back to article Libra freezes out Welsh legalese

The UK government is throwing an extra £4m at the upgrade of its new courts IT system because it currently can’t translate documents into Welsh. Magistrates courts in Wales and England waited nearly a decade to see their outdated records system overhauled. The Libra computer system was finally installed in December last year …


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  1. Lukin Brewer

    Are there any monolingual Welsh-speakers left?

    "Fixing this problem is going to add further to the taxpayers’ bill for this shambolic IT project and will leave Welsh speakers having to ask for special translations until September.”

    I thought that the last authentic Welsh monolingualists died off years ago, and that the existing mandates on bilingualism were brought in to prevent the language from dying out.

    I don't want to see Welsh disappear. However, you can't really say that this oversight is going to cause any inconvenience (unless you are now tasked with re-engineering the system, of course :-).

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Don't speak English? Find an alternative career.

    Am I the only one sitting here wondering why we're pandering to the Welsh over this? Nobody NEEDS their court documents in Welsh. What, because you have to speak and read English you're sullied by your saxon neighbours? Racist twats.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the welsh again.

    taking our money for prescriptions, and now so they can promote the use of their made up language.. typical sheep loving, lazy miner antics.


    mines the one with the daily mail in the pocket.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    "Welsh courts are required by law to send out summonses written in its mother’s tongue"

    Until ^that^ sentence, I thought it was a load of whining.

    But they actually missed out a legal requirement of the system? For the COURTS? Surely they should know how to write a scope of work that'd include all the requirements of the system? Or maybe even stick a clause into the contract that only allows a reduced - or zero- rate to be paid to the company if any legal requirements set out when they started designing the system were nnot met?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Screw the welsh...They should do it into Polish

    There are probably more of them in the UK than the welsh anyway.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    What beggars belief is that those in positions of authority even consider that a translation to other languages is even an issue. If some want that sort of thing surely a separate translation facility on their PC or from the Net will suffice.

  7. Allan Rutland

    What a joke...

    no one in Wales uses Welsh as there primary language, English is, and always will be. Fine support it as a historical thing, but having stupid systems like this having to be bought, and the conversion of letters and signs into it, when no one has ever bothered to read them is a complete waste of time. Whats next? the delivery of all summons in Cornish and Cumbrian next at only the small fee of a few hundred million?

    People are losing jobs, roads have 4" deep holes in them, hospitals are more like a session of musical chairs, and schools are pissing away money on as many idiot schemes going while not spending it on teaching kids. It's utterly insane how this government seems to go out of its way to blow tax payers money on the most stupidist things which benefit no one but a nice cushy job for some cival servant waste of space.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    A Government IT progect going over budget....

    Never! I can't believe it.

    Surely you've made a mistake here, go back and CHECK this time.

    Soon you'll be wanting us to believe that our loving, caring, Government is incompetent, shame on you.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    why not Welsh?

    what most of you fail to understand is that for many people living in Wales, Welsh is their first language, English is not taught in schools until the age of 7ish, and in most of the areas I work people do not speak in English at all. I don't really see why you're all complaining about it, it's in Wales, Welsh is their language, it should be fairly obvious that things should be written in both languages. Welsh for the natives, and English for the immigrants.

    and to the first AC, it would appear that you are the racist twat if you can't comprehend that people in their own country want to read and communicate in their own language.

  10. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: why not Welsh?

    If you don't stop throwing around the word 'racist' I'm going to do terrible things to you all.

  11. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Is this possible?

    That is, has the state of the art for Engligh<->Welsh translation progressed beyond Babel Fish? If not, I can't see how an automated system would actually meet the legal requirements. After all, if the court fails to issue an intelligible document, that's a gift to defence lawyers. It would be, er, "damaging for the Welsh language cause" if cases started being determined by quality of translation rather than quality of evidence.

    Of course, if they are just talking about a "fill in the blanks" form, then the present system is almost certainly capable of doing it, since it is just a matter of adding Welsh boiler-plate to the templates.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Some of the comments here certainly contraviene UK legislation on racial hatred or are you just all bitter about the rugby...

    BTW, WELSH is my first language...yes I can speak English and French and German but the fact remains that I think in Welsh.

    It seems that as soon as anyone mentions the Welsh language here on El Reg the comments look more like a cross between The Daily Mail and the BBC's Have Your Say.

    Given that this is an IT publication (alledgedly :-) ) shouldn't the discussion be more about HOW THE HELL DID THEY SPEND 260,000,000 GBP MORE on a glorified wiki. Or, what other requirements were missed and so on and so on..

    Actually I might place a bit for the next big government contract - I'll supply a bit way under anyone else, eg: 3 pounds 50...then do nothing and charge the government, say, half a billion pounds...

  13. Stuart

    OK, So sheep don't speak English

    Dear AC

    We come from a Welsh family which we can trace back to 17C. None appear to have ever spoken Welsh. Oh and my Mum still lives in Ceredigion (possibly the Welshest part of Wales) and we know of NO-ONE who does not speak English fluently (and that includes kids) when they want to. I don't mind what language people speak but I do mind what it costs and Welsh costs us all a fortune. There are other British languages which are more essential (eg BSL) which receive virtually nothing. If the Welsh language mandaters were not so concerned with protecting their own nests and were not so selfish they would put people with greater needs first.

    Icon? Where is Janet Street-Porter when you want her?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is Wales paying for this?

    I have no problem with public information in Wales being in Welsh as well as English - providing it's paid for by Welsh taxpayers. I did some consultancy on a CMS/new website for a public sector body and was amazed to see the amount of extra spend required to provide the Welsh translation. Not only that, but the project was delayed because it's hard to find the translators, as there's too much work for them! This was a project being funded by the UK government, so people from Penzance to Inverness to Omagh were paying for that Welsh translation.

    If everyone in Wales had to pay an extra 'Welsh language tax' would it really become so vital for everything to be in the language?

  15. Elmer Phud

    We've had the coal . . .

    . . . and we've had the gold -

    and now we want to take the piss as well.

    If the Welsh want to get thier own back they can do a 'Russia' and cut off water supplies to the Midlands.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    To foster tribalism aka "diversity" aka balkanization aka regionalization aka ethnicity aka ...


    Big tribes have bigger sticks than little tribes.


  17. Anonymous Coward

    OK, So sheep don't speak English

    @Stuart "There are other British languages which are more essential (eg BSL)"

    I'll translate any english language document into somethnig that the deaf can read. Just say the word.


  18. DutchOven

    All missing the obvious

    An awful lot of people seem to have missed the obvious and few of you don't seem to have thought about this much further than "great, we can berate the Welsh". To them I say "Ti'n llawn cachu" (I'm not a native Welsh speaker :)

    This wiki-wankery had a budget of around £190 million and went £260 million over budget.

    An extra £4million is peanuts in comparison.

    The utter ineptitude of the original development should not be forgotten. It takes quite a lot to go more than 125% over budget AND miss out legally required functionality from the finished system...

    (I'm also prepared to bet that the guys who built it own the source code and that they will make Joe Public pay through the nose for any/all changes that are required...)

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Most of you missing the point

    You have all (bar one poster) missed the point here.

    The key point, is that the government commisoned a computer system that failed to follow the law.

    I used to work in Wales, and it was a widely known fact that anything done (by the public sector) has to be bi-lingual.

    Perhaps we can get back to the point of the government (again) ignoring the law, and stop bickering about whether the Welsh language is worth the money.

    Is this El. Reg. or the Daily Mail ?

  20. Peter Bradley

    They all speak English, don't they?

    Yes. And we all get Windows on the computers we buy, but does that mean we should be forced to use Windows? Nobody should be forced to go to the trouble of supporting Linux boxes, should they? Or be forced to use standard document/media formats? Windows only stuff is fine. Everyone can use it.

    For the record I speak Welsh, English, French and Spanish, in that order. Although I use English most, although not all of the time in my job, I use Welsh almost exclusively outside of work, and I know plenty of people who use either predominantly or entirely Welsh both in and out of work: my wife, for one. For them, speaking and reading English is something they do very rarely. The fact that some people on this board find that incredible says more about them than they'd perhaps like.

    Respecting human rights can be expensive. That's not an argument for not respecting them.

    Welsh has been spoken in this part of the world for at least 1500 years and its usage is currently on the increase. If you think we're going to give that up just because of the linguistic prejudices of our nearest neighbours, you have another think coming. So you'd better get used to it or get over it. It isn't going to change.



  21. Gordon Ross Silver badge
    Dead Vulture

    @Sarah Bee

    If you're so upset by the racist overtones of the comments, why don't you go and slap the person at El Reg who approved the postings, rather than flaming the fires ?

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    English anyone?

    If the Welsh want a system that can auto-translate documents into Welsh then they should bloody well pay for it. I for one, being English, don't think we should.

    I thought English was supposed to be the common language of the United Kingdom.

    I suspect what we're seeing is a rise in nationalism since the Labour government gave them devolution, and we're footing the bill for it.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Dutchoven £4m over budget

    I agree, that a major issue is the massive cost over run of the project, but to then to use that to justify throwing away an extra £4m I don't think is a good argument.

    It's £4m that could be used for other things, such as saving people's jobs!

    So what happens if an englishman takes legal action against someone in Wales, is the englishman expected to have all his documents translated into Welsh?

    There should be only one language used in the legal system, English. Mixing in other langugages means translation costs, room for error which could result in applications being rejected on 'procedural technicalities'.

  24. The Douros

    Get your facts right

    Don't know which parts of Wales some of you are familiar with - but the parts of Wales that I know well, for the majority of people Welsh actually *is* their first language.

    As for those of you who cannot understand that people in their *own* country have a reasonable demand to use their *own* language, you guys really need to get a life, and get real. Twll dyn...

  25. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: @Sarah Bee

    I approved them. If I nixed everything that bothered me there'd be fewer comments in general. Better to get it out in the open sometimes, no?

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I personnaly find its not necersarry to spend 4 million on makign sure everything is bi-lingual

    Would be much more cost effective to provide translators if needed.

    @all the ppl stating wales like its another bloody country

    YOUR IN ENGLAND SPEAK ENGLISH !!!! live with it !!!!

    We expect all the imigrants to learn english when in England although we dont ban their own language !

    So let me Recap

    Wales = England

    England speaks English

    Can sombody please explain to me the unbeleivable need to have it all bi-lingual

    I already know about the fact some bastards just want to be difficult and will ask for half in english and hal in wlesh

  27. Kevin Donnelly

    Calm down, peeps ....

    Some of the comments here are a little ill-informed.

    Although there are probably no monoglot Welsh-speakers any more, about 20% of the Welsh population speaks Welsh, and a large proportion of those will be first-language speakers.

    Some people will be very much more comfortable in their first language rather than their second one (English), and that is very relevant in a formal enviroment such as the courts system.

    The principle is that citizens should be able to deal with public bodies in the language they want to use. So an English-speaker going to court will not have everything translated into Welsh, but if a Welsh-speaker goes to court and wants to speak Welsh rather than English, translations will be made. That seems both fair and economical.

    Both English-speakers and Welsh-speakers pay the same taxes - the implied suggestion that taxes from Welsh-speakers should go towards English-language services, but not towards services in their own language seems a little odd. I don't think a suggestion that English-speakers should pay extra to fund public services in English only would go down very well.

    Since the 1993 Welsh Language Act, Welsh has "parity of esteem" with English in Wales. Whoever commissioned the system really should have been aware of this, and certainly his/her contacts in the courts system should have been.

    I would be surprised if auto-translation is involved here, especially in something so formal as court procedure. Auto-translation for Welsh is at an early stage yet (see for example the system I am currently helping to develop at - there is a long way to go. The likely functionality is a template system, where standard sentences can be built up into the required court document. By the way, this is not quite as simple as it sounds.

  28. Anonymous Coward

    History and choice

    Our British Islands, culture and people take their name from old Welsh (Brythonic). "Welsh" roughly means foreigner in old German/Saxon/Fresian. Like every other human on this planet I'm 99.9999% African (races do not exist - ask a genetecist).

    Many English place-names reveal their Brythonic past (Avon, London, Glasgow, Lincoln, Manchester Penrith, Leeds etc. etc.) and most "Brits" are direct descendants of the original "Iberian" settlers of the west-coast of Europe - who ended up speaking Welsh or one of its sister languages before Scando-Germanic languages arrived.

    "Welsh" in some form or other has been spoken continiously since at least twice as long (possibly more) as Ænglish has existed. Surely like any national treasure language deserves to be preserved just as the countryside, buildings and wildlife are.

    This story is about IT. The developers should be chucked in jail along with the lawyers who drew up the contracts. The fact that it the new system is a complete waster should have nothing to do with what language project was meant to operate in or illogical personal biases. However some of the comments do demonstrate how ignorant the British are of their own history.

    Personally I want to be able to speak the language of my birth, the fact that I can speak English and other languages doesn’t mean I always find them appropriate to use or even suitable for the task in hand - there are some things you just can't convey in English.

    I really enjoy speaking British glad I'm glad I still can, c'mon folks give us Brits a break...

  29. Graham Marsden

    "simply forgot to include the Welsh language"

    Translation: "Damn, someone noticed we 'accidentally forgot' it..."

  30. Anonymous Coward

    @Terrible things done to us...

    Oh yes mistress, pleasepleaseplease... :-)

  31. Anonymous Coward

    Crikey you guys know nowt

    Despite all the best efforts of the English, the Welsh language is seeing massive revival in Wales and, yes, there are people that speak Welsh as their primary tongue and a very small number of Welsh speakers that do not speak English.

    FFS, Wales is a separate country, with a separate language and culture.

    Now I know there are quite a few people out there that think everyone in the world should speak English, mainly because they cannot be arsed to learn other languages. Just goes to show what arrogant twonks the English have become.

    Think on this for a few seconds... the English imposed the English language on the Welsh by banning the use of the language in schools and in official documents for many years - however, the Welsh are not trying to impose Welsh on us....they just wish to speak their own language.

    It is not the same as the situation in Scotland where Gaelic is spoken only by a very few.

  32. Elrond Hubbard

    @ waste

    wales is a separate country from england, so wales = england is not correct. i can only assume you're an american, since they seem to think england = the united kingdom, which is of course not true. as for your other points they're already been answered.

  33. Anonymous Coward

    Ah yes but ...

    Well the Welsh like to think of Wales as a separate country, but in our hearts we all know that it is a principality of England really.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Where will it end?

    The question to ask here is "who's at fault?" The contractor for 'forgetting' to do the work, or the government for not asking for it? Bonus question: How many more systems in development have the same problem... Answers on a postcard to..... (Not me, I already know ;) )

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