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How can people be encouraged to speak Welsh when out and about?

30 Jul 2022 4 minute read
Picture by Working Word (CC BY-ND 2.0)

People who speak both Welsh and English have to choose which language to speak in any given situation, and many things can influence this decision.

For example, Welsh speakers might habitually start conversations in English instead of Welsh due to a lack of confidence, or because they worry that others may not understand them.

Understanding how people can be encouraged to use their Welsh could support the Welsh Government in its aim to double the daily use of Welsh by 2050.

A lecturer at Bangor University conducted research to see what cues work best to encourage people to begin conversations in Welsh when visiting shops, offices, and other public places where they access services.

“Visual cues can encourage bilingual people to select one language over another, and we wanted to see whether the Iaith Gwaith logo is an effective prompt to use Welsh,” explained psychology lecturer Dr Awel Vaughan-Evans.

Welsh speakers are familiar with the Iaith Gwaith logo, which notes that you can speak Welsh when speaking with someone in a shop or service.

The logo was introduced by the former Welsh Language Board in 2005.

Around 50,000 of the ‘Iaith Gwaith’ (working Welsh) lanyards, badges, and posters, all of which contain an orange speech bubble to indicate that the individual can speak Welsh, have been distributed annually since that date.

The Welsh Language Commissioner is now responsible for this Scheme, and for the distribution of work language products.

Most effective

Awel explains further: “We wanted to test which of these resources was most effective in encouraging people to begin a conversation in Welsh. Forty-eight people took part in the study, the majority being first-language Welsh speakers.

“We found that more people indicated that they would speak Welsh to a person when presented with an image that contained the Iaith Gwaith logo than when presented with an image that did not contain the Iaith Gwaith logo.

“The logo was effective when presented as both a poster and a lanyard, however, the lanyard on its own was the most effective single prompt.”

As well as simply finding the best way to encourage Welsh speakers to select and use Welsh first, the research has added to psychologists’ understanding of the types of cues which influence bilingual people’s use of language.

Awel added, “It was interesting to find that non-linguistic cues can be used to impact what language a person might choose to speak, though we need to bear in mind that we undertook the study here at Bangor University, a bilingual university in Gwynedd, where 76% of the population speaks both Welsh and English fluently.

“It would be interesting to replicate the study in an area where the prevalence of Welsh–English bilinguals is substantially lower.”

Comfortable and confident

Gwenith Price, Deputy Welsh Language Commissioner said, “The Iaith Gwaith badge, which recently celebrated its 15th birthday, has now gained its footing in Wales.

“It is an important scheme, which enables employees, who can offer a Welsh language service to the public, to clearly show that they can speak the language by wearing a lanyard or a badge. Welsh learners also use the badge to actively practice and speak the language.

“It is good to understand more, from this independent research, about the way the badge can encourage people to use the language in various situations. I am pleased to see that people are more likely to choose Welsh as a language to speak when the badge is present.

“In hospitals, shops, supermarkets, businesses and within organisations of all kinds, people need to feel comfortable and confident when using the language so that we can increase the number of people who can speak, and are keen to use the language in their everyday life”.


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THOMAS William Glyn
THOMAS William Glyn
18 days ago

Yn byw yn Ffrainc ar hyn o bryd ac rwyf wedi bod yma ers 2003 (19 mlynedd) Roeddwn i’n byw yn Llundain rhwng 1961 a 1988 (27 mlynedd) Rwy’n 80 oed. Mae cyfrifiad cyflym yn datgelu fy mod wedi byw yng Nghymru ers cyfanswm o 34 mlynedd. Rwyf wedi cadw mamiaith a’r unig achlysur y caf ei ddefnyddio yw pan fyddaf yn sgwrsio â phartner fy llysferch a’u dau fab. Mae pob iaith yn newid dros gyfnod o amser ac nid yw’r Gymraeg yn wahanol ond gydag opsiynau rhyngrwyd, gellir diweddaru geirfa rhywun pan fo angen. Wedi ymddeol dychwelais i… Read more »

Confused
Confused
16 days ago

????

Dail y Goeden
Dail y Goeden
18 days ago

How to make people confident to start conversations in Welsh? For this week: bring them to the National Eisteddfod at Tregaron – for a day, for the whole week, whatever! They will have what for many will be a new experience: the expectation that any stranger you meet and speak to is, almost certainly, able and willinf to speak Welsh. My wife and I had a brilliant day out in Conwy, back in 2019. We went for the day, and brought with us a colleague, a lady who, born and bred in north-east Wales, had only learnt Welsh as an… Read more »

Dai Rob
Dai Rob
18 days ago

I sent off for some of the above badges……threy are absolutely tiny…..about the size of my little finger nail.

Great idea, but sadly a total waste of time, cos they are so small. I’ve given up on wearing them ages ago!! 🙁

Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
18 days ago
Reply to  Dai Rob

The purple one saying ‘Cymraeg’, with a pin is bigger and more noticeable.

Dai Rob
Dai Rob
17 days ago
Reply to  Wrexhamian

Wull look into that! Diolch!

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
18 days ago

My local butcher, now closed (bones for the dog, now sadly dead, not from lack of bones) used to have a sign; ‘dechrau bob sgwrs yn gymraeg’ it worked well…

Rhosddu
Rhosddu
18 days ago

I test the water in a shop by walking in and saying “Bore/p’nawn da”. If the shop worker answers, I ask “Dach chi’n siarad Cymraeg?” and their response will determine which language to use. If I get a blank look to “Bore da”, I know not to waste my time asking if they speak Welsh.
Another clue is their accent, but that’s not foolproof, since there are so many adult learners in Wrexham now.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
18 days ago
Reply to  Rhosddu

I was in a charity shop in Rhos on Sea the other day, bought a couple of books and without thinking thanked her and bid her good day in Welsh and she was so pleased I thought she was going to kiss me, and I’m no oil painting unless you like Picasso…very friendly place Rhos, good collectors shops and a really good chippy…

Last edited 18 days ago by Mab Meirion
Kurt Constable
Kurt Constable
18 days ago

Easiest way is to ban the English press in Cymru. My kids are fluent but don’t use it that much because of the stigma of hate by the telegraph (even recently) and hate mail towards us.That is then absorbed by oler generations to spout nonsense of how the language is dead and a waste of money. We need a culture change.

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