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Welsh, A Foreign Language In Britain

“Letter In A Foreign Language (Welsh)”
“Letter In A Foreign Language (Welsh)”

Substitute “Ireland” for “Wales” and “Irish” for “Welsh” and the discrimination revealed below would be pretty much the same. From a report in the Daily Post newspaper:

“After receiving a form in English from National Savings and Investments, 72-year-old Arfon Rhys sent it back and requested either a Welsh or bilingual form.

The letter he then received from NS&I – a state-owned savings bank backed by the Treasury – said: “We have received correspondence from you in your own language. As we do not translate from your language into English, we can’t reply to your letter.

“I enclose your original document so that you can arrange for it to be translated into English and resent to us. We will then be able to deal with your request.”

In a handwritten comment, the reason for returning the letter to Mr Rhys was given as “letter in a foreign language (Welsh)”.

The letter was written on March 12, just days after a landmark ruling that NS&I acted unlawfully by ending Welsh language services.

On March 6, two High Court judges in Cardiff ordered NS&I to restore its customer services in Welsh. They ruled that the agency’s decision last year to scrap its Welsh-language brochures, telephone service, correspondence and website was unlawful.”

[ASF: With thanks to Marconatrix for the link]

5 comments on “Welsh, A Foreign Language In Britain

  1. This reminds me of the time a few years back when a Waterstone’s store in Glasgow had the Scots Gaelic books in their foreign languages section!


    • Is John Smith’s still in business? They used to be my main source of Celtic books, back long long before you could order over the internet. Can’t recall if they had Gàidhlig under ‘foreign’ but it was unusual to be able to find any such books ‘openly’ for sale in those days. Tha mi’n dòchas gu bheil cùisean fada nas fheàrr a-nise.


  2. A couple of Welsh blogs you should find interesting, the first is here, check the comments too :

    The second, a most curious court case, here :

    Here’s my translation of the meat of the story, hmm, The Curious Case of the Welshman in the Charity Shop?

    In October 2012, Richard [T. Jones of Pen y Groes, Arfon, Gwynedd (an habitual and fluent Welsh speaker)] took some goods to a charity shop in his area, and before he left was about to buy two or three books as well. All in aid of the cause. He had no intention at all of breaking the law nor of making any sort of protest. He had hardly managed to address the lady managing the shop before she ordered him to speak English. Richard continued to speak Welsh, asking her to keep the books for him. But he got the same response throughout his visit: you must speak English in this shop. After leaving Richard returned a put stickers on the shop window to inform the public about their [English Only] language policy. He then went again with a few items ready to be bought by the charity, but with a recording device. He got exactly the same answer once again, and she threatened to physically throw him out of the shop or call the police. “Call them,” Richard said. He then left, with everything so far on tape.

    Later on in the day a policeman called at Richard’s home, informing him that the shop manageress was going to bring a case against him for offensive racial abuse and for assulting her. But the policeman was prepared to offer a deal: all Richard had to do was to sign a declaration that he’d never go into that shop ever again, and the case would be dropped. Richard wouldn’t even consider such a deal. All this time the tape was running. A new accusation was then added, that he’d attacked the policeman, and before the day was out he’d been arrested by two other policemen.

    The case dragged on for a year and a half, going through the magistrate’s court in Caernafon, where Richard opted to be tried at the Crown Court [with a jury], fully aware that the two recordings would bring out the truth.

    To cut the story short, we had the jury’s decision after a day’s careful hearing, including listening more than once to the tapes. The manageress thought, and continued to believe, that she had heard abusive and racist language [from the accused]. But there was no evidence of that on the first recording, just Richard responding [to the manageress] politely, but entirely in Welsh. And the second recording contained nothing to suggest an attack on the policeman. The manageress and the policeman were cross-examined by the prosecution and the defense: but they failed to establish any proof that the charges were true. Hence a Not Guilty verdict was returned on all three of the charges.

    Clearly to the English monoglot mentality, any use of Welsh is insulting, offensive and racist. Reming you of anything, Seumas?


    • Thanks for the links and the translation. Bizarre that the police would go to such efforts to pursue a faulty case but not unsurprising either.


      • My last line should of course say “remind”, not sure what happened there. There is a further report of the case here :

        Additional details: The accused is 72 years old. The charity shop is called “Annie’s Wyddfa”, one of a chain in N. Wales and elsewhere, it’s on Snowdon Rd., Pen y Groes, not far from the main crossroads there. The shop worker was one Lynda Jones (unlikely to be a relation since every other person in Wales is of course called ‘Jones’) and she claimed he called her an ‘English Cow’ and a Natzi. The accused claimed that she did actually have some understanding of Welsh even though she didn’t speak it, and that she grabbed him and tried to throw him out of the shop. When the policeman visited the accused with his ‘deal’, he saw the recording device and tried to take it, thus removing the evidence. It seems that Mr. Jones resisted and this led to the charge of assulting a policeman. When he was later arrested he was held for four hours.

        A spokesman for the Welsh Language Commissioner has said they can’t (or won’t?) investigate this case, even though her remit includes “cases of interference with individuals’ freedom to use Welsh together in Wales”. There is machinery in place to assist firms to develop their use of Welsh, but personally I can’t a change of attitude happening until a few of these bigots are made an example of.

        It seems from other stuff I’ve been reading that it’s not uncommon when Welsh speakers use Welsh in public, in a shop, café, office etc. to have their request/inquiry answered by the other person saying, “I’m English”. This actually speaks volumes about attitudes to Welsh. Not, “Sorry, I don’t understand you, was it tea you wanted?” or whatever. I assume that’s how someone from abroad would be treated. And one final gem:

        After the case, Mr. Jones said, “The whole thing was a disgrace. What if something like that were to happen in any other country. Just imagine a Frenchman being thrown out of a shop in France for speaking French!”

        No Dic, you don’t need to go quite as far as France …


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