Morfablog has a wonderful post (most unusually including an English explanation—Morfablog, being a Welsh blog, is normally in Welsh) about one of those embarrassing e-mail mishaps. It seems Hedd Gwynfor of the Welsh Language Society “sends an email to Wales@new.labour.org.uk asking some fairly general questions about Welsh Labour’s commitment to the Welsh language. Since Wales is, on paper at least, a bilingual country, Hedd writes the email in his native language. He doesn’t provide a translation.” The e-mail reads:

Beth yw polisi y Blaid Lafur ar yr iaith Gymraeg yn yr etholiadau Seneddol yma? Ydy’r Blaid Lafur yn cefnogi’r alwad dros Ddeddf Iaith Newydd?

Which Morfablog is kind enough to translate for those of us who aren’t Welsh and thus shouldn’t (unlike the Welsh Labour Party) be expected to understand it:

What is the Labour Party’s policy on the Welsh language in these Parlimentary elections? Does the Labour Party support the call for a new Welsh Language Act?

The woman who got the e-mail couldn’t make head nor tail of it, and composed the following touching message:

Hi Dave,

I have it on good authority (as I cant understand a word of it myself!!!) that this e-mail is asking what we think about using the Welsh Language in Wales or something like that.


Karen Bradbury – Administrator
Welsh Labour

Unfortunately, she sent it right back to Hedd Gwynfor, who promptly posted it to maes-e.com, a Welsh language bulletin board. Hilarity ensued… or I presume it did, not having the Welsh myself. But Morfablog thinks it’s pretty funny, and so do I. (Thanks to Songdog for alerting me to this.)


  1. Vilhelm Sjoberg says

    Sorry for being dense, but actually I don’t quite get why this is funny… From her misclick, we learn that Karen Bradbury doesn’t speak Welsh and therefore forwards emails in that language to some other guy, Dave, who does. Is this so damning? No matter who bilingual you want to a country to be, you can hardly require everyone who lives in it to be bilingual too…

  2. Oh, it’s not “damning,” but it is funny — just the tone of the message (“I cant understand a word of it myself!!!… using the Welsh Language in Wales or something like that”) and the embarrassment of its being forwarded back to sender. Of course if it had been couched in the usual bureaucratese (“Please refer to the appropriate department for handling in accordance with…”) no hilarity would have ensued.

  3. Well, it makes me laugh.

  4. Raised a small smile. We all learn it at school but it’s the first language of only a quarter of us (about half a million). Of course if you get a political, and perhaps hostile, query you ask an expert if you understand all the nuances of it, which is what she did – I’d guess that the considered response was in Welsh. (By the way and off-topic, fyi the British election is on May 5; Tony Blair should get re-elected but it’s beginning to look more uncertain.)

  5. scarabaeus stercus says

    I’m understand that the best Welsh that be spoken, is at the tip of South America; It was a good idea to speak Welsh, when doing undercover work during the Falkland /Malvinas [or Malvina/ Falklands] War, so not to be taken for a modern Brit [A later day Saxon]. Just a thought from one that was heavily exposed to the language of LLanfairPG but which did not penetrate.

  6. My distinct impression is that the few Argentine and British Welsh speakers present during the Falklands conflict were by far outshone in linguistic terms by the sheep.

  7. I laughed too! Thanks for posting it!

  8. Thanks for the link, languagehat. As some here have suggested, this is more of a “when email goes wrong” story, than “look what they’re doing to our beautiful language” story, although there’re plenty of those about. Cymdeithas aren’t running this on their website, and Hedd didn’t even think it worth passing on to the Welsh media. Cymdeithas’s usual MO is scaling television masts, occupying radio stations, spraypainting council offices, fun stuff like that. This is just a nice story for geeks.

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