‘No, everyone, Welsh road signs do not make you crash your car...’
My English friend was driving me home once when, out of the gloom, a sign appeared at the roadside ahead.
His hands tightened around the steering wheel, his knuckles turned white, he leaned forward slowly and his eyes narrowed in intense concentration.
“That sign,” he whispered. “I can’t read it. It’s in some other language. I think it’s telling me to ‘Drive carefu-’...”
That’s the last thing I remember before we both woke up in hospital beds, two more hapless victims of Welsh road signs.
As the evening went on, more people just like us kept being wheeled in, each one a victim of a cruel policy designed to force Welsh down our throats.
Fortunately, I made a full recovery and was even able to get a job as a journalist, where I now deal with court case after court case of drivers hurtling off roads as they try and fail to spot English words in an ocean of nonsense.
It’s got to the point now where I refuse to publish these stories because I’m so bored of them. So if you’re wondering why you’ve never heard of someone crashing their car because a Welsh road sign confused them, it’s because I’m hiding it from you and not because it’s literally never happened, which you might once have assumed.
But still I can’t escape it. I sit for hours in train stations waiting to pick up friends who ring me up long after their train has been and gone screaming: “I’m still on the train! How the f*** was I supposed to know that Caerdydd is Cardiff??”
And every year, when it comes to insuring my car, I have to take tests to prove I know that “Merthyr Tydfil” means “Merthyr Tudful”.
Don’t feel sorry for me. I know you’re all suffering too. We’ve all lost someone to a vindictive Welsh road sign, which are all perfectly capable of speaking English and only change to Welsh when the English drive in.
I’m glad I got the chance to write about this, an important issue that has thankfully been highlighted by some guy on Twitter.
“If people want to speak Welsh, I have no problem with that,” he writes with wisdom and benevolence. “But parents should have the choice to send their children to schools where Welsh is not taught, and public money should not be wasted on translating documents into Welsh. Road signs should be English only.”
Questioned on his stance by some ignoramus, he reiterates: “Yes, I DO believe road signs should be in English. As it is a language pretty much everyone in Wales speaks, and the Welsh translations are a waste of money, confuse tourists and may well be the cause of accidents.”
Are you sure? someone says. Yes, he’s sure: “Driver distraction is a big issue – having to skim through an unfamiliar language to get to words you recognise is distracting and dangerous.”
This kicked off a #WelshLanguageRoadSigns hashtag on Twitter, which went – well, it didn’t exactly go viral, but a few people used it to make fun a bit. Lots of them made jokes similar to ones used here but I had already genuinely thought of them myself, I swear.
Fortunately, I speak Welsh. This means I don’t like to leave Wales and am not particularly well-travelled. But on those rare occasions when I have dared to leave Wales, I’ve had a nightmare. Once, in Thailand, I tried to get out of Bangkok Airport but, unable to work out what any of the signs were saying, was reduced to roaming the departures lounge alone, hungry and desperately trying to find someone who looked like they might speak English, the world’s best language.
Eventually, a kindly Australian backpacker took pity on me and pointed out the word “EXIT” in massive letters just below that funny Thai language I’d been trying to make sense of.
Anyway, back to Welsh. Lots of people like to cite the cost of translating things into Welsh as a basis for criticising the completely pointless practise of enabling Welsh people who live in Wales to speak it. This chap on Twitter is no different.
I could lose the sarcasm and do some research into how much it costs to translate road signs but I just can’t be bothered.
I’m going to assume, safely, that it doesn’t cost much to find out that “Swansea” in Welsh is “Abertawe” then pop a little bit more white paint on a sign you’re putting up.
And, anyway, even if it did cost more, that’s not a problem. I’ve written about how it’s a government duty to give people who want to read and speak Welsh the opportunity to do it , even if they want to crash their cars in the process.
Anyway, I’m off home now. Hopefully I can avoid crashing into Castell Caerdydd on the way home.
But I do have a hilarious and reallife anecdote on this very issue: I went to university in Germany and had some Welsh friends coming over for the weekend.
They were driving from west Wales and were several hours late when they called and said: “Steff, do you live anywhere near a massive city called ‘Ausfahrt’? We’ve been driving for ages and every sign on the motorway is directing us to ‘Ausfahrt’.”
For all you miserable monoglots, Ausfahrt means Exit. Boom boom.
> Do drivers really have to beware of ‘dangerous’ Welsh road signs after entering Wales?