Tuesday, 22 September 2009

What's the Welsh for "the sums don't add up"*?

There's been a lot of bluster recently surrounding the Assembly Commission's decision to stop translating Plenary debates from English into Welsh. The motive behind the Commission's proposal was to save £250,000. In the face of vocal opposition, a compromise of sorts has been proposed: all debates will be translated but within 3-10 days of Plenary rather than the 24-hour deadline that currently exists.

The first thing that bothered me was the idea that the home of Welsh democracy, one of whose self-declared main ambitions is to promote and protect the Welsh language, would consider reducing its own bilingualism. Since when has "do as I say not as I do" been a successful mantra? Then I read the story again. £250,000?!

Plenary takes place every Tuesday and Wednesday, from 1.30pm until anywhere between 5pm and 7pm. So the job consists of transcribing 3.5-5.5 hours of debate and then translating it. Assuming there are two transcribers - allowing them 30 minute mini-shifts to save their wrists and their sanity - and two translators writing up the Welsh the following day (7.5 hours), the total manhours for each Plenary translation should be around 26 hours (11 transcribing plus 15 translating).

Plenary sat 66 times in 2008-09. Using the above calculation gives a total of 1716 manhours. If the Commission's £250,000 figure is correct, then those transcribing and translating the Plenary Record are being paid somewhere in the region of £150 per hour. This equates to an annual salary of around £60,000.

Either the Commission pays transcribers and translators huge sums or *"dydy e ddim yn taro deuddeg".

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