Public Request for Changing the Draft Welsh Language Law

A group consisting of 14 different organisations has come together to publish an open letter to have changes made to the draft Welsh language law.

The group wishing to make changes to the Welsh language law include Wales’ own teachers’ union (Undeb Cenedlaethol Athrawon Cymru), language expert professor Colin Williams, the womens voluntary group Merched y Wawr, as well as the Friends of the Earth Cymru. The open letter was addressed to the current Heritage Minister Alum Ffred Jones.

In the letter, the group complained that the Welsh national language is facing threats from many directions. They are asking the Welsh government to make changes to the draft Welsh language law so that it delivers an unambiguous statement that the Welsh language is the official language in Wales.

The proposed new language law was published by the assembly government back in March 2010. The Welsh language law is drafted in such a way that it places certain duties on some businesses to provide their services in the Welsh language if the service is provided in Wales. Businesses most likely to be affected are telecommunication providers, gas suppliers and electricity providers. Under the new language law, these companies will face sanctions such as fines if they fail to meet the required standard of language service delivery.

The proposed law will also scrap the existing Welsh Language Board and replace it with the post of a Welsh Language Commissioner. Although the Assembly government has made clear that the law is still in its drafting stage, it has attracted a lot of criticism from local academics arguing that the Welsh language is going to be marginalised under the new rules. Their main argument stems from the fact that the proposed law does not create a clear linguistic rights or any statement that pronounces the Welsh language as the official language of Wales. Furthermore, the new post of Welsh Language Commissioner is not independent because the commissioner is accountable to the government.

The 14 organisations open letter is also hugely influenced by a series of events that have taken place over the past few years. First, the cutting of budget on S4C, the Welsh television channel that broadcasts from the capital Cardiff. Secondly, the Assembly government stopping its translation service from English to Welsh for all its record of proceedings. Thirdly, Welsh medium education in the capital city Cardiff is limited. Fourthly, Bethan Wyn Jones, a patient who was told that her consent for endoscopy was not valid because it was signed in Welsh language form. The doctor told her that she must sign the English form in order to be valid and legal. Therefore, Welsh language lobbyists are outraged by the fact that the Welsh language is perceived by doctors to be unofficial. In fact, the Welsh form is as legal as any English form would be.

The group perceives these events as a series of threats to the very survival of Welsh language. So, the Welsh Assembly now has their work cut out before them to ensure that their constituents are going to be happy on the next revision of the language law draft.