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  • Cymru hag Eire united !


    “.... but it makes sense for the Celtic nations to swim off together into the sunset – while Boris Johnson sinks England with Brexit.”


  • National Eisteddfod



    • 7 August 2019



    Image caption Heledd Gwyndaf said young people's online habits made it a pivotal moment for Welsh language

    The Welsh language needs to be "normalised" online, say campaigners.

    Heledd Gwyndaf, of Cymdeithas yr Iaith, the Welsh language society, said it was the "eleventh hour" for Welsh on digital platforms.

    She said increasing online content was as important as the translation of the Bible into Welsh and the development of the printing press.

    The campaign group wants to launch a movement that would help promote and produce online content.

    Ms Gwyndaf, who chairs the society's digital group, said young people's online habits made it a pivotal moment for the language.

    "If we want the Welsh language to live, this could be its eleventh hour," she warned at the National Eisteddfod in Llanrwst.

    Young people are increasingly turning to sites like YouTube and watching only English language content, she added.

    "We must look at what's happening there [online], what isn't happening there, and what is the solution to ensuring that Welsh language content is seen by our children and our young people, and people of every age."

    According to Cymdeithas yr Iaith, the new digital initiative would:

    • research the accessibility of existing Welsh language content, the demand and the ability to create content
    • create and support new platforms to increase the presence of Welsh online
    • improve awareness among individuals, groups and organisations of what is available and what is to come.

    'Older people too'

    In another event, organised by the Welsh language movement Dyfodol i'r Iaith, the chief executive of S4C, Owen Evans, said digital content needed to appeal to a broad audience.

    Speaking afterwards, Mr Evans said: "I think digital is for everyone.

    "Digital services are for older people too - older than me, even - who want to watch it, and the number of people consuming digital content is growing and growing."

    Image copyright S4C
    Image caption S4C chief executive Owen Evans said digital content needed to appeal to a broad audience

    He said the traditional channel was still very important for S4C's audience, but more co-productions crossing between the TV channel and its digital platforms would be broadcast in future.

    "The challenge for S4C is to bring the two together."

    Related Topics



  • the Celtic language’s presence in tech has increased dramatically within a short period.

    Welcome to Source Notes, a Future Tense column about the internet’s knowledge ecosystem.

    If you say, “Alexa, faint o’r gloch yw hi?” the smart speaker will not understand that you are asking for the time of day. That’s because Welsh is not one of the eight languages currently supported by Amazon’s Alexa-enabled devices. Gareth Morlais, a Welsh language and digital media specialist for the Welsh government, has argued for years that this language gap is disturbing. In a 2017 presentation, Morlais noted that the Welsh language, then ranked 172nd in the world by number of speakers, was not supported by Alexa, Twitter, or Google’s search interface. At the time, Alexa only spoke and understood two languages: English and German. “The technology actually tells you which language your family can speak at home, which is a horror story,” Morlais said. “What we need to do here is try to shape the technology so that it speaks the same language that we want to speak.”

    Although Alexa still does not speak or understand Welsh, the Celtic language’s presence in tech has increased dramatically within a short period. Google announced in February that it had expanded its offerings in Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Drive to include Welsh. And Google Translate—infamous since 2009 for its Scymraeg, or scummy Welsh—has, according to the BBC, recently taken a great leap forward in terms of the accuracy and quality of its Welsh translations. Morlais and others attribute this in part to the fact that there are now more than 100,000 articles on the Welsh version of Wikipedia, known as Wicipedia.

    Like other language editions, Wicipedia is a separate website with its own content, not simply a translation of English Wikipedia, a distinction that matters for both users and big tech companies. Back in 2017, Morlais observed, “There appears to be an indication that there is a link between the languages with the most Wikipedia articles or pages and the languages that are supported by the digital giants.” Google Translate and other technologies use artificial neural networks to learn from example, training themselves with language data from rich internet sources like Welsh Wikipedia.

    The Welsh community is not alone in using wiki-technology to promote its language. This year’s Celtic Knot conference in Cornwall, England, included several indigenous languages with their own Wikipedia editions. The original idea, as the name suggests, was to focus on Celtic languages, including Irish, Scots, Breton, Welsh, and Cornish, which was declared extinct merely a decade ago. But as word got out about a Wikipedia minority language conference, others began to join, representing, for example, the Sámi language spoken in parts of Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Russia; the Berber family of languages spoken in Northern Africa; and the Basque and Catalan communities. (In his 2017 presentation, Morlais noted that Catalan was one of the few minority languages supported by Google search, an accomplishment he linked to the fact that Catalan already had more than 500,000 articles on its language edition of Wikipedia.)


    At the Celtic Knot conference, these smaller language communities gathered together to discuss strategies to improve the content in their specific editions of the Wikimedia projects, such as making more medical content available in their local languages. One popular session this year involved setting up Wikidata infoboxes so that these smaller language encyclopedias could source common structured data from the shared Wikidata hub. So, for example, English Google searches for a “list of largest cities” would return this article, Welsh searches would surface the article “Dinasoedd mwyaf y byd,” and both language editions pull data from this central repository.

    The National Library of Wales appointed Jason Evans to the position of National Wikimedian nearly two years ago in a formal announcement that recognized Wicipedia as the most popular Welsh website. (The U.S. National Archives also has a Wikipedian in residence to foster collaboration between the National Archives and the English Wikipedia community.) Since his appointment, Evans has developed collaborations and partnerships to help advance the representation of Wales and the Welsh language on Wikimedia projects, like sharing open-access content such as the Peniarth manuscript collection of Welsh history, culture, and verse, thousands of landscape prints, and the laws of Hywel Dda, an influential Welsh king in the 10th century.

    I asked Evans why he believed it was so important Welsh have its own language version of the encyclopedia. With the updated translation technology, wasn’t it technically feasible to have a single encyclopedia, and then translate that centralized information into the reader’s specific language? Would that not be more scalable?

    “If everyone just had the same generic article, it wouldn’t promote cultural diversity—you know, all the things that make us human,” Evans said. He provided some examples: The English-language Wikipedia article about the Game of Thrones television series notes that the fictional languages Dothraki and Valyrian have reportedly been heard by more people than the Welsh, Irish, and Scots Gaelic languages combined, which suggests the popularity of the show and the relative tininess of Celtic languages. But the Welsh Wikipedia article on the same topic exhibits considerably more Welsh pride. It highlights the roles of two Welsh actors (Iwan Rheon as Ramsay Bolton, Owen Teale as Ser Alliser Thorne) and the series’s use of Welsh and Welsh-sounding names.

    The different language editions also reflect ideological differences. English Wikipedia states that Catalonia is an autonomous community in Spain. But Welsh Wikipedia describes Catalonia as a European country, based on its declaration of independence in 2017. Where information is consistent across cultures—like the populations of the world’s largest cities—it perhaps makes sense to pull from a standardized source. But philosophers make fine distinctions among data, information, and knowledge, which is not necessarily machine-readable. It’s understandable that the Welsh language community would support the Catalonians’ independence if this position better reflects the Welsh community’s universe of knowledge.

    Harnessing technology is an important part of the Welsh government’s goal to have 1 million Welsh speakers by 2050. (In the most recent census, in 2011, there were 562,000 Welsh speakers in Wales.) Children in the 19th century were punished for speaking Welsh by being forced to wear a shameful wooden plaque around their necks called a Welsh Not. “There was this phase in Welsh history where it was seen as the language of poor, uneducated people, so people tried desperately to rid themselves of their Welsh,” Evans said. “Now bilingualism is generally encouraged through the educational system.”

    That has also created an unusual challenge for Wicipedia: Many of the contributors are children learning Welsh in bilingual programs. “They change things, or write a rude word in, just to be funny,” Evans said. “Most of the IP addresses that are blocked [from editing] in Wales are schools.” But the occasional prank job is not a terrible problem (and it’s also something that happens on lots of other language editions). When Evans or his colleagues visit a school to teach students digital literacy skills and how to edit the site, they can lift the IP address ban.