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Council street signs fall foul of Welsh language rules

26 Mar 2024 4 minute read
A sign at Teynes street, Cwmbran showing the English ‘Leading To’ placed before the Welsh text. Picture: Google Street View

Twm Owen local democracy reporter

Two street signs that only display names in English have fallen foul of Welsh language rules as additional information isn’t displayed bilingually.

While English only street names are allowed a council has been found to have breached Welsh language legislation firstly by failing to use the Welsh words for “leading to”, which also appeared on the signs, and then placing the corrected wording in the wrong order, with the English first.

Investigation

A member of the public had complained to the Welsh Language Commissioner and provided photographs of street signs showing “Taynes leading to Ladybench” and another “West Roedin leading to Offway and East Roedin Shop” in Cwmbran.

The commissioner had initially ruled there was no need for an investigation, after receiving the complaint in September 2022, but reconsidered after the complainant said they wanted that refusal referred to the Welsh Language Tribunal.

As a result the commissioner opened an investigation and has now found Torfaen Borough Council breached five of its Welsh language standards, the legally binding rules setting out it uses Welsh.

As well as the failure to provide the Welsh wording on the signs and placing the English first, when it attempted to correct them, the commissioner found the council breached three standards by failing to consider the impact decisions it made could have on the Welsh language.

Failure

Torfaen council had defended its policy of only using only the official name on streets signs, in whichever language, and that developments should only have one official name.

As using only official names is acceptable the commissioner found no breach of the standards in relation to only displaying the names in English but said they would like to note “nothing prevents the council from registering Welsh names for these streets, which would then allow it to add Welsh names to the signs”.

However the commissioner said the failure to provide the Welsh for “leading to” was in breach of the standards.

They also said it was “good to see” the council had since rectified the signs by adding the Welsh words, ‘yn arwain i’, to them but said where a sign contains the same information in Welsh and English the Welsh language text should be positioned so that it is likely to be read first.

Policy

Up to the beginning of 2018 it had been translating street names but changed its policy to only using official names and it “encourages the use of Welsh names in all new developments and ensure that the Welsh language is not treated less favourably than the English language.”

But the commissioner said the reversal of its translation policy has resulted in the council having to remove the majority of Welsh names from the signs as only the English names had been registered.

The commissioner said the council had failed to provide evidence it had “conscientiously considered” the effect revising the street naming policy could have on the Welsh language.

The council also said by using only Welsh names, where adopted, the policy would encourage use of those names, rather than an English translation. But the commissioner said it had failed to show how the street naming policy could be formulated to have positive or increased positive effects on the Welsh language.

They also said the failure to consider how to protect unofficial Welsh names for streets was a failure of the standards.

The council now has three months to comply with the commissioner’s requirements for further action that includes training and guidance for staff on the standards including use of the words “leading to” as an example of the type of information that must be translated.

It also has to provide evidence that it has, as it said, corrected the sign which had listed the English text before the Welsh.


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Geraint
Geraint
14 days ago

This road naming policy probably explains why the announcements on Cardiff buses altering you to the next stop is so linguistically ad hoc. I quite frequently catch a bus from Whitchurch to the centre of Cardiff. If the bus stop has a bilingual name the announcement is in Welsh and English. If the name is in English only the announcement is only in English. So a stop like The Philog which sounds as though it must originally be Welsh is only in English. A name like Black Weir is also only in English as I guess the Welsh equivalent has… Read more »

Richard E
Richard E
14 days ago

The late Robyn Lewis – very much the inspiration behind modern civic bilingualism warned of the danger of varying local policies and muddle around actual practices. He was right 100 percent ✔️.

A Evans
A Evans
14 days ago

I am a proud English speaking Welshman. I believe that the Welsh speakers are a small majority within the total Welsh population. I believe that they are lucky to be born & bred in parts of Wales that were of no interest to the industrial English & that keeping the language alive is good, for them. However, all my bills, letters etc come to me with Welsh being the primary & first language on them. I do not want to force these people to speak English, so why do they force me to accept Welsh in all walks of life?… Read more »

Che Guevara's Fist
Che Guevara's Fist
14 days ago
Reply to  A Evans

England is over the border. You can get there via the M4. Da bo chi!

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
14 days ago
Reply to  A Evans

A. I think you need to learn a little more about Welsh history and the fact that the majority of workers in industry in Wales until the 1870s were largely Welsh speaking. B. You seem to have something of a chip on your shoulder regarding the language. You say you’re a proud Welshman, so how come you have such a negative attitude towards the national language? Are you perhaps resentful because you do not speak Welsh? Or is it that you somehow feel somehow inferior? You stress you’re a ‘proud English speaking Welshman’ and that’s fine, so how come you’re… Read more »

Johnny Gamble
Johnny Gamble
14 days ago
Reply to  A Evans

Simple pay by direct debit plus use online services which will do away with the waste of paper correspondence.

blc
blc
14 days ago
Reply to  A Evans

I am also a proud English speaking Cymro. But I haven’t got a chip on my shoulder about the attempts to stop Cymraeg from being crushed out of existence. I do lament not having ever learned Cymraeg properly (it wasn’t mandatory when I was in school), and while it’s true that you’re never too old to learn, there’s a bit much going on in my life to start now. But I still don’t have a chip on my shoulder about the fact that people still speak Cymraeg as a first language. Quite the opposite, in fact: I take it as… Read more »

Sali
Sali
14 days ago
Reply to  blc

I have Welsh ancestry but was born and brought up in England. I started to learn Welsh when I moved to Gwynedd five years ago and, despite spending only fifteen minutes every day (well, most days), I can now get by in Welsh. Download the Duolingo app, it’s free and fun to use. Everyone can find at least five spare minutes in a day.

blc
blc
12 days ago
Reply to  Sali

Yeah, Duolingo has done a lot for the language, despite its uncertain future on the app. I just don’t have the spare energy or mental capacity for learning a new language with everything else I’ve got going on right now :).

Bronnek
Bronnek
14 days ago
Reply to  A Evans

Being bilingual means you have the choice of whether to answer in one language or another. I am English, but have learnt Welsh. That gives me the choice of replying in either language. By remaining monolingual, you are confining yourself, and other people who want to reply to you, to one language only. It is you are are forcing English on the conversation by not having the ability, an ability which is easily learnt, to write in Welsh. Your bills come bilingually. Choose to read whichever language you want, but don’t complain you’re hard done by. As a proud English… Read more »

Denise
Denise
13 days ago
Reply to  A Evans

Sad to think and so petty to report a road sign for not conforming. I’m Welsh I couldn’t care less as long as the signs give me information.

Richard Thomas
Richard Thomas
14 days ago

This all seems somewhat vague: “They also said it was “good to see” the council had since rectified the signs by adding the Welsh words, ‘yn arwain i’, to them but said where a sign contains the same information in Welsh and English the Welsh language text should be positioned so that it is likely to be read first.” For clarity “should be ” needs to be “must be ” and “likely to be read first”. We do need clear and consistent signing, but I would whether making the Council replace a sign which does use Welsh, but in the… Read more »

Last edited 14 days ago by Richard Thomas
malcolm
malcolm
14 days ago

It is absolutely stupid and expensive to have bilingual signs. The serv no useful purpose.

Johnny Gamble
Johnny Gamble
14 days ago
Reply to  malcolm

Agree they should be Welsh only.
Cities in India have reverted back to their original names.
What’s good enough for India is good enough for Cymru.

Jason Bowen
Jason Bowen
14 days ago

Torfaen is one of the most anti Welsh councils in Wales.

Wales is one of the few parts of Europe with such an active dislike of its own language and culture

Cymro Penperllenni
Cymro Penperllenni
13 days ago

That sign seems old enough to pre date the Welsh Language Act 1993 let alone the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 and should be bilingual only when replaced if damaged or as part of a new scheme. Fair play to Torfaen CBC for altering the sign. I am not sure that you can translate Teynes and Ladybench

Dav
Dav
13 days ago

All of South Cymry signs are the wrong way around so disgusting drives me absolutely potty

Mr Jones
Mr Jones
13 days ago

A pathetic waste of time and money that will only serve to turn people against support for the Welsh language.

Erisian
Erisian
13 days ago

As History shows give ’em a modfeddd and they’ll take milltir. Make them “Do the little things”

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