Monday, June 11, 2007

Welsh to me

As a student and proponent of Scottish Gaelic -- a language approximately equal in its global importance to (say) Police Motu, or Klingon -- I can't help but be sympathetic to the needs of all minority languages as they struggle for survival. Even so, I thought that this story out of Wales was more than a little overinflated. The travel agency Thomas Cook is happy to employ Welsh speakers at its Bangor office, and to provide service to its customers in Welsh. What it does not allow are business-related conversations in that tongue between members of staff, presumably so that everyone can be aware of what is going on in the office at any given time.

Since the vast majority of Welsh- speakers also speak English, but conversely few English- speakers know Welsh, it makes practical sense to let English be the default language; and in any case the company ought to have the final say in how its own internal operations are conducted. Dragging in the parasitic Commission for Racial Equality to adjudicate this dispute is not going to make things any better for speakers of Welsh. If a "right" to speak Welsh at work is fabricated out of thin air by the CRE -- or even if it is discovered lurking in the depths of absurd legislation such as the Race Relations Act -- companies will think twice about opening offices in north Wales, and the perception of minority-language speakers as grievance- mongering atavists will be reinforced.

1 comment:

Guto said...

The point is that Welsh-speakers are not idiots and are not naturally rude. When a discussion involves a non-Welsh speaker we turn to English anyway, especially at work.

I work in office dominated by Welsh speakers but with a few non-speakers too. The vast majority of work convrsations are between two or three people, so usually do not have an English-speaker present.

Thomas Cook's policy, in the Welshest city in Wales (language speaking), is bizzare. It means that a Welsh-speaking manager appraising a Welsh-speaking employee would have to do so in their second language!

This policy isn't about ensuring everyone is included, that happens anyway through common curtesy and practicality (no point giving an prder in Welsh to an English-speaking staff!).