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Sandra Busby - Blog

You're not Welsh if you don't eat cockles......

Recently through a Group I am a member of on Linkedin a question was posted "How can we get non-welsh speakers to engage in Cultural Activities or promoting the Welsh Language?"  

Now you may ask what this has to do with Contact Centres well, under Welsh Government Legislation all Utility and Public Sector Organisations in the UK have to provide a Welsh Language Service.  In  Contact Centre Terms this can relate to quite a cost in terms of Sourcing Welsh Language Speakers, bi lingual IVR etc etc and then when this investment has been made the reality of the number of customers who actually request the Welsh Language Service is nominal and certainly blows the "cost per call" equation out of the water.  That said I am a proud Welsh person so  have worked closely with Contact Centres in Wales to develop best practice, with NVQ's being developed in Welsh by our Members, holding round tables to identify what works in addition to conducting research.  

So, when I read this question I was keen to contribute, as I said I am proud of being Welsh, our culture and heritage but sadly I don't speak Welsh.  As with most market research I presumed the premise of the question was to seek the feelings of non-welsh speakers, that's who it was aimed at so I proceeded to post my thoughts.

Welsh is a compulsary subject to age 16 in Wales in non-welsh speaking schools.  Both my children gained "A" grade GCSE's but this did not equip them to speak Welsh!!!!  If we are to engage with non welsh speakers we need to start with the schools and ensure the subject is taught to a level that is of some use.  It is so dumbed down they can barely remember how to count to 10 or say goodmorning.  They are not unique they have enough friends to benchmark.

The Welsh Language needs to be made available to a wider variety of people and become more accessible!!  Grants for businesses to allow employees to learn Welsh.  Policies available that can be easily adopted by both SME's and Corporates alike.  Unemployment in Wales is currently high so free courses to enhance the long term unemployed's chances of getting a job.  Job Placements in Welsh speaking Companies.  Job Swaps.  Traditional Welsh Events conducted in English to engage with the majority of the population in Wales.

We are currently facing new legislation in Wales with the emphasis on more businesses having to provide a Welsh Service, this will not encourage Companies to embrace the culture and a true willingness to help promote the language but a "bare minimum" approach.  I also wonder the damage to Companies looking to set up in Wales as we are perceived to be "legislation" mad in a very competitive global market.

I thought I had a balanced view, therefore when I posted my thoughts I was comfortable that I was being helpful as did a number of other non-welsh speaking Welsh people who posted comments.  Within an hour activity on the site started to increase as my email inbox kept pinging to tell me of another response and another - this happened day after day so I eventually went back into the group to read the updates.  To say I was astounded at the result is an understatement - an online, very public arguement had broken out from "Welsh speaking" Welsh about the validity of any comments made by "non-Welsh speaking" Welsh.  Suggestions were greeted by "ifs" and "yes buts" and some of the non-welsh speakers then rose to the bait!!

People had been frank in their views and feelings but as any corporate knows its important to get the truth from your prospective customers - if you don't how can you improve perceptions, how can you address problems and how can you strengthen your brand. There is a lesson of course in terms of how we all use "Social Media" and whether its a great idea to ask such an emotive question in a public place!!  Can we rely on our customers to behave in a gentlemanly fashion??  The linkedin discussion in question has probably done more damage than good sending a rift between the two groups of people it was meant to bring together.  Although the absurdity of it makes me smile and I was only only the fringes of the discussion it has taught me a great lesson in terms of my future use of Social Media, in addition to the Companies we represent we each have a personal brand that can be damaged as easily as its enhanced.

And as for how "Welsh" I may or may not be.......... I certainly don't believe eating cockles, laverbread and dressing up on St Davids Day makes me more Welsh than anyone else!!  



Publish Date: October 12, 2011 1:02 PM

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