Cymraeg ar y trên

On my train back from London on Sunday evening the train manager started someone of his announcements Welsh. For example he said, “Croeso, welcome to this train”, and when checking tickets he said, “Diolch yn fawr, thank you very much” to everyone. I think this was the first time I’d heard Welsh being used on a train, so it caught my attention. I think that announcements on trains and stations in South Wales are usually in Welsh and English, but I had never heard them any elsewhere. The departures board in London Euston also listed the final destination of the trains as ‘Holyhead Caergybi’.

In Wales most signs are bilingual, as is printed material produced by public bodies. In Gaelic-speaking parts of Scotland some signs are bilingual and token amounts of Gaelic can be heard on ferries and sometimes elsewhere. The situation is similar with Manx in the Isle of Man. In Ireland many signs and notices are bilingual, but not much Irish is to be heard on public transport.

In other regions where minority languages are spoken, how visible / audible are the languages?

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This entry was posted in English, Language, Welsh.

12 Responses to Cymraeg ar y trên

  1. Jim M. says:

    Packaging in the U.S. very often has Spanish on it. Dual announcements would be heard mostly in the border states, but any automated phone system will tell you “para español, marque el dos.”

  2. phanmo says:

    I live in Nantes (Naoned), France, which was historically part of Brittany, but is now separate. Some signs here are in both French and Breton, although the majority are in French only. In Brittany proper, the opposite is true; most signs are bilingual with only a few exclusively in French (although none are exclusively in Breton, due to it being illegal in France to have signs without French).
    In seven years I have never heard Breton being spoken other than on the radio or on TV, even whilst visiting my in-laws in the farthest-flung reaches of north Finistère.
    I should note that Breton has the dubious distinction of being the only still-spoken Celtic language that has no legal status or recognition by its own national government.

  3. Chris Waugh says:

    I seem to remember announcements on Hong Kong’s MTR being trilingual in Mandarin, Cantonese and English (not necessarily in that order) and signs bilingual in traditional Chinese characters and English. I believe the airport is the same.

  4. TJ says:

    Ever been to Dubai?
    You’ll rarely hear Arabic spoken…

  5. Miacomet says:

    Jim M- I live in Illinois, and here, it is not unusual to see signs or ads entirely in Spanish, despite Illinois hardly being a border state. On our public transport, most announcements are in English, but all signs, placards, etc. are bilingual.

    When I was in the south of France this spring, I was surprised to see that the downtown area had signs in Occitan. I asked the friend I was with (who was Palois), and he said it was more of a formality. This was strikingly different in the Basque Country, where I was surprised to see monolingual Basque signs (in the Spanish part only, because of the above mentioned regulations in France). I never heard Occitan while I was in France, but Basque was clearly alive and well.

    And a question for you on the other side of the pond: How prevalent is written Scots in signage and the like? I know it exists (a friend asked me to translate a sign she saw in the Shetlands reading “Dunna chuck bruck.”), but I am to believe Scots is less written than spoken.

  6. MadFall says:

    In French Catalonia, around Perpignan, some signs are bilingual- French and Catalan. While staying there for three months I never heard a word of Catalan spoken in public. Simon, are you saying that rail announcements are bilingual in South Wales but English only in North Wales? Sounds a bit odd.

  7. Simon says:

    Miacomet – the only place in Scotland I’ve seen signs in a language other than English or Gaelic is in Shetland, where you see some things in Shetland dialect. Even the Scottish Parliament website doesn’t seem to have anything in Scots, though does have information in a variety of other languages from Gaelic to Urdu.

    MadFall – that is my experience – the announcements are in English in the north and bilingual in the south.

  8. Macsen says:

    The linguistic ‘split’ in Wales I think has more to do with the train companies operating the lines than specific politics.

    The last time I noticed, the train announcements at Cardiff Central station were in Welsh and English even if the train was travelling to England. But other trains coming into Cardiff on other lines are only in English with bloody awful mispronounciation and especially putting the accent on the wrong part of the place name. It may be that Arriva Trains (Wales) have annoucements in Welsh whilst Virgin doesn’t. I’m not sure. It’s all a mess since the de-nationalised the railways.

    I’m glad to hear some Welsh being used at last. It’s about time. But the English supremacist attitude against Welsh is still strong. For many saying a few words of Welsh is almost worse than swearing.

    A friend of mine went to the Llandudno Junction station and said; “bore da, return i Gaerdydd plîs” only to be belittled with “I don’t speak Welsh”. She asked again in Welsh and was given the same ignorant answer.

    I mean, does anyone really not understand what bore da (good morning) means or that Caerdydd is Cardiff?

    The man should have been sacked for either being too stupid to understand the most basic greeting in a language and notice a place name which is written on several noticies. Or he should have been sacked for refusing to recognise and respect Welsh.

    More often than not in Wales, “I don’t speak Welsh” = “I won’t speak Welsh”.

  9. Simon says:

    Macsen – it was actually on a Virgin train that I heard the token bits of Welsh. I’ve never heard Welsh being used by staff on Arriva Trains.

  10. Petréa Mitchell says:

    Here in Portland, Oregon, much closer to Canada than Mexico, the local light-rail system has automated announcements in Spanish as well as English. Official traffic signs are all in English, but some other signage is bilingual. Notices are frequently bilingual. There’s a notice about the public-transit system’s nondiscrimination policy posted in all the buses which was up to seven languages last I counted. (English, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese… I’ll have to go check again for the other one.)

  11. Petréa Mitchell says:

    What Jim M. said about packaging. Frequently it has French on it too so the exact same thing can be sold all over the US and Canada.

  12. michel147 says:

    In the Toulouse underground the announcement of stations is in occitan as well, for example : “Patte d’Oie / Pata d’Auca” but it’s artificial while, in a more authentic manner, the French language there is full of occitanisms, such as “je comprend a vista de nas” (I understand at “nose sight” ie approximately) or “je l’ai eu fait” (this tense -lo preterit subrecompausat- does not exist in French and the phrase means that I have done something in a remote past : l’ai agut fach > je l’ai eu fait). Occitan is hardly heard as a language but survives as a powerful substrat.