In her first assurance report since taking up her position as Welsh Language Commissioner, Efa Gruffudd Jones is encouraging organisations across Wales, not only to provide Welsh language services, but to promote them. The report, entitled Raising the Bar is an opportunity to reflect on the way organisations consider the language when formulating policies and when planning and delivering services in the Welsh language.
Whilst acknowledging that levels of compliance have generally improved, particularly by organisations that have been subject to the Welsh Language Standards for some time, the report notes that it is necessary to tackle the challenge of creating an environment where it is possible to use Welsh naturally every day. This means working to improve the services that are offered to people verbally, whether over the phone or face to face.
According to Efa Gruffudd Jones, the workplace is crucial to the language,
"Growth in Welsh education is essential but it is also necessary to ensure that there are opportunities for our young people to use the Welsh language in the world of work. It is heartening to see that Welsh written services are widely available but there is little progress in the spoken services that are available, even though it is the service that people say they want more than anything.
"I recognise that it can be challenging to recruit those with Welsh language skills in order to offer these services but we need to place more importance on the Welsh language and I encourage organisations to create bilingual workforce planning strategies."
Other findings from the report include:
- 95% receive a greeting in Welsh when making a telephone call to a public organisation • 90% of public organisations' Twitter and Facebook messages are available in Welsh
- Welsh is treated less favorably than English in 33% of the website pages inspected over the year
- 72% agree that the Welsh language services of public institutions are improving
- Almost 75% of Welsh speakers see that there is an opportunity for them to use the Welsh language in their everyday lives.
Another worrying element that came to the fore was that a significant percentage of Welsh speakers had experienced someone else preventing them from speaking the language in their everyday lives. 18% indicated that they had experienced this over the past 12 months but that increased to 29% of those questioned between the ages of 16 and 34.
Efa Gruffudd Jones says that this is a completely unacceptable situation,
"This type of negativity towards the Welsh language undoubtedly affects the confidence of Welsh speakers and is bound to have an impact on the levels of use of the Welsh language."
But Efa believes that organisations have a desire to improve,
“Since taking up this position at the beginning of the year I have had the opportunity to meet and chat with many of our stakeholders and there is a generally positive attitude towards the Welsh language.
"I would like to see all organiations take responsibility for ensuring that the principles of the Welsh Language Measure are deeply rooted within their organisations and that they also set guidelines that welcome the use of the Welsh language.
"I will continue to monitor and intervene where necessary while at the same time offering support and guidance to ensure that the Welsh language is central to our public services."
You can read the full report here.