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Council complains that “stop” markings on Welsh roads are displayed in English only

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esperantisto  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:24
Member (2006)
English to Russian
+ ...
English-only site Oct 31, 2012

The article is published at http://www.walesonline.co.uk/, a site that is English only, which poses a question: is Welsh really relevant today?

 

J.M. Hernegren  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 10:24
Member (2012)
English to Swedish
+ ...
Keeping languages alive Oct 31, 2012

Road signs are, at least in Britain, often used as a way to keep languages alive, and an effective way to show these small languages to the public, even if most people (in Wales) understand English. Since I am a fan of languages and dialects, even the ones less "relevant", I am in favour of taking certain measures to keep them alive. A world with few languages and no dialects wouldn't be as interesting. But going so far as complaining about the fact that a few signs are only in English, might be over the top, or it might not.

 

Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:24
French to English
+ ...
I would park this problem for an extremely rainy day Oct 31, 2012

This is an interesting philosophical problem... that the council could really park for a rainy day when it has no matter of higher priority to attend to.

However, it does highlight some interesting attitudes/misconceptions about language, for example:

- the official in question seems not to understand that most Welsh speakers are bilingual, and code-switching is often the norm among bilinguals
- who says a language has to be "pure", and what does that really mean anyway? (The words/sounds/syllables of a language generally all 'came from somewhere' -- they didn't spring into being exclusively for that single language.)
- why would people need a "licence" to use English, Portuguese, Nahuatl or any other words they feel like using? And why would Gwynedd council by the authority on such a licence...?
- although interpretable as a word, "STOP!" painted in white on a red background is also just a series of coloured splodges at the end of the day, just like any other sign that you could interpret. Does it actually matter what series of splodges you use at the end of the day, so long as everybody is familiar with which series of splodges you use. Perhaps there are other splodges used on different road signs could also cause social outcry -- what's so special about this one?
...

As I say, all very fascinating... but I would expect a council to have more pressing issues to concern itself with.


 

Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:24
Hebrew to English
Very relevant Oct 31, 2012

esperantisto wrote:

The article is published at http://www.walesonline.co.uk/, a site that is English only, which poses a question: is Welsh really relevant today?


It is if you live in Wales (or even England to a degree).


 

Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:24
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
News Flash? Oct 31, 2012

J.M. Hernegren wrote:

Road signs are, at least in Britain, often used as a way to keep languages alive, and an effective way to show these small languages to the public, even if most people (in Wales) understand English.


Do you really mean to tell us that there are people who live in Wales who don't understand English? It is hard for me to believe that even the most rustic inhabitants of that nation would not have, at minimum, a strong working knowledge of English.

FWIW, I don't think road signs impacting on the safety of motorists and pedestrians are the proper locus for efforts aimed at linguistic self-preservation (i.e., within a geographical area where it is known that large numbers of people travel who do not have knowledge of the language that is the object of said efforts). Toponyms, however, would seem fair game.

Related question:
Is there some linguistic category that covers languages like Welsh, Irish, Scots Gaelic, Basque, and Catalan whose speakers are also fluent in (and often more conversant in) a second language (in other words, languages that, for all intents and purposes, lack uninlingual speakers)?


 

J.M. Hernegren  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 10:24
Member (2012)
English to Swedish
+ ...
Welsh is a first language to some Oct 31, 2012

Robert Forstag wrote:

J.M. Hernegren wrote:

Road signs are, at least in Britain, often used as a way to keep languages alive, and an effective way to show these small languages to the public, even if most people (in Wales) understand English.


Do you really mean to tell us that there are people who live in Wales who don't understand English? It is hard for me to believe that even the most rustic inhabitants of that nation would not have, at minimum, a strong working knowledge of English.

FWIW, I don't think road signs impacting on the safety of motorists and pedestrians are the proper locus for efforts aimed at linguistic self-preservation (i.e., within a geographical area where it is known that large numbers of people travel who do not have knowledge of the language that is the object of said efforts). Toponyms, however, would seem fair game.

Related question:
Is there some linguistic category that covers languages like Welsh, Irish, Scots Gaelic, Basque, and Catalan whose speakers are also fluent in (and often more conversant in) a second language (in other words, languages that, for all intents and purposes, lack uninlingual speakers)?


Well, yes, perhaps I should have said that not all Welsh people feel that English is the language they are most confident using. This is most true for elderly people, especially a few among them who know quite little English, but even younger generations can feel more at home with Welsh. Therefore, having road signs in that language, is not at all wrong IMO. It'd be different if Welsh was only a 2nd language to everyone in that country. And I'm not sure safety is that much of an issue, since all road signs also exist in English of course. I don't know how it is in Wales, but where I live, almost all road signs with text on them refer to place-names, and these are probably the ones that have been bilingual in Wales in the past, from what I can gether from the article.

[Edited at 2012-10-31 19:24 GMT]


 

Daniel Bird  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:24
German to English
Supralinguistic Oct 31, 2012

I believe I have seen standard "STOP" signs in several EU countries. Having thought about the significance of my observation for probably several seconds, maybe more, I have concluded that effectively it's not a word but a pictogram conveying the command STOP.
Difficult to grasp as a concept? Not the worst, surely.


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:24
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Rights of the languages vs. rights of the people Nov 1, 2012

To me, this is one more case of the a kind of tyranny whereby a language has more rights than the people, and whereby a minority feels it is their right to impose a burden to an alienated majority that is terrified of being accused of tyranny.

This could be an interesting topic for a dinner party, but nothing more.


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:24
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
I don't want to stop at a PARE Nov 1, 2012

Daniel Bird wrote:
I believe I have seen standard "STOP" signs in several EU countries. Having thought about the significance of my observation for probably several seconds, maybe more, I have concluded that effectively it's not a word but a pictogram conveying the command STOP.
Difficult to grasp as a concept? Not the worst, surely.

Not difficult to grasp at all. I entirely agree, although I have met a very prestigious medical translator who spent 15 minutes of his medical translation course trying to prove that the word is not a symbol and that we are being cheated by our governments. He has quite an impressive collection of pictures depicting the STOP sign translated to numerous languages all over the world.

All STOP signs in Spain (and I am talking about a population that is 15 times that of Wales) show the word "STOP".

The fact that the word STOP only designates the location of a stop sign help us describe such locations perfectly well with a single word. It is simply "un STOP" (we pronounce it "estop", or "estó" depending on the regions). If it was changed to "PARE", it would feel ridiculous to say that you stopped at a "PARE".

Traffic signs are not a natural language, and there is simply no need to change something everyone understands perfectly well all over the world.


 

kmtext
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:24
English
+ ...
Welsh is relevant Nov 1, 2012

There are many people in Wales, especially in rural areas, for whom Welsh is their first language, and who rarely use English in daily life. Yes, they can understand it, and they watch English TV programmes, but interactions with friends, family and neighbours are all in Welsh. It's the same where I come from in Scotland. Most of us speak, read and write both Gaelic and English, but Gaelic is the language we use most often.

That being said, I think it's a bit daft to complain about the use of stop on a road sign. As other posters have said, it's an internationally recognised symbol, so in that sense it's gone beyond being a Welsh/English linguistic issue. As for place names, many of those in Wales and Scotland are Anglicised (mis-spelt) versions of the proper name, so I'd have no objection to reverting to the real spellings. At least that way, the words actually mean something.


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 10:24
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Stopping at PARE Nov 1, 2012

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:
He has quite an impressive collection of pictures depicting the STOP sign translated to numerous languages all over the world.


Here is a collection too:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_sign

The bilingual stop sign is not uncommon, and even mono-lingual stop signs in the minority language of a region is not uncommon, and not misunderstood, because it has the same shape and colours as the other stop signs elsewhere in that country.


 

Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:24
Hebrew to English
Considering..... Nov 1, 2012

....that most other signs are bilingual the second you cross the border into Wales (ARAF!), I don't see the harm in making STOP! signs bilingual too.

Also, given that they are fighting for the survival of a minority language, some "tyranny" cannot be avoided I don't think. Now, if they were arguing for Welsh-only signs, then I might agree....


 

B D Finch  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 10:24
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
What about foreigners? Nov 1, 2012

I don't mean the English or Scots, who could reasonably be expected to learn the Welsh for "stop". But Wales does attract people from elsewhere, who might not recognise the Welsh word in spite of all the other indications there are that one is meant to stop there (like white lines across the road).

French uses the word "stop" and has incorporated a franglais verb "stopper" into the French language. This coexists happily with the French "arrêter" as "stopper" means to stop decisively or abruptly, while "arrêter" is used for every other form of "to stop". The Welsh could consider taking similar revenge on the English language.


 

Allison Wright  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 09:24
German to English
+ ...
STOP only in Portugal Nov 1, 2012

[quote]Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

Daniel Bird wrote:
I believe I have seen standard "STOP" signs in several EU countries.

All STOP signs in Spain (and I am talking about a population that is 15 times that of Wales) show the word "STOP".

The fact that the word STOP only designates the location of a stop sign help us describe such locations perfectly well with a single word. It is simply "un STOP" (we pronounce it "estop", or "estó" depending on the regions). If it was changed to "PARE", it would feel ridiculous to say that you stopped at a "PARE".

Traffic signs are not a natural language, and there is simply no need to change something everyone understands perfectly well all over the world.


All drivers know what to do when they see that sign - even those who are very proud of their Portuguese heritage.


 

Helena Chavarria  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:24
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
It's the shape, not the words, that is important Nov 1, 2012

Years ago, someone told me that the most important aspect of a 'Stop' sign is its shape. Apparently they are usually hexagonal so that even when they're covered in snow, drivers know they have to stop.

Whether or not that's true, it seems quite logical to me.


 
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Council complains that “stop” markings on Welsh roads are displayed in English only

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