NOTE: There is a Welsh language version of this article, which is suitable for learners on the Welsh language version of our website. To access this click “Newid i’r Cymraeg” in the menu above, or browse to www.defnyddiwcheichcymraeg.com
Love them or hate them? Sometimes if you want to Use your Welsh! Self-service tills are the only option available to us as customers.
A lot of people struggle with the moral dilemna of using these machines because it has been pretty well documented that every self-service machine potentially replaces a human worker.
But where do you stand if these machines are your only option for using Welsh?
In my local smaller Tesco (the high street type that sells a smaller range of goods) there are unfortunately no Welsh speakers, despite being in a town that is still very Welsh-speaking. The situation is different in the bigger Tesco supermarket on the other side of town, where most days of the week I can still be served by a Welsh speaker, who are largely easily identifiable as they all wear the orange “Cymraeg” badges to show that they can speak Welsh.
As someone who wants to use Welsh at every single opportunity this presents a bit of a problem, as not only do I want to use Welsh in order to complete my transaction but I suppose there’s also a part of me that is also using the machine through the medium of Welsh in order to show someone higher up in the office at Tesco that there is a need for staff to speak the language in Welsh-speaking areas.
Maybe I’m fooling myself but I know somewhere, in an office in Luton or something, that someone is looking at the statistics for how many people actually chose the Welsh option on these tills.
You also get these little lovely moments when you hear someone else using one of these tills in Welsh and you exchange a knowing glance and a nod!
The thing is, I actually had a reason to raise a complaint with Tesco (yes I am THAT person!) last year. I took exception to something the machine said to me, I can’t even remember what it was that set me off but it was some kind of spelling mistake or similar.
So I raised my complaint and I was disappointed to find that according to Tesco Customer Services, I had been the first person to EVER complain about the quality of the spelling on these machines.
Which got me thinking… how many of us are actually using the Welsh option on these machines? I thought about asking a cheeky question back to Tesco Customer Services, “Can you tell me how many people actually use the Welsh language option at my local store in Aberystwyth?”
I was thinking “May as well ask it?”, after all they probably didn’t know or they’d ask me to complete a Subject Access Request or write to Head Office or something similar…
Actually, they came back to me within about ten minutes..
“Approximately 1 in every 5000 transactions on our Self-service machines are conducted in Welsh”
Which really deflated me. Now admittedly Aberystwyth isn’t the hotbed of Welsh language that it was 50/100 years ago, but there are still thousands and thousands of Welsh speakers here and I believe Ceredigion as a county still has a figure of 57% of people being able to speak the Welsh language.
So, why are so few of us using the Welsh language option on these machines?
Obviously the answer is that we’re all fluent in English as well, but does it run further than this? Is there anything these supermarkets can do to highlight the availability of these options? Take a look at the photo above? “Cymraeg” appears as a small button tucked away in the bottom right hand corner.
Comically in towns such as Caernarfon, where something like 85% of conversations happen through the medium of Welsh, English is still the default option and you’d be just as unlikely to find someone actually using the machines in Welsh.
So what is the answer? Should companies like Tesco, Asda and co look at making changes to these machines in order to better represent the areas in which they operate? Should these supermarkets be looking to employ more Welsh speakers in these areas?
Let us know your thoughts on the subject.