The BBC does the right thing ... well, sort of ... in the end

In my post entitled Lost in Translation on Friday I noted that the BBC had mistranslated the English version of its story about the Welsh Language Survey conducted by Beaufort on behalf of Bwrdd yr Iaith Gymraeg.

I'm delighted to say that they've just got round to correcting it.

     Welsh rated same as green issues

But I notice the header at the top still says that the page was last updated on 22 May 2009 at 11:15. Sneaky. The original version (for reference purposes) is available as an mht here:

     Language rated above green issues

But on a more general point, very often the Welsh version of a story on the BBC's website is an obvious translation of the English. All too often it also a condensed version which contains less information than the English equivalent. I believe that doing this is detrimental to their otherwise laudable attempts to provide a news service in Welsh on the web. Who on earth would read the Welsh version when there was a fuller version in English? It's counterproductive to provide a second-rate version.

What happened on Friday, however, was one of the much rarer instances when the boot was on the other foot. It was those who read the English version who were disadvantaged (misled, to be blunt) by an inadequate translation of a much fuller piece originally written in Welsh.

I would urge the BBC to do two things:

• The first is to ensure that both the Welsh and English versions of a story are treated equally in every respect, and indeed that more of their stories are available in Welsh as well as English ... not just the ones they deem to be "of Welsh interest" but their UK and international stories as well. Welsh speakers pay their licence fees too, are we not equally entitled to read what is happening in the world in Welsh?

• The second is to encourage the BBC to produce more original journalism in Welsh first (which should also be translated into English, of course). The best way of improving their standards of written Welsh is to allow their journalists to write more news stories and articles in Welsh.

My fear is that somebody in a layer of middle management in the BBC has now written an internal memo to the effect that all stories should be written in English (and translated afterwards) so that those reading in English never have to suffer another unfortunate mistranslation of this sort. That would be entirely the wrong response.

At a time when a new daily news provider has stepped into the arena in the form of Golwg 360 (even with its teething troubles) the BBC should be raising the quality and scope of its news service in Welsh, not looking to lower it.

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Anonymous said...

To wit, and give a 24/7 bilingual service instantaneously updated online: breakdown of language of original items - 65% spanish/35% catalan. Machine translation both ways and as I understand it, it's nigh-on impossible to know which is the originator language. Ok, this is harder to do in Wales, but what about it? Come on Beeb, step up to the bar and have a good nose around. It's NOT that difficult .. if you want to. 5 year tekky project, anyone? Surely this is something that EVEN Iaith Pawb could deliver on ..

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