‘Welsh first’ for new traffic signs

12.00 | 31 March 2016 | | 30 comments

New regulations which have come into force in Wales today (31 March) mean that all new traffic signs must feature the Welsh language first.

The new regulations are the order of the Welsh Language Commissioner, under new Welsh Language standards set out in the Welsh Language [Wales] Measure 2011.

Until now, local authorities in Wales had the power to choose which language was displayed first on their traffic/road signs, with many choosing English.

However, the new regulations say: “When you erect a new sign or renew a sign (including temporary signs) which conveys the same information in Welsh and in English, the Welsh language text must be positioned so that it is likely to be read first.”

In September 2015, public bodies across Wales were told which services they would be required to provide in Welsh, giving them six months to prepare for the change.

The 2011 ONS Welsh census revealed that just 19% (562,000) of residents in Wales said they could speak Welsh – a decrease of 2% from the 2001 census estimate – and only 15% said they could speak, read and write Welsh.

The census also estimated that 73% of residents had no skills in the Welsh language.

A 2012 report by TRL into bilingual signs in Scotland concluded: “While there is reasonable evidence to infer bilingual signs increase the demand of the driving task, drivers appear able to absorb this extra demand, or negate it by slowing down, which ultimately results in no detectable change in accident rates.”


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    Guzzi, on the contrary, the Welsh Language Act the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 established the principle that “in Wales, the Welsh language should be treated no less favourably than the English language.” Note that there is nothing to say that English shall not be treated less favourably than Welsh. Welsh is given official status as a national language. The status of English is given by “This measure does not effect the status of English”. That is, not defined.

    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Before concerning themselves with which language comes first, they should first ensure that the Welsh is actually correct. Too often, it is riddled with errors. In the photo you have chosen to illustrate this story, there are no fewer than 3 separate mistakes; the correct version should be “Anaddas i fysiau a choetsys”.

    Alan, England
    Agree (1) | Disagree (0)

    This is not a language issue, nor a road safety matter. It is purely a nationalist political campaign. The efforts to bolster a declining language cause untold damage to the people of Wales. Most of the tourists in those areas where Welsh is prominent do not read Welsh. Are they made welcome by the emphasis on Welsh? Visitors probably rely on road signage more than the bilingual locals.

    Bob, Conwy
    Agree (1) | Disagree (1)

    I’m an Englishman. All signs in Wales should be in Welsh (unless safety is the first concern). As for the ‘statistic’ that only 18% speak/read We!sh, it is nonsense – in some areas it is 80 to 90% and almost everybody can read and understand signs. My wife, who claims to have no Welsh whatever, understands Welsh signage.

    Ifor Jackson. Ynys Môn
    Agree (1) | Disagree (6)

    The entire purpose of a road sign is to convey information. The sign’s ability to achieve this is being sacrificed merely to slow the inevitable decline in the Welsh language.

    Mike, Cardiff
    Agree (7) | Disagree (1)

    So annoyed to see these signs in Newport M4 today. I did a double take and was going to write a complaint…then I saw this!

    Where is the English language Commissioner when we need him/her? How did this happen right under our noses? Proud to be Welsh but fed up with being told that Welsh speakers/language should have prominence. This is the thin end of the wedge, where will it end for us marginalised English speaking Welsh?

    Carl Urquhart Newport
    Agree (4) | Disagree (4)

    While I understand the rationale of having bilingual signs, there should be a quick way to identify where one language stops and the other starts. Perhaps the easiest would be for one language to always be in italic script. Even though I am an English-speaker from outside Wales, I don’t care if English take the subsidiary position and is in italics as long as I can pick the text out quickly.

    Marttion Vlietstra, England
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Welsh first, then it will be Gaelic for Scotland and of course we must not forget a new ‘devolved’ Cornwall with its own language! Strange that TRL seems it is a good idea to slow down to read signs, suppose the person behind is fluent in the first language?

    Terry Hudson, Kent
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Driver distraction is a big road safety campaign issue in the UK. Having to skim through an unknown language to get to words you recognise is distracting. It really can’t be helpful for road safety for majority of road users in Wales.

    Gower Gold
    Agree (4) | Disagree (3)

    The original purpose of the Welsh language scheme was to promote a bilingual policy in Wales meaning that “the Welsh and English languages should be treated on a basis of equality”. It takes a politician to think that taking away a local authority’s right to choose and ordering it to put Welsh first on traffic signs is “equality”. From where I’m standing in Gwent with the rest of the 81 percent that do not speak Welsh, that seems like positive discrimination. Hardly equal at all!

    Agree (8) | Disagree (2)

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