06 Mar 2014

Microsoft Develops Welsh Language Tool

Welsh is the only Celtic language that UNESCO does not classify as endangered.

You could presume from this fact that it is the most successful Celtic language. It is certainly more established than Cornish, Breton, Scottish, Manx or even Irish.

And the Welsh language has even spread to far-flung parts of the globe, making it all the way to Argentina’s Patagonia region following an exodus of Welsh speakers in the 1860s.

Yet even this Celtic success story needs a helping hand now and again. That is why the Welsh Assembly has joined forces with computing giant Microsoft to develop a translation system that works on mobile devices, online through a PC or laptop, and with Microsoft programs like Word.

Welsh language tool

The aim of the tool is to help more people communicate using the Welsh language.

Officials from the Welsh Assembly say the system will:

  • allow staff to work in the language of their choice
  • help to provide bilingual services
  • be used as a learning tool for those wanting to improve their Welsh.

AM Rhodri Glyn Thomas told the BBC: “This is a great day for the Welsh language.”

“It is a great step forward in bilingual working that we have been able to help with the development of such a powerful translation system.”


Not 100% accurate

But there is a drawback. The tool does not deliver a 100% accurate translation service.

However, an Assembly spokesman said it should still fulfil its ultimate purpose: to help more people use the Welsh language.

Businesses wishing to translate sensitive information are advised to seek out a professional translation experts. They will guarantee a level of accuracy that may be crucial when dealing with the highly competitive world of business negotiations.

Microsoft Translator can already help people looking for translations from languages such as Russian, Spanish and Mandarin. The service can also translate from Urdu, Malay and Catalan, though not to the level of accuracy required for important business dealings.

Standards for Welsh

The move from the Welsh Assembly follows a decision earlier this year to propose a standard for some public bodies to follow when providing Welsh language translations.

The will apply to the Welsh Government, councils and national parks. The degree to which the standards will impact on each body will be decided by Welsh language commissioner Meri Huws.

The standard calls for organisations to:

  • welcome correspondence with the public in Welsh
  • ensure Welsh has priority on bilingual signs
  • employ Welsh speakers on their main switchboard
  • publish press releases in Welsh as well as English.

The standards are expected to be in place by the autumn.

But not everyone is happy with the progress. Welsh language campaign group Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg has called on Assembly members to give the standards more teeth.

Chair Robin Farrar told the BBC: “The language standards should establish new and clear rights so people can use Welsh day-to-day, without difficulties or barriers.

“But the announcement today doesn’t include these rights, despite cross-party support for our calls.

“Indeed in a number of areas, such as phone services and websites, there’s a danger that the standards could mean a worse service than that promised by language schemes.”


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