I used to think of myself as quite the linguist, not until Welsh came and threw my language skills right out the window. Day 1 of the Great Welsh Showdown and we’re already faced with a pretty darn interesting challenge: picking up the old Celtic language of Welsh.
“Shwmael!” Delyth Pollard, a local native and experienced Welsh teacher greeted us in a chirpy tone. Our group of bloggers looked at each other, puzzled and slightly amused by the word that sounded close to ‘Chinese dumpling’ in the Cantonese dialect. Little did we know that we would be having more fun giggling about quirky Welsh words later on in the day. Meaning hiya, a casual form of greeting, “Shwmael” was about to be the first and last word to enter our Welsh memory bank.
A New Language Trend in Wales
We had made our way to the Welsh capital, Cardiff, zipping here via a fast-speed train from London. Just under two hours and we were already whisked off to our language class at the Visit Wales office in Brunel House. But why a language class in Welsh for our first task? Surely there must be some interesting stuff out here in Cardiff? Surely we could get by in English?
Delyth shared with us the importance of learning Welsh in their country these days. “We were almost at the point of losing our language; there are more people who speak English than Welsh here in Wales.” Only in the last few years have people become more aware of the importance of preserving their ancient language.
“Welsh-medium schools are now mushrooming all over the country. Over 20 years ago, there were only 4 welsh-speaking schools in Cardiff, these days there are too many for me to keep tab.” Currently, 25% of the population speak Welsh and the numbers are growing.
When asked why and how this trend started, Delyth told us with pride, “We are a country and we have our own language that identifies us. It’s often mistaken as a dialect, but no it’s a language that goes way back. Now people have started to realize how we can be effectively bilingual, mastering both English and Welsh.”
Wyt ti’n siarad Cymraeg? (Do you speak Welsh?)
From “Shwmael”, we advanced along in the lesson, mastering basic greetings, numbers and even short sentences. Putting what we’d learnt to use, we exchanged greetings and practiced conversations with our partners.
A Celtic language closely related to the Irish and French, more so than English, Welsh was quite a tricky affair. Although I would hardly believe it possibly to sprout a language within two hours of learning it, we did catch some phrases here and there. Here’s a list of some memorable Welsh phrases (pick some and add them to your comments below!)
How are you? = Shwd ych chi? [pronounced as ‘should ich hee’]
Very good = Da iawn [pronounced as ‘dai yawn’]
Thanks! = Diolch [pronounched as ‘dee-ol-ugh’ with a rough, saliva-spitting sound towards the end]
Welsh language = Cymraeg [pronounced as ‘cam-rai’]
Can I have milk? = Ga i llaeth? [pronounced as ‘ga-ee-ll-aef’ with a thick, tongue hissing sound for ‘ll’]
Please? = Os gwelwch yn dda? [pronounced as ‘oss-gwell-ugh un thah’]
Goodbye! = Hoil! [pronounced the way it’s spelt]
Europe’s Longest Place Name = a town name in Northern Wales Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch [yes, seriously the town’s name is a full 163 characters. ]
*Please leave a comment below with at least two Welsh words, only those comments count! I need as many comments as possible to win today’s challenge, so pretty please?