Welsh on the Internet and in Information Technology

Over the past few years, the Welsh Language Board has become increasingly involved in the field of Information Technology in relation to bilingualism. And as Welsh becomes more widespread on the internet, the Board has also developed its own website.

The Board’s first site was launched back in 1996, and we were one of the first public sector organisations to develop a fully bilingual website.

Then in 1999, we decided to redevelop the site, and create a new website which encompassed the work of the Board, our partners and those involved in the Welsh language in Wales.

With technology continually moving at breakneck speed, and the Board’s work constantly developing and expanding, we decided to move towards a new system of running our site and managing the whole project ourselves. This site is the result of the latest development – a site which not only includes information on the language and the Board’s work, but is also an electronic resource for the Welsh language at the beginning of the twenty first century

The technology behind the site enables us to regularly add and update information, and the site itself is a full archive of the Board’s work and publications since its first public meeting back in 1997. The content management system is simple, effective and easy to manage.

Technology has also enabled other organisations to move forward during this period. When the Board’s first site was launched back in 1996, the internet was still a relatively new development – especially in Wales – resulting in very little use of Welsh on the world wide web. Nowadays, bilingualism is a natural part of Wales on the web, and companies like Microsoft and Google have also bought into the need to develop Welsh language information and services.

In 2001, Microsoft launched Office XP, which supports a Welsh language spellchecker and hyphenator, easily downloaded free of charge from their company website.

Also launched in 2001 was a Welsh language version of search engine, Google. Google is one of the most popular search engines available and the fact that a Welsh language version is available has been a huge boost for the language on the web.

In 2002, the UK Government accepted the Board’s advice that all government organisation websites serving the public in Wales should incorporate both Welsh and English, as part of a UK wide consultation exercise on websites. We as a Board were in a unique position to advise on matters such as bilingual domain names for websites, equal prominence to both languages and direct navigation between parallel pages, as providing guidance on such issues forms an integral part of our work.

Over the past few years the Board has worked closely with a number of other organisations to promote the use of Welsh and bilingualism in information technology, and more recently on the internet. One of our key partners in this work is Canolfan Bedwyr at the University of Wales Bangor.

This is the team which created CySill, the original Welsh spellchecker, and Cysgair, an on-line dictionary to load on the computer. They have also developed a number of other programmes including Cymarfer, a CD-Rom based language improvement course for Welsh speakers in the classroom and workplace, and a number of other on-line dictionaries. The Board, in partnership with Canolfan Bedwyr and Microsoft were responsible for the exciting developments in relation to Office XP, and this important work is continuing.

Welsh and bilingualism are playing an increasingly important role in information technology and on the internet, and with the new media category in the Board’s Bilingual Design Awards, the number and standard of bilingual websites is increasing every year. We received over 50 entries in the competition in 2002, and we’re hoping to break this record in 2003.

At the beginning of 2003, you can send an e-mail, purchase goods, read the news, search the web and check documents through the medium of Welsh. Who would’ve believed it five years ago?