The Welsh Language Commissioner will be celebrating 15 years this week since launching the orange speech bubble badge, used to show if a person can speak Welsh. The scheme has gone from strength to strength since it’s launch, with an average of 54,494 badges, lanyards and posters distributed annually.
Since launching in 2005, the bubble has been used in a variety of creative ways, including on engineers' helmets, electrician’s vans, magnets on the back of patients' beds in hospitals, on removable glitter tattoos during Eisteddfod week, and from this week, as a background filter on Zoom and Microsoft Teams meetings.
It has also inspired Scotland to adopt a similar scheme. In October 2019 Bòrd na Gàidhlig (Gaelic Language Board) launched a blue bubble to encourage Gaelic speakers to inform people in Scotland, and beyond that they were able to speak the language.
Ifan Evans was the Welsh Language Board's Private Sector Director when the badge was launched in 2005. He now works as Director of Digital Technology and Transformation at The Welsh Government's Health Department.
"We did a lot of work with the banks, supermarkets, the private sector as well as the health and public service sector, to make sure they used the new bubble from the onset. We wanted to make the public aware of our fresh, colourful new brand.
"A badge existed before the bubble; a red and green knot shaped badge. But research showed that people thought it was too corporate, and some disagreed with linking nationality and language, by using the colours red and green. So we decided to make the new badge deliberately different and modern in appearance.
"The bubble was part of our plan to encourage businesses to use more Welsh. It was essential that we promoted the fact that the language was an advantage when communicating. For example, we worked with banks such as Natwest to offer their staff Welsh language lessons, improving their customers service. This led to their decision to rebrand as "Natwest Cymru", and also the Principality launched a campaign using only the word 'Diolch’. The ‘Iaith Gwaith’ campaign also led to introducing Welsh language on supermarket self-service tills, also increasing use on the high street."
The badge was first launched in Leekes store, in Cross Hands, and fifteen years on, they are still using the orange speech bubble. Leekes Managing Director, Emma Leeke said:
“We were delighted 15 years ago to be chosen as the launch site to promote the speaking of Welsh within our stores. As a proud Welsh business with close links to our community, our team enthusiastically support the use of the Welsh language in everyday life and are pleased to speak in Welsh with those for whom it is the first language and also to support Welsh learners.”
Aled Roberts, The Welsh Language Commissioner, added, "We are extremely proud of the ‘Iaith Gwaith’ orange bubble scheme – a practical scheme that gives people a clear indication that a Welsh language service is available.
"Iaith Gwaith is well established in Wales, and is an useful resource for organisations, businesses and charities to show customers that staff are able to speak Welsh.
"However, we recognise that circumstances have changed recently, and that badges and lanyards aren’t as relevant at the moment, with the majority of people working from home, or wearing overalls over their normal work clothes.
"We are therefore delighted to have developed the background for virtual meetings, which includes using the badge as a method to identify Welsh speakers over the screen."
Iaith Gwaith resources are available free of charge to organisations, businesses and charities from the Welsh Language Commissioner. Goods can be ordered from the Commissioner's website – welshlanguagecommissioner.wales/iaithgwaith or by calling 0345 6033 221.
Helo Blod – the Welsh Government's service to encourage small businesses to use more Welsh, also uses the brand as a central part of their work.