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Road signs in Wales

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Title: Road signs in Wales  
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Subject: Welsh language, Road signs in the United Kingdom
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Road signs in Wales

Road signs in Wales follow the same design principles as those in other parts of the United Kingdom. However, all modern road signs feature directions in both the Welsh and English languages with the Welsh first in many principal areas.

Current policy

The Welsh Government's position on place names as shown on road signs within its jurisdiction is outlined in its Welsh Language Scheme, which, in section 6.9 Traffic signs, states:[1]
"The signs for which we are responsible (mostly motorway and trunk road signs) will be bilingual. Signs which are in English only at the moment will be made bilingual when they are replaced.... When both languages are included on one sign with one language above the other, the order in which the languages appear will follow the practice adopted by the local authority where the sign is located."
The latter proviso applies because local authorities have discretion over the forms used on local highway signs. In the predominantly Welsh-speaking areas of Wales, the Welsh form of the name is usually given first; in other areas, the English name is usually given first.

The guidance also states:[1] "Signs containing place names in England will contain the Welsh and English versions of the name…". This proviso has led to new motorway signs in south Wales displaying the Welsh-language names of London and Bristol (Llundain and Bryste respectively), and in north Wales the Welsh-language name of Chester Caer appears on road signs.

Bilingual signing

Bilingual signs in Wales were permitted by special authorisation after 1965. In 1972 the Bowen Committee recommended that they should be provided systematically throughout Wales. Throughout Wales, instructions for drivers appear on the road itself. One of the most common painted instructions is araf - slow.

Controversies and campaigns

The Welsh-language pressure group Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg have been campaigning for a number of years with the Ble mae'r Gymraeg? (Where's the Welsh?) scheme, which campaigns for all road signs in Wales to display both Welsh and English information on public information signs. The campaign is most noted for its placement of stickers with the group's logo, a dragon's tongue, on signposts that are written only in English.

In an overwhelmingly English-speaking area of Monmouthshire, bilingual village name signs at Rockfield and Cross Ash were removed in 2011 after complaints from local residents.[2]


The requirement for bilingual signs has sometimes led to errors, such as the two languages presenting differing information. In 2006, a bilingual pedestrian sign in Cardiff told pedestrians to "look right" in English, and "edrychwch i'r chwith" ("look left") in Welsh.[3] In 2008, a sign for a goods entrance for a supermarket in Swansea was mistakenly printed with an automatic e-mail response which read "Nid wyf yn y swyddfa ar hyn o bryd. Anfonwch unrhyw waith i'w gyfieithu" which translates as "I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated.".[4] A book was published in 2011 based on a Flickr group that shows examples of erroneous Welsh-language signage.[5][6][7] [8]


See also

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