Lost in Translation

February 18, 2009 11:55 AM

Last week it was reported that Whitehall would have to pay an additional £4 million to enable the new Welsh Courts computer system to translate documents into Welsh, on top of the £444 million already spent.


There are several questions here.


The first, and most obvious, is why Welsh translation was not part of the original specifications at the beginning of the project. It is law that in Wales summonses must be sent out in both English and Welsh, and this project was a decade in the making. Long enough to think it through, one would assume, and so it is mystifying that at no stage anyone thought to include it. Classic public sector inefficiency and lack of internal communication.


The second is why EVERY summons has to go out in Welsh as well as English. In Newport, where I am from, hardly anyone speaks Welsh. Or if they do (perhaps because they have latterly been forced into taking at least half a GCSE in it) they would still understand an English summons. Probably prefer it. And this is not just in Newport, but in much of South Wales. 


The capacity to translate legal summonses, and any official document, into Welsh is very important. And it's a disgrace that whoever signed off on this in Whitehall didn't even think about the needs of a considerable section of the Welsh population. But where is neither demand nor desire for Welsh, it wouls save taxpayers a lot of money to conduct their affairs in English only.


The problem with legislation is that it has to apply across the board, but a bit of flexibility could save taxpayers' money, Government officals' time and my blood pressure.

Last week it was reported that Whitehall would have to pay an additional £4 million to enable the new Welsh Courts computer system to translate documents into Welsh, on top of the £444 million already spent.


There are several questions here.


The first, and most obvious, is why Welsh translation was not part of the original specifications at the beginning of the project. It is law that in Wales summonses must be sent out in both English and Welsh, and this project was a decade in the making. Long enough to think it through, one would assume, and so it is mystifying that at no stage anyone thought to include it. Classic public sector inefficiency and lack of internal communication.


The second is why EVERY summons has to go out in Welsh as well as English. In Newport, where I am from, hardly anyone speaks Welsh. Or if they do (perhaps because they have latterly been forced into taking at least half a GCSE in it) they would still understand an English summons. Probably prefer it. And this is not just in Newport, but in much of South Wales. 


The capacity to translate legal summonses, and any official document, into Welsh is very important. And it's a disgrace that whoever signed off on this in Whitehall didn't even think about the needs of a considerable section of the Welsh population. But where is neither demand nor desire for Welsh, it wouls save taxpayers a lot of money to conduct their affairs in English only.


The problem with legislation is that it has to apply across the board, but a bit of flexibility could save taxpayers' money, Government officals' time and my blood pressure.

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