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Microsoft is to start selling Welsh language versions of Windows XP and Office. Previously, the firm offered only a Welsh language spell checker. Now it is to incorporate all the interface commands in the Welsh language.

Here's an example of the what one might expect: "Nid yw pori'r rhwydwaith yn bosib". It means: "Browsing the network is not possible." Don't be too concerned by the apparent lack of vowels: the Welsh language has two more vowels than English - w and y - and as you can see, makes full use of both.

According to this interesting article, Microsoft's move is a head-them-off-at-the pass response to the actions of an informal 25-strong group of Welsh-language Linux enthusiasts which is translating software commands for the Open Source operating system.

The volunteers have ploughed their way through the translation of 45 per cent of the Linux operating, amounting to 90,000 command and phrases "but the bits that remain in English tend to be for relatively obscure operations that many computer users will never perform".

Certainly, Microsoft is being very nice to the Welsh language. It is funding its own translation and Welsh language modules will be available free of charge sometime in 2004. The firm is working hand in glove with the Welsh Language Board, which has produced a press release (in English) here.

Approximately 300,000 people speak Welsh as their first language, just about all of whom will speak English fluently too. But after years of decline, Welsh speaking is on the increase again, helped along by strong promotion of the language through the Principality's schools. ®

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