To put what follows into context: The following words aren’t mine. They were written by the original and best Welsh-language blogger, Nic Dafis, last Saturday. I felt that Nic made excellent points, so here is my clumsy English translation of his original Welsh. Blame me for any poor phrasing, not him – and thanks to Nic for letting me do this. Diolch!
Should point out that opinions expressed herein are not necessarily those of the Wibsite admin etc. But I suspect, in at least one case, that they’re not too far removed.
Morfablog, 20th March 2004 (Original Welsh version here)
Microsoft, Welsh and the “free burger shop”
Several people have written to me recently to draw my attention to the news about Microsoft Office in Welsh, something which has been discussed on maes-e for a couple of months now. The thing is, I don’t see this as a very positive step, just another example of Microsoft ignoring the rights of minority language speakers until they see a way to make a large profit from the thing, and to make sure that the speakers stay loyal to Microsoft’s products. In this case, Cymdeithas yr Iaith [active campaign group the Welsh Language Society] and others have organised letter-writing campaigns to MS for years, calling for Welsh versions of their monopolistic products. MS’ response till recently was, “There’s not enough of you to make it worth our while, sorry.” And since Welsh-speakers had no choice but to use Microsoft software, Microsoft didn’t have to change their mind or their products.
But wait! What’s this?
Groups of people from all over the world have developed OpenOffice, software which does everything Microsoft Office does, but which is available free of charge to everyone (the latest version of MS Office for Windows costs over £325).
No one need pay for this software. It’s free. No charge. Not a penny.
And this software will be available in Welsh.
Why don’t the BBC write stories about this? Why don’t Welsh Language Board officials say anything about it? Why doesn’t Our Government have enough balls to choose not to follow Microsoft’s monopolistic path, which contributes little or nothing to the Welsh economy?
With open source software such as OpenOffice, we don’t need to ask for crumbs from large corporations’ tables. We don’t have to protest. All that’s needed is for us to do the localisation work ourselves. Were the Welsh Language Board to support projects such as this, and to lead the way for Welsh businesses to choose open source software (something which would stop a lot of Welsh money from flooding out of the country into the pockets of Bill Gates and his crew), no-one in Wales would have to pay over £300 for a version of Microsoft Office in our own language.
Saying that “MS Office in Welsh is better for Wales than Microsoft Office in English” misses an all-important point. It’s like saying that eating Big Macs without ketchup is better for our health, and ignoring the shop next door to McDonalds which gives us organic burgers from Welsh meat, equally tasty but much lower in fat – and which are given away for free! The only reason for us to carry on eating Big Macs in such a situation is that we’re too blind to see the shop next door, or that we’re too stupid to see that their burgers are better for us (and the Welsh economy), or that we’re being fooled by someone. Which one is it?
Well, thankfully, the tide is starting to turn. Those in charge of the venture to start a daily Welsh-language newspaper have stated that they will use open source software in every part of their business. This will save them significant amounts of money of course, but maybe more importantly than this, it will show businesses and other Welsh institutions that they have a choice, that the “free burger shop” is the only sensible place for us to eat.