‘No, ev­ery­one, Welsh road signs do not make you crash your car...’

Western Mail - - WM2 - ST­EF­FAN RHYS st­ef­fan.rhys@waleson­line.co.uk

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?

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