Living during the Digital Age means that accessing professional language services is easier than ever. A plethora of translation agencies are now available at our fingertips, usually offering a range of services to suit each client’s needs.
Here in Wales, the resurgence of the Welsh language in recent years has seen a huge increase in demand for professional Welsh translation services, particularly from those businesses newly setting up in Wales. After all, Welsh and English are co-official languages and therefore deserve equal status.
Indeed, the Welsh Government, along with the Federation of Small Businesses, continue to urge businesses to operate bilingually wherever possible, encouraging them to use Welsh in everything from customer service, their website, marketing content and even legal documents.
But according to a few recent faux-pas, it seems that while companies are making a visible attempt to use Welsh, they’re not quite getting their language right…
Two terrible translations
Take this example from an Asda store in Cwmbran. They were clearly aiming to signpost their alcohol-free section of drinks, which should be translated as “di-alchol” in Welsh, literally meaning “non-alcoholic.”
However, a mistranslation meant that they advertised the aisle as providing “Free alcohol”. This lead to some very confused shoppers and what could have been a sticky situation for Asda.
— Giorgia Garavini (@GioGaravini) April 18, 2019
A similarly cringe-worthy mistake comes from Wrexham Central Retail Park. On a well-meaning sign placed at the exit of the carpark, customers are urged to “Please call again.” However, the Welsh translation, “Ffoniwch eto,” literally commands customers to “ring back”– a bizarre (and impossible) request.
Welsh language blunder printed on road sign tells customers leaving retail park to ‘ring back’ https://t.co/WWKfbIfh4b
— Celtic Languages (@LanguagesCeltic) May 3, 2019
A tokenistic effort
Speaking to the Daily Post about these recent linguistic blunders, Plaid Cymru Councillor for Wrexham, Marc Jones, said:
“It’s very poor translation and they should get it sorted as soon as possible – it certainly doesn’t do their reputation any good. I think it’s thoughtless, it happens all the time and that’s the problem. It’s great that big companies are making the effort and putting up bilingual signs, but if they’re going to do it, do it properly.
“It’s only half an effort and it’s tokenistic really. The amount of money it costs to make one of these signs, they may as well get someone to do it properly. Hopefully they will learn their lesson and get a proper job done next time.”
In both cases, hiring a Welsh translator could have avoided these embarrassing situations altogether. An experienced, native Welsh speaker would have immediately grasped the context of those messages and would have translated them correctly for each scenario – rather than punching something into a machine translator like Google Translate and copy-and-pasting the wildly inaccurate output.
So why exactly didn’t these companies hire a professional? And why does it seem to be the Welsh language specifically that’s still being left behind when it comes to translation? Well, there are a couple of possible answers…
Undervaluing of the Welsh language
It could be, quite simply, that many private companies don’t value the Welsh language enough to invest in professional Welsh-language services.
However, as we’ve seen recently, this could be a big business mistake.
Nowadays, at least 874,700 people say that they are able to speak the Welsh language, up from 726,600 in 2008. The Welsh Government’s target for reaching a million Welsh speakers by 2050 is backed by policies, nationwide campaigns and language-learning schemes – meaning that both the number of speakers and the status of the Welsh language is on the rise.
It’s easy to see why small and medium-sized businesses may view professional language services as an extra cost they cannot afford. But investing in Welsh translation is not merely an exercise in goodwill.
As previously discussed in a past blog, minority languages like Welsh can add real value to companies “because their speakers often have a deeper, more emotional connection to that language than the more widely-spoken official language of the state.”
Furthermore, according to Tom Trainor, chief executive of the Marketing Institute of Ireland, who “has travelled across Europe talking to entrepreneurs using languages as diverse as Welsh and Basque,” there’s an opportunity for a concrete return on investment if you back a minority language.
“The potential marketing benefits can extend to attracting new customers, increasing customer loyalty, harnessing goodwill at relatively low cost or enhancing their public relations efforts.”
We understand that every client has totally different requirements for each of their translation projects. That’s why we’ve developed our five key Service Levels, specially designed to give our customers the most value-for-money document translation service for their needs.
As well as fair and affordable translation prices, Wolfestone offers excellent customer support, a friendly service and efficient turnaround with every translation project. Rest assured that no matter the service, you’re getting true value for money. What’s more, we are trusted providers of Welsh translation.
Our location in Swansea, Wales’s second largest city and the cultural and business hub of the South West, guarantees that we keep pace with the developments of the Welsh language, and we’ve already helped numerous public bodies implement the two-language policy of the Welsh Language Scheme.
Article written by Sofia Lewis, Wolfestone contributor