HSBC: ‘Welsh is a foreign language’

Calls have been made for banks to provide online services in Welsh following a claim by HSBC that it is aforeign language’.    

Over recent weeks, hundreds of supporters of Welsh language campaign group Cymdeithas yr Iaith have been complaining that not a single bank provides online banking services in Welsh. In response to one of the complaints, made by Nia Lloyd from Wrexham, a HSBC official wrote: I notice that we have recieved (sic) the message in Foriegn (sic) language. I request you to kindly send the message in English and we will be glad to assist you further.” Following a further complaint, the bank issued an apology.  

Welsh is one of the oldest living languages in Europe. At one point it was the main language of the British Isles, and is still spoken by hundreds of thousands of people across the countries of Britain. Despite including a line of explanation in English with the complaint, the bank has been asking other complainants to resend their correspondence in English.  

In a response from Barclays to another complainant about the lack of online banking in Welsh, a bank official responded: “I know how difficult it is having it is using English as our official language in our Online banking. You may send us a suggestion and we'll submit it to our Development Team for them to study and implement an online banking in Welsh language. I'm sure they will consider it. I also advise some foreign customers to use Google translator if they're having a hard time with some English words because I also use it and it's very dependable. I know some high end phones also have translator using only cameras and they're frequently used by tourists.” 

Tamsin Davies from Welsh language campaign group Cymdeithas yr Iaith commented: 

"These comments are insulting, but unfortunately not unexpected; after all, banks are disrespecting Welsh speakers every day. There isn't a single bank that provides online banking in Welsh. We believe people in Wales should have the right to live their lives in Welsh. That's why Nia, along with hundreds of others, have written to the banks over recent weeks about the lack of online services in Welsh. But instead of taking these complaints seriously, it seems that many within HSBC and other banks think that comments like this are appropriate. 

"Let's not forget that many large companies already provide a number of online services in Welsh. Many Microsoft packages have a Welsh language interface, such as Hotmail, and a number of Google’s services are available in Welsh as well. But these seriously wealthy banks, who we as taxpayers bailed out, refuse to provide online banking in Welsh, which for more and more people is the main way they bank. Having saved these banks with public funds, the least we can expect is a full service in Wales' official language." 

The language group has now written to the UK bosses of HSBC and Barclays asking to meet to discuss the issues raised by the complaints and responses.

The story in the press:

South China Morning Post

Daily Post

Western Mail

Golwg 360

The Guardian

The Independent / I News