In the Western Mail it said today that nobody in Cardiff talks Welsh and nobody uses the Welsh language services on offer. I went into the post office in the Queen’s Arcade in Cardiff to post something and apart from the Welsh signs I couldn’t see anything that suggested that there was a Welsh language counter. It says in the paper that nobody uses the Welsh counter in the post office. How am I supposed to use a Welsh language counter if I can’t see where it is?
My point is if I go into a Post Office and see a Welsh language service I would use it. But if I have to ask to use the Welsh language service and wait to get served in the Welsh language, I’d be wasting my time. If the service is not in front of me and ready to use I’m not going to use it, am I? I go into Tesco to use the self service checkout machines. I use the Welsh language service on the machine and what do I find they’ve only translated half the words into Welsh. Is this acceptable? This feels to me like a second rate service compared to the English language.
The Principality Building Society has a Welsh language service but the only way to get this Welsh language service is to ask for it personally. I didn’t even know that you can get your bills through the Welsh language only if you ask them personally. I didn’t hear it through an advertisement campaign but another source. Is this acceptable? It once again shows me that Welsh language speakers are subject to a second rate service. Yes, if we want the Welsh language to survive more people need to use the Welsh language service. But not everybody feels like they want to fight to save the Welsh language and people aren’t going to use it if the service isn’t there and it lacks quality. We need a Welsh language service that is of quality and is easily accessible.
A month ago as part of a project researching into banking services in Cardiff. I found that not one bank in Cardiff except the principality was offering a completely bilingual service in both Welsh and the English languages. We asked all the banks why they didn’t operate a fully bilingual service. The answer we got from one member of staff in RSB was ‘we are a Scottish bank’!! This was staggering; the bank of Scotland didn’t have a bilingual service because they were a Scottish Bank in the capital of Wales. If this is the attitude that banks take there is no hope for the future. Will we ever get a Wales where the Welsh and English languages stand together in harmony? If banks say there is no demand for Welsh language services, maybe there is no point having Welsh language services.
After creating a questionnaire on the streets of Cardiff asking people what they though of Welsh language services, the majority of people wanted to learn the welsh language. But they said the facilities were just not there or they mentioned that they hadn’t the time to learn the Welsh language. If there are more services available through the Welsh language, maybe, just maybe people will decide to learn it. What was amazing to see was that a student from Italy had taken the opportunity to learn the Welsh language. An Italian student had come to Cardiff to enrol in Welsh lessons because she felt the need to learn more about our culture. Fascinating. Maybe this is the attitude we must take to our language. Next time we go to Spain or the Basque. We must learn their language. For the language to survive, we need a quality service. Not a second rate one.