Welsh language society’s mini ‘revolution’ in the 60s has secured a number of rights for Welsh-medium services physically but these rights have not been transferred to online services. Have you ever shopped online store through the medium of Welsh? I have never – but I often use the self service till at Tesco through the medium of Welsh. Have you ever used online banking through the medium of Welsh? I have not, but I often speak Welsh to whoever is wearing the ‘I speak Welsh’ at Lloyds.

But, admittedly, my travels to the centre of the town in order to use these Services has decreased significantly as it becomes much more convenient for me to use such services online. I’m certain that I’m using less and less of my Welsh because I’m unable to do so online. Where I had the opportunity to press a button for Welsh at the ATM I am now using a bar-code on my mobile phone to pay for goods.

After a period of reflection I realised. There will be no future for the language if the curent trend online continues. I am absolutely sure that everyone who reads this article is fully aware of the growing influence of technology on their lives and how the technology isintegrated in this contemporary society. I often see young children with their eyes glued to iPads screens laughing at a cartoon or a game where you have to flood your friend’s Facebook feed requesting the he helps you farm a plot of land or purchase a pig for your farm.

And this is the reality that must be faced now – your friends and your children have greater contact with American English online than they do to the Welsh of your local community. How many online games are available through the medium of Welsh? The answer now – little!

It is absolutely clear to me that it is not possible for the Welsh language to compete with English online unless we as Welsh speakers insist that the Government acts to ensure the future of our mother tongue in the digital world.

This is what must be ensured – legislation must be created to ensure that companies whose Services we use on a day to day basis is available in Welsh and that funding is available to those who create apps to do so bilingually without facing additional costs. It is very unlikely that we can rely on companies to spend their millions on translating and maintaining Welsh medium services on a voluntary basis – We must demand that they do so.

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