You can speak in Welsh, but only once a year

I haven't seen this story from last night's Newyddion 9 reported anywhere else, so I thought I'd put it up for any who might have missed it:

     

In essence the report says that the leader of Neath Port Talbot Council has agreed to allow councillors to speak in Welsh once a year, on or around St David's Day.

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According to the South Wales Evening Post, the background to this story is that Rebeca Lewis, the Plaid Cymru Councillor for Trebanos, had wanted to speak at council meetings in Welsh. She was at first told by council officers that there was no simultaneous translation service available, even though the council's own Welsh Language Scheme states that:

Meetings of the Council

The Council's Standing Orders require that in all proceedings of the Council, the Welsh language and the English language shall be given the same status and validity, with appropriate advance arrangements being required for simultaneous translation facility requirements.

NPT Welsh Language Scheme, 2007 – Section 3.7.1

Naturally, she then tried to find out how much notice was required, and was eventually told that it needed four weeks' advance notice. However that wasn't of the slightest use because the usual notice period for council meetings is only two weeks. When she told the council officers that this was ridiculous, she was told that a week's notice would "probably" be enough.

To me, that seems fairly reasonable, not least because she had said that she wanted to speak in Welsh at every meeting. So the council officers would be in no doubt about what they were required to do on a regular basis.

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But that makes the story as reported by the BBC all the more strange. Why, if council officers had already agreed that simultaneous translation could be provided at every meeting other than those arranged at very short notice, would it be necessary to reach a "compromise" that reduced this to only one token meeting a year?

Even more strange is why the leader of the Plaid Cymru group, Linet Purcell, has agreed to this as a compromise. Or why another Plaid councillor, Del Morgan, was reported as saying this compromise was a step forward.

How on earth can getting something less than the Council's own Welsh Language Scheme requires, and less than the Council's own officers were reported as having agreed they could do only two weeks ago, be considered a step forward? We shouldn't be on our knees begging for and being satisfied with a crust of bread, Del Boi, we should be on our feet firmly insisting on rights that have been established by law.

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As the BBC report said, other members of the Plaid group on Neath Port Talbot Council are not at all content with the compromise that the leader of the Plaid group has agreed to, and I don't blame them. I'm quite frankly amazed that anyone in the party would be anything less than disgusted by the spinelessness of the Plaid leadership in Neath Port Talbot for ignoring both principle and good practice, and agreeing to nothing more than a token gesture instead.

To Beca, I would say that you should stand up for your right to speak in Welsh at every meeting you want to. Well done for taking this so far, but please don't give up now. This is too important a matter for such a shameful, shabby compromise.

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11 comments:

Efrogwr said...

Even more depressing is the comment in the report that councillors who want to speak Welsh in Sir Benfro council meetings have to then translate themselves. Iw jyst cwldnt mêc it yp.

Steffan Webb said...

Diolch am y stori. Mae'r byd yn wallgof! Da iawn Rebecca.

kp said...

Speak in any language you wish, it is a simple human right.

Just don't expect to be understood. This is not a human right. And nor will it ever be.

Ambiorix said...

Just don't expect to be understood. This is not a human right. And nor will it ever be.

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How did you come to that conclusion and to reference to your first point that can apply to people speaking in English!

MH said...

It's a waste of time asking KP that question, Ambiorix. What he wrote was gibberish, and he said he didn't expect to be understood.

kp said...

Quite so Ambiorix, it matters not what language you are speaking if another person is unable or unwilling to understand.

Who cares if you want to speak Welsh or English. Or any other language for that matter. If we want to be understood we can normally find a way, but only if the other party meets us half way.

Talk of simultaneous translation and the like is just for political point scoring and should be seen for what it is.

Pink Llwyd said...

Is kp for real? Simultaneous translation and the like is not about "political point scoring". It's a service that is of real benefit to those who can't speak the language and commonplace all over Wales not only in political meetings but in all sorts of other meetings and events that don't have anything to do with politics.

What about the subtitles on TV programmes like "The Killing" or Bollywood movies? That must be "political point scoring" too. All those stubborn awkward people all over the world who don't speak English are only doing it to make a political point aren't they!

Neath Port Talbot Council needs to be dragged out of their dark hole and start to treat people who speak Welsh with fairness and dignity. Thank goodness the younger generation like Cllr Lewis are making a stand. They can show the way to the older generation like Cllr Morgan who can obviously speak Welsh but never stood up for the right to do it.

Peter Black said...

Swansea has provided an interpretation service for Welsh speakers since the Lib Dems took over the leadership of that Council in 2004. That continues but my problem is that Welsh speakers on the council do not use it and often the interpreters are sent home after half an hour or so after the Chair has asked whether anybody wishes to use their service. If I were a Welsh speaker I would use the service but I am not. I am concerned that this lack of use will lead to its eventual withdrawal.

kp said...

To Peter Black:

Don't be concerned that 'Welsh speakers on the council do not use' the interpretation service. Be grateful.

And start to work out the cost savings if the service can be withdrawn in its entirety!

It's high time you AM's started to focus on costs, not service availability. It's what normal people have to do on a daily basis!

Efrogwr said...

@ Peter Black: you have a very good point. Those of us who have gone to the trouble of learning Welsh are sometimes left wondering why we bothered. The cultural reasons for reluctance of your average native speaker to use the language as a public/civic language are of course not difficult to understand: it boils down to the need to normalise and institutionalise the use of Welsh rather than having it as a bolt-on. I think government policy should be addressing this in a holistic way. It shouldn't be left to individual Welsh speakers. Of course, Carwyn Jones' and many other Welsh-speaking members' limited use of the language on the floor of the assembly and in internal administration is another illustration of the general malaise.

welshnotbritish said...

KP Said "Who cares if you want to speak Welsh or English. Or any other language for that matter. If we want to be understood we can normally find a way, but only if the other party meets us half way."

The translation is a way of meeting half way. You've contradicted yourself once again there.

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