Pressure Grows to Impose Penalties on Private Sector Over Lack of Welsh Language Services

As a sign of the continued strengthening of the Welsh language, Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (The Welsh Language society) are taking aim at the private sector for ignoring the needs of Welsh speakers.

The Welsh Language Society report that campaigners have protested against a major European retailer, Lidl Stiftung & Co. KG, for disrespecting the Welsh language. Lidl is a discount retailer based in Germany that is being condemned for its failure to provide Welsh Language customer service at its store in Porthmadog, Gwynedd.  The store is in a predominantly Welsh speaking community with the most recent census reporting that 75% of the population fluent in the Celtic Tongue of Wales.  Local government is conducted in the Welsh language and Porthmadog was host to the National Eisteddfod in 1987.

The Language Society’s website quotes Manon Elin, Rights Spokesperson for Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg as follows: “Lidl is disrespecting the Welsh language and we should not have to protest to get these basic services in Welsh. Very many High Street stores and supermarkets ignore the needs of the Welsh Language across the country. There are a number of examples, like Lidl, where Welsh Language provision is cut with re-branding or when new shops open…. Supermarkets are part of people’s everyday lives, it’s very important that people can shop in Welsh.”

This latest language protest aimed at the private sector comes amidst growing pressure to extend the 2011 Welsh language law to a larger segment of the Welsh economy.  Currently the law mandates the provision of Welsh language services in the telecommunications, water energy and transportation supply services industries.  The law as currently written excludes supermarkets and banking.  According to Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg the Welsh government is poised to propose legislation to extend the mandate. The Society’s web site   cites statements by Alun Davies, Minister for the Welsh language, in support of extending the Welsh language mandate to supermarkets and the banking sector.  Welsh Language Standards are already in force in the public sector.

Earlier this year the Spanish bank Santander was caught in a Welsh language dispute which highlighted the need to extend the 2011 law to the financial services industry in Wales.  Santander provoked condemnation from Cymdeithas yr Iaith  for failing to process forms submitted to the bank by a Welsh language campaign group because the forms were in Welsh.

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