Signs Of Change In Wales

25th of March 2010 0

Signs Of Change In Wales

Today all of the signs in Wales are bi-lingual – but not so long ago there wouldn’t have been a “Croeso i Gymru”, “Araf” or an “Allanfa dân” in sight. Thanks to students from the University of Aberystwyth, the use of Welsh took a dramatic turn for the better in 1970. On the 4th Feb of that year 22 students held a sit-in at the highest Court in the country to protest about the lack of bi-lingual road signs in Wales. As a result of this protest – 14 of the students were held in contempt of court and subsequently jailed – but they succeeded in raising the profile of their campaign in the heart of the British Establishment. Ever since the Laws in Wales Acts of 1535, English had been the only legal language in Wales, this was relaxed by the Welsh Language Act 1967, which allowed the use of Welsh in Court. The protests in 1970, by members of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (The Welsh Language Society) although not immediately resulting in a change in the law – convinced many people that it was unfair for Welsh to come a poor 2nd to English in Wales! However it was only in 1993 that the revised Welsh Language Act, raised the status of Welsh to equality with English. In practical terms this brought in the requirement to use dual language Welsh and English in all areas of public life including on signs. This law now means that all road signs, health and safety signs and traffic signs are required to be bi-lingual. Some examples of bi-lingual prohibition safety signs in use today are: Dim ysmygu / No smoking Dim cwn / No dogs Dim mynediad Personel awdurdododig yn unig / No admittance authorised personnel only In public building and all areas open to the public Bi-lingual fire signs are used: Allanfa dân / Fire Exit Diffoddydd tân / Fire Extinguisher Dihangfa frys / emergency exit On building sites Bi-lingual construction site safety signs are used to warn workers and members of the public of any risks or safety rules which must be followed: Rhaid gwisgo esgidiau diogelu / Protective footwear must be worn Rhaid gwisgo helmed diogelwch / Safety helmets must be worn Stopiwch y peirant cyn tynnu’r gwarchoddion / stop machine before removing guards On public highways and roads – signs giving information, instructions and place names show the Welsh and the English. For example: Ildiwch / Give Way Araf / Slow Caerdydd / Cardiff Cymru / Wales Whilst many people in England may have been left puzzled by all the fuss – Welsh is effecting a revival in common use – many claim partly as a result of it’s new found ‘official status’. In a 2004 survey over 600,000 people in Wales said they were Welsh speakers (21.7% of the population) of these 600,000 – 62% claimed to speak Welsh daily. Globally there are a further 175,000 Welsh speakers – 150,000 in England and 25,000 in Chubut a province of Argentina.

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