Gwynedd Council promotes the development of new Welsh medium technology
Gwynedd Council staff and members have been contributing to a campaign which will help people across Wales – and all over the world – to use more of their Welsh with new technologies.
The Council is supporting a joint project run by Bangor University and Mozilla, aimed at developing a database which will allow the use of voice recognition devices and technologies through the medium of Welsh.
The Council has been encouraging staff and elected members to give a few minutes of their time to record themselves reciting specific sentences and listening back to the recordings of other volunteers.
Councillor Nia Jeffreys, Gwynedd Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for the Welsh language, said:
“One of Gwynedd Council’s cornerstones is to promote the use of the Welsh language. We want to support any new technological developments which are likely to lead to more opportunities for people to use their Welsh at work or in education, in their leisure time and when they receive public services.
“Voice recognition technology is developing quickly, with devices such as Alexa, Siri and Echo becoming more and more commonplace in our homes. Voice recognition technology is also being used increasingly in education and in services for vulnerable people, for instance those who have lost their ability to speak or who are living with dementia.
“It is an exciting field, however this technology isn’t available through the medium of Welsh at present. So we are keen to help develop the database which will allow computers and gadgets to understand our language – not only so that we respect everyone’s right to speak Welsh in all aspects of life, but also to ensure that our language remains relevant and to normalise the use of Welsh with technology, especially among children.”
Gwenllian Williams, Gwynedd Council’s Welsh Language Officer, said: “We launched the campaign on Saint David’s Day and asked staff to give a few minutes of their lunch break to come to a session to contribute to Common Voice. It was also an opportunity to show them how they can download the Common Voice app to their own smartphones so that they can do the exercise at home, perhaps with their families and friends.
“Since then, we’ve held a session with councillors and more events with staff will be held over the coming weeks.”
So that the technology can recognise varying accents and speech patterns, volunteers are needed to record themselves reciting simple sentences. People are also needed to listen back to others’ recordings to check that they’re correct.
The Council is calling on any member of the public who is keen to contribute to the campaign to go to voice.mozilla.org/cy and choose the ‘Cymraeg’ option.
The Gwynedd Council Plan 2018-23 notes that it wants to see a situation whereby Gwynedd continues to be a Welsh language stronghold, and the language is the natural choice for children, young people and adults across the county. A copy is available here https://www.gwynedd.llyw.cymru/en/Council/Strategies-and-policies/Corporate-plans-and-strategies/Gwynedd-Council-Plan-2018-23.aspx
The Council’s language strategy, the Welsh Language Promotion Scheme 2018-23, sets a clear aim to push the boundaries to ensure that the authority’s services takes advantage of all opportunities to promote the use of the Welsh language and enables the public to use Welsh in all contexts.
PHOTOGRAPH: Gwenllian Williams, Gwynedd Council’s Welsh Language Officer and Councillor Nia Jeffreys, the Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for the Welsh language