A welcome in the hillside

27th June 1997 at 01:00
WINDOW BOX CYMRAEG. Multimedia PC with software in Welsh and English. Infant and junior versions Pounds 1,499; super infant and junior combined, Pounds 1,799 Research Machines, New Mill House, Oxford OX14 4SE. Tel: 01235 826868.

Newly released as an extension to its range, RM's Window Box Cymraeg is a full "English" Window Box with a range of additions enabling work in the Welsh language. It has the usual Window Box software and support for all aspects of the primary IT curriculum: word processing, desktop publishing, music composition, drawing, data-handling, modelling and measurement and control.

This is a useful product but that doesn't necessarily make it usable in the classroom. However, RM's Classmate software enables a hard-pressed teacher to manage the system efficiently with, most important, protection against tampering. Training is available at many LEA centres, and a voucher is included. Comprehensive documentation is supplied in a consistent format - much better than manuals from other suppliers - as well as curriculum support materials that provide hints on integrating IT into cross-curricular planning.

So what's different about the Welsh version? When you start (log on), there is a choice of a Welsh or English desktop. In terms of language, the software titles fall into three groups. In some cases, such as the delightful Starting Graph (an introductory data-handing package on which data can be entered and displayed in different graphical formats), the software can work in both Welsh and English. This could, for example, enable pupils learning Welsh as a second language to set up data using software commands in English and then change to commands in Welsh to present the information and to write their comments.

Other programs, such as Music Explorer, First Workshop, Colour Magic and Information Workshop, come in both languages. Although it is not possible to switch languages as easily as with Starting Graph - the appropriate version is shown on the Welsh and English desktops - files can be saved and loaded between the two versions.

The last group of programs are those that work only in English - although any work in these programs can be in Welsh as fonts are included to provide specific characters for use in all of the programs. In some cases, such as Roamer World, bilingual versions may become available. In others, such as Microsoft's Word, Excel, and Publisher, translation seems unlikely given the cost. As an alternative word processor, the Welsh version of Write Away replaces First Word on the Welsh desktop.

Although by no means perfect, Window Box Cymraeg is an important step in the right direction as it enables Welsh-medium education and the teaching of Welsh as a second language along with the software and resources for the "English" Window Box. Last time I looked at RM's Window Box I felt that it was "a good product improved still further". Now Welsh-language support and software continues this improvement at no extra cost. Welsh schools thinking of buying a PC should consider this system. Schools in England may also be interested - the extra materials could, at the very least, widen their horizons.

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