Today is St David’s Day and I am taking this opportunity to share all things welsh. St David is the patron saint of Wales and March 1st is the day we in Wales Daffodilscelebrate. Central to the culture of Wales is the welsh language. Welsh is official language of Wales (together with English) and is spoken here by approximately 580,000 people. In some parts Welsh speakers are still the majority (as compared to English speakers). Still, 71% of the population of Wales answered in the 2001 census that they do not speak Welsh. This has to do with a long history of oppression of the language, which started in 1847: A report of a (monoglot English) commission concluded that the best way to address all social ills in Wales was to teach English and fight Welsh (The report has become known as Brad y Llyfrau Gleision - The Treachery of the Blue Books - due to the colour of its three volumes). Therefore in the late 19th century virtually all teaching in school was in English, and often teachers used the so-called Welsh Not, a piece of wood a student had to hang around his neck when caught speaking Welsh. The use of English in education as well as in the media and politics, but also a steady influx of English speakers during industrialization led to a steady decline in the number of Welsh speakers. A reversal of language policy after an all-time low of speakers in the 1980s, including the Welsh Language Act 1993 and the Government of Wales Act 1998, has halted this trend, and in recent years the number of Welsh speakers has even grown. The policy of promoting Welsh has been intensified since Wales got its own parliament, the National Assembly for Wales in 1999 so the future of this language seems to be secure.

That future is being supported by Microsoft developing and producing the Welsh Windows 7 Language Interface Pack. Which can be installed on a system that runs an English version of Windows 7. This converts all the menus and text into welsh. If you do not have Windows 7 yet, then a welsh language interface pack is available for Windows XP, Vista and Microsoft Office 2003 and 2007. Microsoft also have a free Digital Literacy Course with a version in welsh available here . You can find out a lot more about the welsh language on the Welsh Language Board’s website .

Welsh is not the only Language interface pack that Microsoft have created. Click here to access the Local language programme , where you can download language packs for a myriad of different languages, from Polish to Ukrainian, Maori to Zulu, and many more. These packs are obviously useful to you and your students if they are your first language, they also may be useful if you teach those languages. But, they could be really useful in schools here in the UK, with students for whom english is not their first language. ensuring that they have access to technology in their first language.

Have a Happy St David’s Day –  Dydd Dewi Sant Hapus i pawb.