Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Welsh Language Board



  1.  A strategy for the Welsh Language, published by the Board in December 1996 after extensive consultation with its partners, contains a list of 20 objectives which must be met to fulfil the strategy's main aim: "to enable the Welsh language to be self-sustaining and secure as a medium of communication in Wales". One of these objectives (Objective 20) is specifically concerned with developments outside Wales: "To promote and safeguard the interests of the Welsh language and lesser-used languages in general on the international platform". Under this objective are listed four specific responsibilities for the Board itself. Two of these are directly relevant to the Committee's enquiry:

    —  to raise awareness of the Welsh language outside Wales amongst the media and amongst organisations and companies operating in Wales whose headquarters or head offices are outside Wales;

    —  to foster and promote the exchange of information and experience in the areas of language and culture between Wales and similar linguistic communities abroad.

  2.  In The Welsh Language: a Vision and Mission for 2000-05, which the Board presented in November 1999 to the National Assembly for Wales, the Board gave an unequivocal commitment to develop its language planning links beyond Wales. Target 10—one of 12 targets listed in the main body of the document—is specifically concerned with this. It commits the Board:

    —  by March 2002, to have formally established mutually co-operative links with four government minority language planning institutions in Europe (to include the Basque country and Ireland); and

    —  by March 2003, to continually monitor best practice in language planning in minority language communities to see that lessons can be learnt for Wales.

  3.  The above references confirm that the Board's work in promoting the Welsh language and good practice in language planning disciplines has a firm strategic basis.

  4.  Given its main statutory function of promoting and facilitating the use of the Welsh language, it is no surprise to learn that this function defines the compass of the Board's work. Nevertheless, since the Welsh language is the most unique element in Welsh life, and the only thing which differentiates Wales very obviously from the rest of the United Kingdom, the Board would argue that to promote Wales abroad without reference to its unique language is at the very least a valuable opportunity missed.

  5.  The Board believes that it has a pioneering vision to promote and to share, in the wider context of promoting Wales abroad.


  6.  It is the following elements of the vision and expertise developed in Wales over the past few years which the Board believes can be of value to other minority language communities overseas:

    —  the Welsh success in creating a bilingual society;

    —  widespread agreement among Welsh speakers and non-Welsh speakers in favour of the language;

    —  a favourable climate for developing bilingual policies;

    —  broad consensus in favour of the language across all political parties;

    —  language planning expertise;

    —  pioneering projects in the fields of language transmission and marketing Welsh medium education, together with the development of sophisticated marketing techniques to target the private sector;

    —  ability to adapt practical models for use in other countries;

    —  a clear vision, flexible and broadminded; and

    —  willingness to form partnerships and to learn from others.

  7.  In practical terms, the Board's activities overseas can be divided into four categories:

    —  it accepts invitations:

      —  to take part in discussions/seminars;

      —  to give presentations;

      —  to offer advice and share expertise;

      —  to respond to documents; and

      —  to contribute articles;

    —  it seeks to share and disseminate information by means of:

      —  its main website which attracts thousands of hits from overseas each month;

      —  the LinkLine to Welsh and ad-hoc enquiries requesting information on language related matters;

      —  its specific webstite on community language planning;

      —  organising conferences; and

      —  by inviting comments on its strategy documents;

    —  it regularly welcomes visitors from overseas. These have included over the past few years:

      —  fact-finding visits arranged by the Foreign Office;

      —  visits from overseas government delegations or journalists arranged by the Welsh Office or the National Assembly;

      —  academic contacts; and

      —  language planners from other countries;

    —  it co-operates on specific projects from time to time. Recent examples include:

      —  collaborating with the British Council, the Wales Tourist Board, S4C and BT to produce a video to promote Wales;

      —  the Celtic Language Initiative (CELI) project, in which representatives from four Celtic countries have collaborated to produce materials to promote bilingual vocational training.


  8.  The lack of resources at present prevents the Board from being as proactive as it would wish, even within the limits of its declared strategies.

  9.  The Board would wish to work more closely and more effectively with key players like the National Assembly, the Wales Tourist Board, the Welsh Development Agency, the British Council and others.

  10.  There are examples of co-operation with many of these organisations for example:

    —  Membership of the Branding Wales Group, which led in 1998-99 to the development of guidelines for promotion of Wales—Wales the time is now;

    —  The development of the video to promote Wales mentioned in paragraph 7 above;

    —  participation in trade fairs, for example in a Welsh Office exhibition in Stuttgart in 1999;

    —  participating in study visits and conferences at the invitation of organisations including the British Council, the Council of Europe and others. A list of the Board's participation in overseas conferences and events over the past five years is attached (Annex 1).

  11.  These initiatives, however, have mainly been of an ad-hoc nature. Because of this there is usually no opportunity to assess or to follow them up effectively. The Board therefore believes that to reach the full potential of this type of activity what is needed above all is a much more co-ordinated approach.

  12.  A further consequence of the lack of co-ordination is that the messages which are conveyed about Wales abroad are not clear or consistent at present. The good work done by the Branding Wales Group has largely failed to be capitalised upon because of this lack of consistency in approach.

  13.  The Board believes that there is a strong case for developing a mechanism for co-ordinating everyone's efforts. This mechanism would need to avoid being perceived to be pushing any individual organisation's agenda. One possibility would be to set up a working party or steering committee including representatives of the main bodies. The chairmanship and/or secretariat should ideally rotate among the partners.

  14.  This is a perfect opportunity for making use of the latest technology to save costs. For example, the working party described in paragraph 13 could feasibly be a "virtual" working party rather than an actual one. The setting up of a joint website—Cymru/, perhaps—would be a valuable resource, and a cost-effective way of disseminating clear messages about contemporary Wales throughout the world.

  15.  Adopting these strategies would, we believe, also allow better use to be made of existing networks of Welsh societies and organisations worldwide. The power of the Welsh language in this context should not be underestimated. The language remains one of the strongest and most emotive links between people of Welsh origin and Wales, even if they do not speak the language themselves.

  16.  The Cymru a'r Byd (Wales and the World) association has a database which could be of use to several organisations. The branches in various countries encompass a wide range of interests. It could be of benefit to any body or organisation which is arranging an event in an overseas location to promote Wales to establish a co-operative relationship with the "local" branch of Cymru a'r Byd, if one exists, in order to take advantage of its knowledge and expertise.

  17.  Along with establishing new networks and strengthening existing ones, the Board believes it is also necessary to clarify and define the role of certain key organisations, such as the British Council and the Wales European Centre. Resources for the promotion of Wales abroad are limited and finite, and in order to maximise their effectiveness, there needs to be clear understanding amongst all relevant parties of their respective rules and responsibilities.

  18.  We believe that all overseas marketing activities by the UK Government should include in all literature and exhibition material a specific reference to Wales, making appropriate use of the Welsh language.

  19.  We also believe that all UK embassies should include relevant information about Wales, again making appropriate use of the Welsh language. The Board would be more than happy to co-operate with the Central Office of Information (COI) to ensure appropriate use of the language in the Government's proportional materials in overseas locations and events.


  20.  The Committee will need to consider whether such developments might be enhanced through legislation. The Board would certainly support any moves to strengthen the statutory means to allow Welsh bodies to promote Wales abroad. To do this, it would first be necessary to define more clearly the British/Welsh dimensions and responsibilities. However, the Board would not at this stage seek any specific legislative changes in this context, unless there is seen to be a need to amend any legislation which limits in any way the ability of organisations to undertake promotional activities overseas.


  21.  On a more general note, the Board firmly believes that it is not only overseas that there is a need for promoting. Wales. Much work needs to be done at home to develop a self-confidence and pride in the country and its achievements, which can then be exported to other countries.

Gweran Llwyd Evans

Head of Marketing

18 October 2000

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