Welsh speakers blast BT’s language policy

It’s good to talk - but only in English

BT has come under fire from the Welsh speaking community who are accusing the telecomms giant of anti-Welsh behaviour. The problem stems from pagers. Welsh speakers who want to send messages to each other, in Welsh, using their pagers are being told by BT that they cannot. Speaking on BBC Radio 4 this afternoon, representatives of Welsh cultural bodies attacked BT for this exclusionist attitude. The problem stems from an inability to translate from Welsh into English. A BT representative was quick to defend BT’s Welsh language policy but said that if the company cannot guarantee that a message is not offensive or threatening then it will not carry it. "Our approach to the Welsh language ranks alongside any other company. We have bi-lingual phone boxes and Welsh speaking phone operators," he said. "The problem here is that if our pager operators cannot understand a message they will refuse to accept it. Our pager bureaus are in England and the number of Welsh speakers living in England is very small (you don’t say - Ed). It would be the same story if you wanted to send a message in Spanish." He went on to say that BT had looked into opening a pager bureau in Wales but that the cost of addressing a market as small as Welsh speakers who want to page in Welsh was likely to be prohibitive. Although BT provides many services in the Welsh language, it has been criticised by the Welsh Language Association for making them available only on request and not as a matter of course. The Welsh Language Act makes it incumbent upon local authorities and other government bodies to provide English and Welsh services in equal amounts. Private companies, such as BT, are not covered by this legislation. ®

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