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Bilingual signs

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Rosyth multi-lingual route information sign.jpg
Multilingual sign at Rosyth
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Bilingual signs are road signs or markings displaying directional, regulatory, or other information in two languages. In the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, these are ordinarily English and one other language (e.g. Welsh, Irish, Scottish Gaelic) which is either co-official or widely spoken in the area of the sign's location. In the vicinity of international ports and airports other languages may be included on signs, to warn, for example, of the the requirement to drive on the left. Such signs, if they use more than two languages are, strictly speaking, not "bilingual" but "multilingual".

Welsh-language signing

Bilingual signage on the A4067

The layout and language of roadsigns is not usually seen as a hot political topic, but where there are political arguments over official use of language, signage (as the most obvious feature of any official language) are often seen as a pivotal issue.

Up until the introduction of Worboys type modern signs, road signage in Wales was almost entirely monolingual English and made widespread use of Anglicised place names. Examples include Dolgelly (Dolgellau), Aberayron (Aberaeron) and Carnarvon (Caernarfon). Both direction and warning signs were of the same type and format as those used elsewhere in the UK.

During the 1960s and 1970s, there were several court cases relating to the defacement, destruction, or removal of English-language-only signs in Wales, in protest at the omission of Welsh from these signs. These protests were organised by the Welsh Language Society (Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg), founded on 4 August 1962. Over the following decades hundreds of the society's members were imprisoned for actions related to the damage of Crown property.

One such court case in 1971 saw the trial of eight defendants (one of whom was the 20-year-old future First Minister Rhodri Morgan) disrupted by non-violent protest outside the Assize Court in Carmarthen. All but one of the accused were found guilty of conspiring to destroy road signs and were given suspended sentences ranging from three to twelve months in prison. Rhodri Morgan was acquitted of all charges.

The protests however were deemed to have been a success in terms of their primary objective: in 1972 the Bowen Committee recommended that systematic provision should be made for the inclusion of Welsh on all road signs.

Link to 1985 Welsh Regulations - https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1985/713/contents/made

Link to 2023 Welsh Regulations - https://www.legislation.gov.uk/wsi/2023/783/contents/made

Directional signage

The layout of bilingual direction signs in Wales differs from that in Scotland and the Republic of Ireland by not differentiating between languages by typeface or colour. The order in which each language appears has also not always been consistent across Wales, with highway authorities on the western side of Wales (areas that are strongly Welsh-speaking) traditionally putting Welsh first, and those in the more predominantly English-speaking north-east and south-east putting English first. New regulations, however, came into force on 31 March 2016 mandating that all new signs be in Welsh first – with existing English-first signage (in those areas where the authority had previously had such a policy) being replaced as and when other otherwise needed (expiry of useful life, new traffic arrangements and road layouts, etc.).

Traditionally only destinations within Wales have been signposted in Welsh as well as English, with those in England being signed monolingually. However, newer trunk-road signage is often bilingual even with regard to English destinations, e.g. Llundain / London, Canolbarth Lloegr / The Midlands.

Sign translation

Official translation list: https://www.gov.wales/bydtermcymru/other-resources/list-standard-bilingual-traffic-signs

English-Welsh

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English Welsh
yards llath
GIVE WAY ILDIWCH
REDUCE SPEED NOW ARAFWCH NAWR
HEAVY PLANT CROSSING PEIRIANNAU TRWM YN CROESI
Adverse camber Cambr croes
Max speed Cyflymder uchaf
Single file traffic Un rhes o draffig
Single track road Ffordd un trac
Low gear now Gêr isel nawr
Keep in low gear Cadwch mewn gêr isel
Low gear for × miles Gêr isel am × filltir
Overhanging building Adeilad bargodol
ARCH BRIDGE
High vehicles
use middle
of road
PONT FWA
Cerbydau uchel
defnyddiwch
ganol y ffordd
Part time signals Goleuadau rhan amser
Peak hour signals Goleuadau oriau brig
School Ysgol
Patrol Hebryngwr
Playground Maes chwarae
No footway for × yards Dim troedffordd am × llath
Disabled people Pobl anabl
Blind people Pobl ddall
Disabled children Plant anabl
Humped crossing Croesfan ar dwmpath
When lights show × yards Tra bydd golau × llath
Farm traffic Traffig fferm
Wide vehicles Cerbydau llydan
Tractors turning Tractorau'n troi
Horse-drawn vehicles and animals Cerbydau a dynnir gan geffyl ac anifeiliaid
Try your brakes Profwch eich breciau
Ice Rhew
Snow drifts Lluwchfeydd
Ford Rhyd
Soft verges Lleiniau meddal
Humps Twmpathau
FIRE STATION
STOP
when lights show
GORSAF DÂN
STOPIWCH
pan fo'r golau'n fflachio
AMBULANCE STATION
STOP
when lights show
GORSAF AMBIWLANS
STOPIWCH
pan fo'r golau'n fflachio
Accident Damwain
ANIMAL DISEASE
RABIES
INFECTED AREA
AHEAD
CLEFYD ANIFEILLIAID
Y GYNDDAREDD
ARDAL HEINTIEDIG
O'CH BLAEN
Oncoming vehicles in middle of road Cerbydau'n dod atoch ar ganol y ffordd
Slow lorries for × miles Lorïau araf am × filltir
Queues likely Ciwiau'n debygol
One way Unffordd
Dual carriageway Ffordd ddeuol
Give way to oncoming vehicles Ildiwch i gerbydau sy'n dod atoch
No vehicles
10 am - 4 pm
except for access
Dim cerbydau
10 am - 4 pm
ac eithrio mynediad
PEDESTRIAN ZONE PARTH CERDDWYR
PEDESTRIANS
USE OTHER
FOOTWAY
CERDDWYR
DEFNYDDIWCH
Y DROETFFORDD
ARALL
WORKS
ACCESS
MYNEDFA
WAITH
WORKS
TRAFFIC
TRAFFIG
GWAITH
Except for loading by Ac eithrio llwytho gan
No articulated vehicles Dim cerbydau cymalog
Slow vehicles Cerbydau araf
No explosives Dim ffrwyrdron
WEAK BRIDGE PONT WAN
POLICE HEDDLU
No loading Dim llwytho
No stopping Dim stopio
At any time on verge or footway Unrhyw bryd ar y llain na'r droetffordd
URBAN CLEARWAY
Monday to Friday
CLIRFFORDD DREFOL
Llun hyd Gwener
Resident permit holders only Deiliaid trwydded preswyl yn unig
Goods vehicles loading only Llwytho cerbydau nwyddau yn unig
Electric vehicles recharging point Man gwefru cerbydau trydan
Permit holders only Deiliaid trwydded yn unig
Controlled ZONE PARTH a Reolir
Zone ENDS DIWEDD y Parth
KEEP CROSSING CLEAR CADWCH Y GROESFAN YN GLIR
ANOTHER TRAIN COMING TRÊN ARALL YN DOD
Safe height Uchder diogel
DRIVERS OF LARGE
OR SLOW VEHICLES
phone before crossing
GYRWYR CERBYDAU
MAWR NEU ARAF
ffoniwch cyn croesi
Drivers of
LARGE or SLOW
VEHICLES
must phone
and get permission
to cross
---
LARGE
means over
×'-×" (×.×m) long or
×'-×" (×.×m) wide or
× tonnes total weight
SLOW means 5 mph or less
Rhaid i yrwyr
CERBYDAU
MAWR neu ARAF
ffonio a chael
caniatâd i groesi
---
Ystyr MAWR
yw dros
×'-×" (×.×m) hyd neu
×'-×" (×.×m) o led neu
gyfanswm o × tunnell fetrig
Ystyr ARAF yw 5 mya neu lai
PARK HERE
AND USE PHONE
AT CROSSING
PARCIWCH YMA
A DEFNYDDIO'R
FFÔN WRTH
Y GROESFAN
Escape lane ahead Lôn ddianc o'ch blaen
No hard shoulder for × yards Dim llain galed am × llath
Unsuitable for motor vehicles Anaddas i gerbydau modur
Unsuitable for heavy goods vehicles Anaddas i gerbydau nwyddau trwm
Single
track
road
with
passing
places
Ffordd
un trac
â mannau
pasio
PASSING
PLACE
MAN
PASIO
CENSUS
STOP
if directed
CYFRIFIAD
STOPIWCH
os gofynnir ichi
WEIGHT
CHECK
MAN
PWYSO
IN I MEWN
NO EXIT DIM FFORDD ALLAN
OUT ALLAN
NO ENTRY DIM MYNEDIAD
Information Gwybodaeth
MOTORCYCLE
TEST CENTRE
CANOLFAN PROFI
BEICIAU MODUR
Except buses Ac eithrio bysiau
Traffic signal cameras Camerâu goleuadau traffig
Home Zone Parth Cartref
Quiet Lane Lôn Dawel
taxi tacsi
Except local buses Ac eithrio bysiau lleol
Bus lane Lôn fysiau
END OF
ROUTE
DIWEDD
Y LLWYBR
Bus Stop Safle Bysiau
Airport Maes Awyr
Park and Ride Parcio a Theithio
Car Park Maes Parcio
Long stay Arhosiad hir
Short stay Arhosiad by
Shoppers Siopwyr
Town centre Canol y dref
SPACES LLE AR GAEL
FULL LLAWN
SERVICES GWASANAETHAU
Junction Cyffordd
Push button
Wait for signal
Gwasgwch y botwm
Arhoswch am yr arwydd
Lane control signals ahead Arwyddion rheoli lonydd o'ch blaen
Line painting Peintio llinellau
Replacing damaged
bridge supports
Adnewyddu
cynaliadau'r
bont
Delays possible until
Sept 15
Oedi'n bosibl tan fis
Medi 15
Sorry for any delay Ymddiheurwn am unrhyw oedi
Skid risk Perygl sgidio
WHEN RED
LIGHT SHOWS
WAIT HERE
PAN FO'R
GOLAU'N GOCH
ARHOSWCH YMA
CYCLISTS
DISMOUNT
BEICWYR
DEWCH ODDI
AR EICH BEIC
SIGN NOT IN USE ARWYDD SEGUR
GO EWCH
Traffic control Rheolaeth traffig
ENDS DIWEDD

Mistakes

The Welsh "translation" reads: I am not in the office at the moment. Please send any work to be translated.

Despite guidance provided by such bodies as the office of the Welsh Language Commission, the creation of ad-hoc signs is sometimes entrusted to third parties with no knowledge of Welsh, with ludicrous results. The press, TV, and social media are quick to highlight such mistakes, images of which tend to survive on the internet even long after they have been corrected.

Gaelic-language signs

Bilingual signs for the junction at Sligachan

Argyll and Bute Council, Highland Council and the North West Trunk Road Unit having been signing roads bilingually in English and Gaelic since 2002. The A9 was originally excluded, but that policy has been retracted.

On directional signs, Gaelic place names are signed in a different colour - yellow on green and green on white.

Irish-language signs

A directional sign on the approach to junction 5 of the M9

Most signs in the Republic of Ireland are bilingual. The Irish-language text on directional signs is in italics while the English is in ALLCAPS. There are two exceptions to this:

  • Where the Irish and English names are identical (eg: Port Laoise) only one name is displayed in italics.
  • The Gaeltacht is the part of Ireland that is recognised as predominantly Irish speaking. Consequently, the majority of signs in the Gaeltacht are in Irish only. A few exceptions, such as Dingle have been allowed. A sign in the Gaeltacht referring to a place outside it (eg: Galway) is allowed to be bilingual.

Bilingual signs are also used for places in Northern Ireland, such as Béal Feirste / BELFAST, An tIúr / NEWRY and Ard Mhacha / ARMAGH. Of particular note is Doire / DERRY (signed on the N2) which changes to "Londonderry" when crossing the border (signed on the A5).

Other multilingual signs

Aside from signs on leaving entrances to the UK (ports and airports) and random other locations telling people to drive on the left in multiple languages (usually English, French, German and another), there are some locations where bilingual signs exist informally.




Bilingual signs
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