• January 7, 2010

The National Trust (NT) in Cornwall has sent a disappointing response to enquiries from the Kernow Branch requesting that the Cornish language be used on their signage, as it is in Wales. The NT argues in its letter to branch secretary, Michael Chappell, that they believe that to have dual signage “has the potential to undermine aspects of our charitable core purpose.”
The letter response goes on to suggest that the work of the NT in Wales has been affected due to the impact that the Welsh language has “workloads and budgets”. The NT in Cornwall does concede that they may consider “testing out one or two things” on their new website, “in a ‘gentle’ way in regard to Cornish”. We wait with baited breath. The branch has stated that they will continue to follow up the issue.
The full text of the letter response can be found below.
“Dear Mr Chappell

Thank you for your email from 3 November – while I know you will have had an acknowledgement, I apologise for the delay in providing you with a full reply. [And this reply has now been further delayed by sickness and holidays, and has sat in draft form for two weeks, for which I am very sorry.]

You enquire about the possibility of the National Trust translating its signage into Cornish. Our general approach to signage is that every sign we put up needs to be as succinct as possible, for reasons of both legibility and cost (the latter particularly important to us as a charity). Fundamentally, the Trust, as guardians of unspoilt and uncluttered historic landscapes, believe we have a duty to minimise both the number and the size of signs we erect. We therefore remain reluctant to make this significant change to our signage in Cornwall, as we feel it has the potential to undermine aspects of our charitable core purpose.

The National Trust in Wales is indeed obliged to translate much of its signage and literature, and I happen to know personally what an impact this has on their workloads and budgets. The Trust in Wales nonetheless remains committed to translation, as we acknowledge that Welsh is an official language, with it being the first language of probably around 10% of the Welsh population: Clearly this is not the case in Cornwall, and therefore while I appreciate some, such as yourself, may view Cornish as deserving parity with Welsh, in practice day-to-day, it does not have this status. Welsh is a minority language but there is still an element of compulsion in schools which helps keep the language strong, and many jobs demand skills in the language.

The explanation of the place names of some of our properties (such as Cotehele) would no doubt be of interest to some of our visitors, and add to their understanding, but we would need to identify how and where we could do this, without taking up time or funds intended for our core remit. We do have a new website scheduled to come online in 2010, and properties will be in control of uploading much of the content – it may well be that the inclusion of aspects of the Cornish language in these pages is something that our Cornish properties could feature. I will certainly mention this to them, along with the translation service you very helpfully highlighted to us.

We do maintain a watching brief on the revival of the Cornish language, and it may well be that our new website allows us to test out one or two things in a ‘gentle’ way in regard to Cornish.

Yours sincerely
Shona Owen

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