The Covid-19 crisis has led to some unfamiliar and little-used English words, phrases and concepts becoming all-too common: furlough, lockdown and shielding now trip off the tongue.
A local authority in Wales has produced a mini-dictionary of the most commonly used coronavirus terms in Welsh to help speakers talk and write about the disease in their own language.
Ceredigion county council in mid Wales, a Welsh language heartland, said it had gathered many terms that have been coined or become commonly used during the pandemic. The council said it was important to help make sure Welsh speakers were able to communicate about the most important issue of our times in their mother tongue.
Around 140 words and terms appear in the dictionary such as peswch parhaus (continuous cough) and swigen (bubble). Contact tracing is olrhain cysylltiadau while coronavirus is coronafeirws.
A worker on furlough – which, according to Collins English Dictionary derives from a 17th century Dutch word – is rendered gweithiwr ar seibiant, literally “employee on leave”. Shielding is gwarchod, which means protection.
The coronavirus job retention scheme is the rather lengthy Y Cynllun Cymorth Incwm i’r Hunangyflogedig drwy gyfnod Coronafeirws.
Ellen ap Gwynn, the leader of the council, said, “During the difficult times of the pandemic I am pleased to report that the council has succeeded in communicating our key messages bilingually, in Welsh and in English.
“This is expected by the residents of a county like Ceredigion. Hearing and seeing Welsh is equally important for our growing number of Welsh language learners.”
She said the council’s communications team and corporate translation team had worked hard to collect vocabulary that has been in everyday use during the pandemic. “Using these new terms proves that Welsh is a modern, active and living language.”
A Ceredigion council spokesperson said: “The pandemic has been a time of changing habits, and inevitably when key messages and instructions have been communicated, new words have been created and standardised as part of everyday language. These new words are equally important in the English and the Welsh language.
“In order to make it easier for people to use the new Welsh terms, the council has set about collecting some of these terms, and bringing them together into a document, Covid-19 Terminology (pdf).
“This document has been designed to ensure that these new terms are used correctly and consistently in Welsh, and that they become part of the natural vocabulary of the everyday language of Welsh speakers.”
TermCymru, a collection of terms used by Welsh government translators in their work, has also published a list of Covid-19 resources, with more than 440 words relating to the pandemic.
Around 890,000 people in Wales can speak Welsh, almost a third of the population. Just before the coronavirus outbreak, the Welsh language commissioner, Aled Roberts warned that Welsh-speaking patients are suffering and might even be put at risk if they cannot communicate with health professionals in their own tongue.