S4C and Cymraeg 2050

by Suw on August 13, 2017

The Welsh Government recently released a strategy, Cymraeg 2050, to increase the number of Welsh speakers to one million by 2050.  The strategy focuses predominantly on children’s education, which is sensible and obvious, and on Welsh speakers in Wales, which is also sensible and obvious. But there are two groups that could do with a little bit more love and attention, and S4C is in the perfect position to do that.

The first group are adult learners or near-fluent speakers who, for whatever reason, aren’t in formal Welsh language education and/or who don’t have easy access to Welsh speakers to practice with, but who need a little extra help reaching fluency.

As it happens, I fall into that group. I started learning Welsh about 20 years ago, and I ought to be fluent by now, but a lack of regular access to the Welsh language, whether regular lessons or people to talk to, has really hampered my progress. I’m now stuck in this kind of linguistic no mans land, where I know too much Welsh for things like Duolingo or Memrise to be enjoyable, but not enough to be able to easily understand the spoken language. I’m a bit better with the written language, but again, not quite good enough to be able to just sit and read a book.

Welsh TV is an essential tool for developing comprehension skills, expanding vocabulary and refining understanding of grammar. For my money, there’s nothing better than watching a documentary on S4C with subtitles to help me marry words and sounds together, and to help me learn more words and improve my grammar. Like all learners, I need regular interaction with the language to help me cement what I learn, and TV is by far the easiest and most interesting way to achieve that.

Rightly, S4C’s subtitles focus on assisting the hearing impaired, which is what they were invented to do and it’s a massively important role. Subtitles for the hearing impaired are written to be easily and swiftly read, and to give the gist of what is said rather than a verbatim transcript, and are far too valuable to mess with.

But subtitles are also an important and valuable tool for intermediate learners, and with a little extra work new types of subtitles for learners could be much more effective. In an ideal world, I would like a selection of subtitle options for learners, in addition to subtitles for the hearing impaired.

Learner subtitles should include:

  • English subtitles, as close to a direction translation as possible, to help learners understand what’s happening and marry Welsh sounds with English meanings.
  • Dual language English/Welsh subtitles, with both languages on screen at once. It’s a bit hard going to read both at once and you really do have to focus, but it helps to improve understanding.
  • Welsh language learner’s subtitles, which would be Welsh language with English prompts for difficult words.
  • Welsh-only subtitles, which should be as close to verbatim as possible.

I quite like watching Welsh-language documentaries multiple times, not only because S4C really does make some fabulous ones, but also because I can positively feel my understanding of Welsh improving as I do so.

The problem is that firstly, the most useful subtitle options, the dual language subtitles and the learner’s subtitles, don’t exist. Sometimes there aren’t even any Welsh subtitles, just English ones*. That seems like an omission that should be at the top of the list of things that S4C could do to support the Welsh language.

Now, I know that the argument against providing these services is that they cost money, but that’s a given for the recommendations of the Cymraeg 2050 report. It’s going to cost money to do this stuff, but if the government wants 1 million Welsh speakers by 2050, they are going to have to reach down the back of the sofa and come up with some cash to spend. That said, subtitling is cheap compared to the cost of making the program in the first place, with online freelance subtitlers charging less than £1000 per hour of video.

The second problem is finding the time to watch and rewatch the same program before it falls off S4c’s catch-up service**. That wouldn’t be an issue if I could buy S4C’s shows, but, despite the fact that it’s 2017, it’s still impossible to buy Welsh TV on iTunes or any other digital service. I know that S4C would, at this point, bang on about rights, but good grief, it’s 2017! Rights issues should have been solved by now, and S4C should be selling shows online to anyone who wants to buy them regardless of where they live***.

Which brings me to the second group of Welsh learners/near-fluent speakers that could do with a little respect and support: Those who do not live in Wales. Welsh learners don’t just live in Wales, they also live across the rest of the UK and, indeed, around the world. You might think that those people are irrelevant to the future of the Welsh language in Wales, but that’s very 20th century thinking.

The world is united by the web, and anyone from anywhere can contribute to the health of a language and culture. Indeed, in many cases it is the internet that is saving languages and cultures. No matter where you or I live, we can use the Welsh language in our everyday life, we can create new cultural artefacts in the Welsh language. Were I fluent enough, I would for sure be providing various Ada Lovelace Day materials in Welsh. I would blog in Welsh. I would write books in Welsh. That would be contributing to Welsh language life, even though I’m not in Wales (and even though I’m not Welsh).

If the Welsh Government wants 1 million Welsh speakers, it has to not just teach them Welsh, it needs to give them a reason to use their Welsh, and that’s not just about the Eisteddfod and cynghanedd and calling up the local council in Welsh, it’s about just doing whatever you fancy in Welsh. Science. Chatting to your mates. The latest tech reviews. Music. Reading about women in STEM. Writing comics. Talking to people in a totally different country.

There’s a whole blog post to write about the position of digital in the Cymraeg 2050 strategy, but that’s for another day. The point is that if you want 1 million Welsh people in Wales to use Welsh, help Welsh people outside of Wales to do so too, because often, those people outside of Wales are related to or friends with those people inside Wales and they use the internet to keep in touch. In Welsh.

The web helps the Welsh diaspora and Welsh learners retain and expand their language, and S4C should be a fundamental part of that process.


* I am not familiar enough with Welsh language service provision for the hearing impaired to make a judgement on how well S4C does, but logic dictates that more Welsh language subtitles would be a good thing, assuming other provisions remain the same.

** It would also be super helpful if S4C Digidol’s subtitles didn’t routinely stop working when I’m watching online, and if they’d actually work in all browsers. For some reason, S4C’s video player is incompatible with Chrome on my Macs. And in Safari, the subtitles tend to crap out halfway through, so I keep having to reload the page.

*** And whilst I’m at it, S4C needs to do whatever it is required to get rid of geoblocking. Yes, yes, rights, yes, yes. Please explain to me which large secondary Welsh-language market are they holding their rights over for? If I need to buy access to S4C, I will, I’m absolutely happy to pay my way, but the current geoblocking without the option to pay for access is ridiculous. Ultimately, though, if S4C is about supporting the Welsh language and Welsh culture in a web-enabled age, geoblocking makes no sense at all, because they should be supporting Welsh learners and speakers wherever in the world they are. The language is far more important than geographical boundaries.

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Basic Bilingual

by Suw on November 13, 2009

Dw i wedi instalio’r Basic Bilingual WordPress Plug, gan fy ffrind Steph Booth. Mae’n gwneud dau peth: mae’n creu bocs iaith, a bocs am excerpt yn yr ail iaith. Efallai bydda i’n danfon fy Ngymraeg tipyn bach mwy nawr. Pah, dw i wedi dweud hon bob amser. 😉

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I prick my ears up every time I hear words like “open” and “translation” and “project” used together in a sentence in case it’s something that might be interesting to the Welsh language community. So when I saw that TED, the insanely expensive Technology, Entertainment, Design conference, was providing English language transcripts of its often amazing talks, I thought that was a great opportunity for the Welsh community to create the Welsh language subtitles.

It might seem a bit stupid for people who basically all speak English to translate an English transcription into Welsh so that other people who basically all speak English could listen to it in English and watch it in Welsh. In fact, such a thing would be a great boon to learners as it would allow us to hear in English but read in Welsh and start to join up the dots inbetween. (The next step on from that would be to have more material in Welsh with English subtitles.) Personally, I would like to see much more bilingual stuff online because it helps learners develop not just their vocab but also their sense of grammar, mutation and idiom.

Many of the TED lectures are both short – about 20 minutes – and fascinating. Great material for translation because they’re interesting in their own right and just the sort of thing that people love to watch. I believe you learn much more when you’re engaged, so such a resource would be very valuable.

But the Open Translation Project turns out not to be very open at all. Once you’ve registered, you have to request a transcript to translate, which will supposedly be sent to you within 1 – 2 business days. You can’t just download one that you fancy and get on with it, it has to be sent to you by someone from TED. And you have just 30 days to complete it – what happens if you don’t is not specified. I have so far seen no sign or mention of any online translation or collaborative working tools, so it looks like if you want to work with others you have to figure that out yourself. (I haven’t been accepted into the programme yet, so maybe that’s just stuff I am unable to see.)

Beyond that, as a new member of the translation project, I just received this email:

Dear Suw,

Thanks so much for registering to be a TED translator and requesting your first talk. We’re eager to get you started! But we have a few questions for you first. As you know, TED doesn’t require translators to have formal language or translation skills. We do however, ask that you be fluently bilingual. It’s so important that your language skills gives you the ability to faithfully translate the words of speakers, capturing not only the vocabulary, but also the tone, style and personality. TED speakers are at the edge of their fields, and therefore the edge of language. Being current, as well as fluent, is key.

So the following questions are for you, as much as us. They provide us a way to gauge your experience, knowledge and fluidity with both English and the language into which you’re translating. We require these answers for translators in languages that are new to TED, and for which we have neither in-house knowledge nor a stable of volunteer translators.

1) What language do you want to translate into?

2) Is this your native language? If not, how and where did you learn it?

4) How often do you speak this language? Do you use it professionally, personally, or both?

5) How often do you read in this language? Do you read news? Novels? Personal correspondence?

6) How often do you write in this language?

7) If English is not your first language, how and where did you learn it? How often do you speak, write and/or read English?

8.) Do you have other colleagues, family or friends who can assist you on the translation of tricky or culturally-specific words and phrases?

9) What is your profession?

10) Why do you want to translate for TED?

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions, and for volunteering for the TED Open Translation Project!

The TED Team

That doesn’t seem very open to me. That seems very much like I’m going to be judged on my ability to speak and write Welsh, and that my acceptance into the project is going to depend on my capabilities rather than, say, my ability to gather a kick-ass team of Welsh speakers to collaboratively – and openly – translate. Furthermore, what does my profession have to do with my ability to translate? What does my motivation matter? And what happens if the TED Team don’t like my answers? Do I get summarily booted out?

I feel rather insulted by these questions, not just because they are intrusive, but because they see the translation process through an outdated and judgemental lense. As a learner of 10 years, I’m not too bad at Welsh, although I write it better than I speak it. I probably could not create a perfect translation of any but the simplest texts. But what I can do is create a flawed translation that others, whether more experienced learners or native speakers, can then polish up. This idea that making a start so that others can help finish up is a well established way of working collaboratively, and it can produce great results. It’s what Wikipedia relies upon, it’s what Pledgebank encourages. By showing the community that I have committed to an action, I’m more likely to find people willing to help me finish it.

TED’s approach to translation has been disappointing to say the least. They have used the word ‘open’ as a buzzword, a way to put a gloss on what is an old-school project that is snobbish, closed, and controlling. I know that someone is bound to leave a comment saying “but that is the only way to get high quality translations”, but that’s just not true. Communities of passionate people are capable of great things, and there are many passionate Welsh speakers online who could come together to do flawless work.

Question is, will TED let us?

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Y we Cymraeg

by Suw on April 26, 2009

Ar hyn o bryd, dw i’n teithio i Aberystwyth i siarad â myfyrwyr am y we, y dyfodol, ac eu gyrfâu. Hefyd, bydda i’n cymryd rhan mewn sgwrs am y we Cymraeg. Dw i’n meddwl fod ‘na ddau problemau efo’r we Cymraeg.

  1. Mae’n dychrunu i ddysgwyr sy ddim yn rhugl
  2. Does dim digon o siaradwyr rhugl sydd yn defnyddio’r we

Dydy’r ddau problem ddim yn hawdd i ddatrys. Mae ‘na fwy gwefannau ar gyfer dysgwyr nawr nag erioed, ond dw i’n meddwl fod ‘na rywstr i ddysgwyr i fynd o ddysgu i ddefnyddio. Mae gen i lawer o lyfrau sydd wedi cael eu sgwenu ar gyfer dysgwyr, ac maen nhw’n bendigedig. Ond dw i ddim yn gwybod os mae na wefannau fel ‘na ar gael, sydd defnyddio Cymraeg syml. Does ddim lawer o amser, felly dw i eisiau weld mwy o wefannau yn defnyddio RSS, podcasts a videocasts i rannu eu cynnwys. Dw i eisiau ‘Idiom y Dydd’ ac yn y blaen i ddod i fi.

Dw i’n meddwl fod broadband penetration yn dylanwad yr ail problem. Mae Ofcom yn dweud fod broadband penetration yn Nghymru yn dim ond 45%. Mwy o rifau o Ofcom:

A quarter of adults in Wales have watched video content online
Broadcasters operating in Wales are repackaging regional content for distribution over the internet; the BBC, S4C and ITV all offer online Wales-focused programmes. Around a quarter (24%) of adults in Wales have used the internet to watch TV or video content, rising to 36% in Cardiff. This compares with 30% across the UK as a whole. Use appears to correlate with broadband penetration.

One in ten adults in Wales have listened to radio online
Many radio stations offer listen-live functionality over the internet. One in ten (9%) in Wales have used the internet to listen to the radio; lower than the UK average (13%). Use is higher in England, with similar levels in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

15% of adults in Wales have used a social networking site
Fewer people in Wales use social networking sites than the UK average – 15% compared to 20%. Again this is related to the lower take-up of broadband in Wales.

Broadband take-up highest in Cardiff and Swansea
Internet access in Wales has not grown significantly since 2006 although broadband take-up rose from 43% to 45% over the period. Broadband penetration is higher across the larger southern urban areas (58% in Cardiff and 56% in Swansea), and lower in the smaller southern towns (34%). Broadband take-up in rural areas of Wales is similar to that in rural areas of Northern Ireland, but lower than in England and Scotland.

3G take-up in Wales highest in the UK
Reported take-up of 3G mobile services in Wales (20%) is higher than in England (18%), Scotland (14%), or Northern Ireland (17%).

Dw i ddim yn gywbod y rhifau am siaradwyr Cymraeg, ond byddan nhw’n lai. Felly, sut dan ni’n perswadio mwy o bobl Cymraeg i ddefnyddio’r we yn yr iaith Cymraeg? Faint o bobl ei defnyddio hi yn barod? Sut dan ni’n help cwmnïau i roi mwy arlein? Cwestiynau pwysig ac annodd.

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Asterix yn y Gymraeg

by Suw on November 26, 2008

Dw i newydd darganfod bod ‘na fersiwns Asterix The Gaul yn y Gymraeg. Mae ‘na wyth o deitlau:

  • Asterix y Galiad (1976)
  • Asterix ym Mhrydain (1976)
  • Asterix a Cleopatra (1976)
  • Asterix Gladiator (1977)
  • Asterix ym myddin Cesar (1978)
  • Asterix yn y gemau Olympaidd (1979)
  • Asterix a’r ornest fawr (1980)
  • Asterix ac anrheg Cesar (1981)

Dyma’r blurb:

Y flwyddyn yw 50 cyn Crist. Mae Gâl i gyd yn nwylo’r Rhufeiniaid… I gyd? Nage! Erys o hyd un pentref o Galiaid anorchfygol sy’n llwyddo i ddal eu tir yn erbyn yr imperialwyr. Ac nid yw bywyd yn hawdd i’r llengfilwyr Rhufeinig sy’n gorfod gwarchod gwersylloedd milwrol Bagiatrum, Ariola, Cloclarum a Bolatenae…

A, hefyd:

In the BBC archives we found the following explanations: “The Druid is Crycymalix a reference to ‘Cryman’/’Sickle’ which of course he carries with him at all times. The Bard (or should I say ‘Bardd’!) is called Odlgymix a reference to ‘Odl Gymysg’/’Mixed Rhyme’ – a very appropriate name! The chief is Einharweinix – ‘Our Leader’. With no book to hand I’m not exactly sure of the spellings they chose, or of the other character’s names. Oddly, though, I can remember the Roman camps around the village – Bolatenae/Thinbelly, Cloclarwm/Alarm Clock, Bagiautrwm/Heavy bags and Ariole/After Him. “

Well, dw i ddim yn siwr am yr esboniad yngly^n â “Crycymalix” (Getafix yn y Saesneg). Dw i’n meddwl fod o’n dod o “cruc cymalau” (neu “cricamala” according to Anweledig!) sy’n meddwl “arthritis” – bardd oedrannus yw Crycymalix.

Eniwe, dw i eisiau! Ond dw i ddim yn gwybod os maen nhw’n ar gael y ddyddiau ‘ma. Dw i wedi methu ffeindio nhw arlein. Piti.

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by Suw on November 1, 2008

Mae’r holl stori ar y BBC.

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Mae’r Guardian yn edrych am “Temporary Welsh Speaking Online Content Editor – To £21k – London“.

Mae’n edrych yn ddiddorol, yn enwedig y bit ‘ma (fy emphasis fi):

The Role
In this exciting brand new project, as the Online Content Editor you will be uploading new and updated content, checking quality and accuracy, ensuring the company’s style guide is adhered to and keeping to tight deadlines. Whilst maintaining a thorough understanding of the style guide you will be participating in regular forums, relating to style and error feedback from the team. As the Online Content Editor you will be liaising with the production manager, producing weekly and monthly reports. The key aspect to this role is using consistent Welsh language at all times. The web project will all be in Welsh.

Rhaid imi gadw llygad ar hon. Rhowch gwybod i mi os dach chi’n gwybod be’ sy’n digwydd!

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Rhwybeth pwysig

by Suw on October 12, 2008

Mae gen i rywbeth pwysig i ddweud, ond bydda i’n dweud y peth unwaith yn unig: negatif dim pwynt un tri dim tri dau tri.

Pob lwc efo’ch ymchwil!

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Tip bach am Firefox

by Suw on July 21, 2007

Os dach chi'n defnyddio'r porwr Firefox – ac os dach chi ddim, pam ddim?! – ac dach chi eisiau gweld popeth sydd yn Gymraeg yn Gymraeg, rhaid i chi newid eich blaenoriaethau iaith i Gymraeg. Ewch i 'Preferences', wedyn 'Advanced' a chlicio ar y tab 'General' ac ar waelod y tudalen byddwch chi'n gweld adran 'Languages'. Cliciwch 'Choose', wedyn 'Select a language to add', scrolio i lawr i 'Welsh', a chlicio 'Add'. Dewisiwch 'Welsh' yn y restr a chlicio 'Move Up' nes fod fo ar ben. Wedyn, cliciwch 'OK'.
Nawr, pan dach chi'n mynd i Google, byddwch chi'n gweld y dudalen yn y Gymreag, heb rhaid newid eich blaenoriaethau chi yn Google ei hun.
Nodyn: Dw i'n defnyddio Mac, felly efallai mae'n wahanol ar PC.
If you use the browser Firefox – and if you don't, why not?! – and you want to see everything that's in Welsh in Welsh, you need to change your language preferences to Welsh. Go to 'Preferences', then 'Advanced' and click the 'General' tab and at the bottom of the page you will see the 'Languages' section. Click 'Choose', then 'Select a language to add', scroll down to 'Welsh' and click 'Add'. Choose 'Welsh' in the list and click 'Move Up' until it's at the top. Then click 'OK'.
Now, when you go to Google, you will see the page in Welsh without having to change your preferences in Google itself.
Note: I use a Mac, so it might be different on a PC.

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Siarad yn Gymraeg efo Twitter

by Suw on July 17, 2007

Dw i wedi bod defnyddio Twitter ers sbel nawr, yn y Saesneg, ac dw i'n ei garu fo. Wefan siml ac hwyl ydy o, ble dw i'n gallu dweud wrth y byd be' dw i'n gwneud. Medra i siarad ?¢ phobl hefyd – mewn 140 llythrennau neu llai. Mae 'na wasanaeth tecstio, felly medrwch chi ddanfon negeseuon trwy eich ff?¥n symudol.
Ond, mae 'na broblem bach efo fi. Dw i eisiau siarad Cymraeg, ac dw i wedi creu persona Cymraeg, ond mae neb arall yna sy'n siarad yr Hen Iaith.
Dewch chwarae efo fi! Hwyl bydd o!

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Deg o bethau i wneud yn Gymreg ar y we

December 10, 2006

1. Gwyliwch teledu efo S4C Mae 'na lawer o raglenni teledu ar gael ar wefan S4C nawr. Dach chi'n str?Æmio 4 Wal, Chez Dudley, a Natur Anghyfreithlon, a lot o betha eraill. Yn anffodus, does 'na ddim is-deitlau, sydd poen yn y din amdani i (achos dw i ddim deallt unrhywbeth fod Dudley'n dweud.) 2. […]

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Be' dach chi'n darllen ar hyn o bryd?

August 18, 2006

Just asking my Welsh speaking readers what books they are reading at the moment. Diolch i bawb sy wedi gadael sylw awdio ar fy mhost diwetha. Dw i'n hoffi gwrando i bobl yn siarad yn y Gymraeg, felly dw i'n mynd i ofyn cwestiwn newydd heddiw. powered by ODEO Dw i newydd gorffen tri lyfr […]

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Ble dach chi eisiau mynd ar wyliau?

August 11, 2006

I'm here asking Welsh speakers where they want to go, or where they have been, on holiday. The idea is that people will then leave me Odeo comments telling me what their holiday plans are. Dw i eisiau defnyddio fy Nghymraeg i mwy yn aml, felly dw i wedi bod meddwl am rywbeth bod Tom […]

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Darllen mwy

July 5, 2006

Dw i newydd ddechrau darllen mwy. Mae gen i lyfr gan Mair Evans, o'r enw Pwy Sy'n Cofio Siôn, a dw i wedi darllen hanner y peth yn barod. Rhodd Mair y llyfr imi yn ystod 2002, ond dw i erioed wedi ei orffen fo. Bryd 'ny, o'n i'n arfer darllen yn araf iawn – […]

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Ankst ar lein

June 3, 2006

Mae'n ymddangos fod Ankst Music wedi rhoi eu catalog ar lein. Ces i ebost o Emyr Angst sy'n dweud “Ma hi bellach yn bosib llawrlwytho y teitlau isod trwy y prif wasanaethau cerddoriaeth digidol.” Yn anffodus, rhaid i ti logio i mewn i'r mywafrif o wasanaethau cerddoriaeth cyn ti'n gallu pori, a nid aelod ydw […]

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