The machine in Rhyl, Denbighshire, Wales is for an underground car park – motorists said that the instructions were in Welsh, which approximately only one in three people in Wales speaks. Drivers were frustrated when they could not understand the instructions to pay for parking.
One local motorist told the Local Democracy Service that they saw a driver give up trying to understand the machine.
The motorist said: “The whole point of a car park is you can park quickly and easily. You don’t expect to stand in a queue for half an hour while people try and work out how the machine works – or doesn’t work in this case.”
It was also reported that a family from Merseyside who understood Welsh attempted to help drivers figure out how to use the machine.
However, Denbighshire council said that all of its parking machines, while set to Welsh by default, should have a way to switch the language to English.
It said: “Our pay and display machines default to Welsh, but there is a large grey ‘language button’ that people can press to change the language.
“This is explained on the machines; however, customer service management is also patrolling to assist customers on site.”
The council also said that there were two other machines in the car park and that drivers could use a smartphone app to pay for parking.
Reports of frustrated drivers have emerged from other parts of Wales. In Caswell Bay near Swansea, one woman reportedly saw one of the machines and exclaimed: “It’s all in bloody Welsh!”
Others supported the use of the Welsh language, although they conceded that the instructions on how to change the language to English should be more clear.
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One man, Paul Sambrook detailed his experience at the Caswell Bay car parking machine on Facebook.
Mr Sambrook said: “Interesting experience at Caswell Bay this morning. The payment machine for car parking defaults to Welsh and quite a few people were giving up because they believed that the machine wasn’t working – they couldn’t make the card payment as they didn’t understand the instructions.
“None of them realised there is a ‘change language’ button, though to be fair the button has an icon on it, not words. I had no problem but a woman behind me observed that ‘it was all in bloody Welsh’. Her daughter, age about 13, had no problem and could both read the Welsh and press the language change button for her.
“The lesson is that defaulting to Welsh is a positive promotion of the Welsh language – but they really need a clear instruction on them about how to change to English or any other language included – or the initial screen needs to be bilingual.”
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He added that although several motorists were confused, most “worked it out” or could even read Welsh.
The news comes as landlords buying property in Welsh-speaking communities may have to provide documentation that they can also speak the language under the proposed “Fair Chance” scheme.
The scheme is meant to tackle the lack of affordable housing in Wales by preventing out of town second home buyers from purchasing property in these neighbourhoods.
In Wales, around 29 percent of the population speaks Welsh, although this number is growing, according to the Welsh Government.