By Melanie Jenkins
In a previous post, I had mentioned that Hyderus is a bilingual company – one of those rare organisations that provides services in both English and Welsh. Our website is also currently in the process of being translated into Welsh. Even the company’s name is Welsh – “Hyderus” means “confident”.
Since we have clients all over the world, we are often asked about this Welsh dimension. Why is Hyderus bilingual? Is Welsh really of any use in a country which uses predominantly English as its main language? How much is Welsh actually used in the day-to-day running of the office and business? I’m going to try and answer some of those questions on this blog.
Welsh is one of the few Celtic languages still spoken – perhaps that with the greatest number of speakers. The only natural communities of speakers are in Wales and a small colony in Patagonia, Argentina, although there are many speakers of Welsh elsewhere, particularly in England, Australia, and the U.S. The language declined in status and usage due to a number of factors. In present-day Wales, however, all public services have to be provided in both Welsh and English and Welsh speakers have an absolute right to speak Welsh in court.
Mark Chataway, our chairman, learned the language from his grandmother (his parents are English speakers). When Mark was a child, there were 30 minutes of Welsh-language TV on the UK-wide BBC network at 1 pm every day – he and his grandmother would watch it together. In fact, Mark’s grandmother’s family mostly spoke in Welsh and had to remember to switch to English every time his parents came to visit!
As a result of this early informal education, Mark could already speak Welsh when he founded Hyderus. Then Ann-Mair, a fluent first-language speaker, joined the team. As the staff increased, Welsh lessons were organised by the company and offered to the office staff as well as members of the wider community. Hyderus thus became established as an integral part of the community as well as a strong contributor to the Welsh cause.
Welsh is also my first language. I was born in the Swansea valley where Welsh is still widely spoken. So deeply entrenched was the Welsh language in my family that my grandparents had difficulty speaking English and found it something of a culture shock when we all moved down to East Wales in the 1970s.
The Hyderus staff are all fluent mother-tongue speakers or able to converse confidently in the language. A tutor visits the office twice a week, and our entire team has attended lessons (some to learn from scratch, and others for grammatical finesse). Pat, for instance, didn’t know Welsh at all before moving here from Suffolk, England, but has already completed three years of her college course and is keen to continue studying it to a higher level. That is no mean achievement for an English speaker who is totally new to the Welsh language.
I hope this has given you an insight into the Welsh workings of the Hyderus office. In my next post, I will talk about some of the ups and downs of the history of the Welsh language!