March 8, 2019

Cymru am byth! Welsh-language Braille books included in World Book Day 2019


Braille: now in Welsh. (Braille Magazine Example Pages, by Econterms, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)

Bore da!* It seems that Welsh (or Cymraeg)—the Celtic language spoken by our esteemed neighbours over the Severn—is rarely out of the news at the moment.

Most recently, Radio 2 Jeremy Vine got into hot water over suggestions on his show (from a caller) about dual-language speakers in the country’s pubs switching to Welsh when strangers come in. Vine handled the ensuing criticism brilliantly and, as reported by Martin Shipton for WalesOnline, took a Welsh lesson live on air on St. David’s Day, the 1st of March.

Last month it was also revealed that Welsh would be used in Star Trek for the first time. Nation.Cymru reported that season two of Star Trek: Discovery, newly released on Netflix, features a snippet of the Welsh language 10 minutes into one episode. Unfortunately, they also report that “The makers of the show haven’t attempted to subtitle the language, however. They simply read [Speaking Welsh].” Baby steps, I guess.

Now, following last year’s news that Aberystwyth-based author Meleri Wyn James’s Na, Nel!: Un Tro… would be the first Welsh-language book included in World Book Day’s £1 book promotion its 20-year history, another important step forward has happened. BBC News reports that, for the 2019 edition of World Book Day, its Welsh-language titles (of which there are two this year) will also be available in Braille, audio and large print for visually impaired readers.

RNIB Cymru spokesperson Emma Jones said: “The Braille, large print and audio versions make sure that blind and partially-sighted children can discover these stories and share in the excitement this World Book Day.” First devised in 1996, Welsh Braille uses the same general rules as English Braille, with some crucial additions: the symbols for common sounds ll, dd, ff and rh—as well a few commonly-used words.

It’s a heartening addition to the WBD bibliography, one that—although it may seem small—is vital in helping to include more readers, and in keeping Cymraeg on the map.


*or afternoon, depending on where you’re reading.

Tom Clayton is publishing executive at Melville House UK.