Bilingual shoppers leaving the Tesco in Swansea are presented with a bit of a conundrum: An exit sign with the English word “Exit” pointing to the right, and the Welsh language translation, “Allanfa,” pointing to the left. Which is it? Is there a separate exit for Welsh speakers?
Actually, no. According to store management, drivers can either exit the car park directly or they can exit through the petrol station. The English language sign points to the direct exit while the Welsh language sign points to the petrol station. A Tesco representative told the BBC:
“We’d like to reassure all customers that they are welcome to exit the car park in either direction.”
Good to know, but what made Tesco think to arrange the signs that way? The store told the BBC it had “consulted widely” on the signs, but that doesn’t explain how they managed to overlook the obvious potential for confusion.
According to the Welsh Language Board’s Meinir Jones, the Swansea exit sign issue is emblematic of a larger problem with how businesses use Welsh: they tend to get all the big-ticket items right, but the devil is in the details, and the details are often neglected. Jones told the BBC:
“There is a huge surge in the use of Welsh by businesses and most companies are by now adopting the language to some degree or other. Most are aware that they need to use an accredited translator for the big jobs – refurbishment, entire store signage, automated Welsh answerphone systems and so on -but what to do if they have a niggling twenty something words to translate in a hurry?”
Fortunately for businesses, the Welsh Language Board has an answer: Head on over to the Welsh Language Board website, and they’ll translate text of up to 75 words for free – though when it comes to deciding how to position the Welsh-language signs, you’ll just have to use your own common sense.