The Welsh Language

Published: Thursday 7th Aug 2014

Written by: Ginnie James

The Welsh language is beautiful, whether spoken in the rounded lilt of the south or the more staccato rhythm of the north, and I had every intention of learning to speak it as soon as I could after my move to Wales.

I had visions of me speaking fluently to my new Welsh friends within months. I had the tapes (showing my age here!) and accompanying books but unfortunately things didn’t go quite as planned and I am still working on it! I mastered ‘Bore da’ (good morning), ‘Prynhawn da’ (good afternoon), ‘Nos da’ (good night) and ‘Diolch’ and ‘Dim Diolch’ (thank you and no thank you) quickly and thought how well it was going.

However, we then came to the traditional Welsh word for please – Os gwelwch yn dda. The pronunciation (oss gway-looKH un tha) took me a while to get the hang of, but it did make for a good introduction to the Welsh alphabet.

There are 29 letters in the Welsh alphabet. The 5 English letters not included are K, Q, V, X and Z and there are 8 double letter combinations to be added which are used as single letters in Welsh: CH, DD, FF, NG, LL, PH, RH and TH. The majority of them can have their pronunciation fairly easily explained phonetically and if anyone does want to know how, give me a shout. The letter ‘LL’ is more difficult. The best description I have come across that worked for me was to place the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth by your top front teeth then make a short, sharp breath.

Are you all trying it?? The resulting noise should give you a good idea of the letter sound. It worked for me and certainly helps when it comes to pronouncing place names confidently. Does anyway else have a better way?

Whereas I may not still be fluent in Welsh I have picked up a lot of words and phrases that I had not come across before living here. My absolute favourite has to be the word ‘cwtch’, usually used in reference to a warm hug and in place of the word cuddle. There is no literal English translation but ‘safe place’ is probably the nearest equivalent phrase. I think this is the most lovely thought – that when you give someone a cwtch you are providing a safe place for them to be.

My whole family now use ‘cwtch’ – especially after the incident where a family member was most offended when she asked my then 2 year old daughter for a cuddle and was rewarded by a blank look and then the view of her wandering off! What are your favourite Welsh words or colloquialisms? Is there a particular phrase you think sounds more evocative in Welsh than English? I’d love to know your thoughts!

Ginnie James
Ginnie James



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