The Welsh Showdown: Learning the Language!

Posted on September 2, 2010 by

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.

the Welsh language

A New Language Trend in Wales

Our Welsh teacher 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?


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About Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang is a professional travel writer and blogger with a special interest in off-grid destinations and adventure travel. Her mission is to visit every country in the world. In her quest, she's climbed an active volcano in Iceland, swam with sealions in the Galapagos, built a school in Tanzania, waddled with penguins in Antarctica, crossed into North Korea and drank beer in Palestine.

28 Responses to “The Welsh Showdown: Learning the Language!”

  1. Hjortur Smarason September 2, 2010 2:47 am #

    Oh, Os gwelwch yn dda! (can you use please that way?)

    This seems like an impossible language. I though my own language, Icelandic was hard! At least you can pick up some chatty conversation with the milk man with phrases like Ga i llaeth?

    Will you win a trip to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch if you can pronounce it correctly?

    Have fun

    • Melvin September 2, 2010 3:15 am #

      LOL Just imagine to win a trip to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch… You wouldn't be able to tell your friends where you are going! ;-) Not to forget what you would do when you arrived… like ordering milk: Ga i llaeth

    • Nellie September 2, 2010 8:24 am #

      Seriously Hjortur i wouldnt ever be able to pronounce that freaking town name before visiting it! :D

      • Hjortur Smarason September 2, 2010 2:50 pm #

        I knew a guy who went to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. He and his wife argued for ages about how you pronounced it. This was really spoiling their trip.

        Eventually they went in to a local restaurant and agreed that they would ask one of the locals.

        "Can you speak very slowly please, and tell us what this place is called" said the wife.

        The waitress looked at her a little funny.

        "The name of this place" she said "how do you say it very slowly"?

        B – U – R – G – E – R K – I – N – G !


        • Nellie September 2, 2010 2:59 pm #

          LOL, Seriously that's a good one!

        • Melvin September 2, 2010 3:34 pm #

          That one is wicked!!! Really funny!!!

  2. Juliette Foster September 2, 2010 4:53 am #

    Hi Nellie, Shwd ych chi? I have visited Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch and it takes as almost as long to walk past the signpost as it does to learn the language!!!!! However Wales is a beautiful part of the UK and I hope you have a great time. I wish I had time to meet up with you. Hoil.

    • Nellie September 2, 2010 8:26 am #

      Juliette! Are you in Wales now? Wow that must have been an experience being in the town of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch!

  3. Terry Lee September 2, 2010 5:18 am #

    Shwd ych chi Nellie? Wales is a fabulous country with beautiful countryside and I hope you have a great time there. Like Juliette above I have visited Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch and if you can do try and go there. The signpost on the train station is almost as long as the platform. Hoil!

  4. Dan September 2, 2010 5:57 am #

    Nid oes gennyf lawer i'w ddweud ond da lwc

    • Nellie September 2, 2010 8:27 am #

      Hmm anyone cares to translate??

  5. JohnONolan September 2, 2010 6:48 am #

    Ask them what the word for coffee is, I dare you!

    • Nellie September 2, 2010 8:27 am #

      Ha! Cafe!

      • Melvin September 2, 2010 3:38 pm #

        What do you have in mind of saying John??? Please share it… ;-)

  6. Inga Rós September 2, 2010 7:51 am #

    Actually it is amser mynd i’r gwely but I thought I´d comment first ;-)

    Hwyl am y tro!


  7. Nellie September 2, 2010 8:24 am #

    Melvin you cracked me up, I wished that was Mandarin man. Andy had told me about the town beforehand and I had no idea it was that freaking long!

  8. Nellie September 2, 2010 8:25 am #

    ahh Isabelle the smart one..yeh our teacher told us they call is LlanfairPG for short!

    • Melvin September 2, 2010 3:36 pm #

      Are the Welsh a bit lazy here… Didn't they chose that name at first place??? If you ask me, they should call it: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch LOL

  9. Nellie September 2, 2010 8:27 am #

    Ooh yes, traveltart wanted to learn that first – beer's cwrw (pronounced 'cu-ru'). Whoa!

  10. Claire September 2, 2010 1:40 pm #

    Deuparth gwaith ei ddechrau.

  11. Clare Appleyard September 2, 2010 3:18 pm #

    Personally I've always found the Welsh language a bit of a "Twister tafod" (tongue twister), but I suppose that when you're English, you'll always "ddod o hyd i rheswm gwneud hwyl am ben gorllewinol y cymdogion" (find a reason to poke fun at the western neighbours)

  12. Abi September 2, 2010 9:17 pm #

    A controversial topic in Wales…not everyone thinks this is a good idea! I remember a few phrases from my Nana though (term for grandmother): cau'r drws and fod yn dawel (close the door and be quiet!)

  13. Ron September 5, 2010 3:32 am #

    Hello Nellie! Shwd ych chi? Diolch for the wake-up on Cymraeg pronunciation. I am very hard of hearing most of my long life, but it is always thrilling to learn a few phrases of import to the native language of the country I am visiting. Lots of luck and good fortune.

    Ron in British Columbia

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