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An address by Jeremy Miles, Minister for Education and the Welsh Language.

First published:
8 August 2022
Last updated:

A joint event with the Centre for Digital Public Services Wales, Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Ceredigion

We’re here to talk about research today. And I want to start by doing a little research myself. So here goes.

Raise your hand if everyone you know who speaks Welsh goes out of their way to ask for Welsh language services. Just as I thought.  

Raise your hand if you yourself find it difficult to understand the Welsh on some Welsh language public services. Just as I thought. I do sometimes.

Raise your hand if you know someone who speaks Welsh who wouldn't dream of doing something formal technological in Welsh. I do.

So that’s the end of my little poll: we've obviously got a lot of mileage to do more work to help people use their Welsh where they don't use it at the moment.

CDPS has been working together with us on some of that work this week, i.e. research on the Eisteddfod Maes.

Thank you at CDPS for that—I look forward to hearing the results later and to continuing our collaboration with you.

And there's another set of results about the Welsh language coming out this year, i.e. the census.

I don't know what those results are going to say. And just to stress: I am not getting any previews. I'm going to find out at the exact same time as you are.

But whatever they say, our vision for Cymraeg is strong. More people able to speak Welsh, more people using it. And just to emphasize, there aren’t any language use statistics in the census.

I spend a lot of my time saying that Cymraeg belongs to us all. It's important for me to do so, because everyone doesn't feel like Cymraeg belongs to them.

I also spend a lot of my time encouraging people to use however much Cymraeg they have even if it hasn't been part of their routine for a while.

It's important for me to do so because not everyone uses their Cymraeg as often as they could - and there's a lot of reasons for that.

The research may mention a few - but I haven’t had a preview of that either!

Since the sixties, a lot of the emphasis of the Welsh language movement has been on public services. And I understand that—there’s lot of them, we all use them at some point, and we’ve got 'levers' to make them more Cymraeg.

But in legislating to make sure that organisations provide Welsh language services, has that opened the floodgates for Welsh speakers to use those services?

I'm not sure we’ve had as good results as we - those who love the Welsh language - would have liked.

In other words, have we, historically, not paid enough attention to the experience of the people who could use those services in Welsh?

Do we organise, design and deliver things, sometimes without examining what would help our fellow Welsh-speakers use them?

User-centred design is very common in other areas and I'm particularly pleased to see that it's so central to CDPS's work.

Have we been doing enough of it in Welsh? No. If we had, more people who can speak Welsh would use services in Welsh. That’s why I'm so glad of the collaboration between us.

Do we fear what the user's reaction may be? Perhaps we do. The truth hurts, but I base everything I do on the reality of the lives of Welsh speakers. There's no point in doing otherwise. The Welsh speaking user at the centre of everything. That’s why research is so important. It’s a reality check.

Are we brave enough to want to change? I hope so. So I’m all about more use of Welsh, as well as just provision. I’m all about people, more than just process.

We’ve got big ambitions for the use of our language and we’ve got big plans to make that ambition reality. You at CDPS are a central part of that. Doubling daily use of our language by 2050.

And talking of use of Cymraeg, let me be plain. That's been a little problematic over the last two years with all the video meetings we've had.

Before, we'd all be sitting in the same room and an interpreter would be there with us helping non-Welsh-speaking attendees to understand what’s said in Cymraeg. As we have here today.

But that’s now how it went. I used less Welsh overnight because Microsoft Teams didn't offer simultaneous translation.

But change is on the way, and we in the Welsh Government have worked together with Microsoft to ensure that simultaneous translation (by humans, not robots!) is. Available at teams:

  • it will appear without you having to do anything
  • without you having to pay any new licence fees
  • without you having to install anything extra

A true case of Cymraeg leading the world - languages all over the world will be able to use it based on our work in Wales.

So when it's available, tested on our systems (and it's rolling out around the world through August so it won't be available to everyone immediately), I'd like to get to a position where in those meetings I hold and chair, people will speak freely - in Welsh or English without any fuss at all.

And I’ll be using my Cymraeg when I’m Chair.

Lots of my work is about behaviour change, and one of the behaviours we need to change is:

  • that it's okay to speak in one language and receive an answer in another
  • that it’s ok to switch between the two languages of our country using technology
  • we need to celebrate 'passive' Cymraeg a lot more than we do and Teams will help us do that
  • because more of us will hear Cymraeg and that in turn will help everyone

Would you, fellow Welsh-speakers here today be willing to follow my lead and start having bilingual conversations on Microsoft Teams? Give it a go.

So as I’m coming to the end of my contribution today, here’s a short summary of where I’m at with all this:

  • it's important that we put the Welsh-speaking user at the centre of everything we plan
  • it’s important that content in Cymraeg is easy for Welsh speakers to understand and use
  • it's important that we base everything on reality, not just aspiration and the research we're about to hear about will be a big contribution to that