Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Dysgu Cymraeg (Learning Welsh)

Now that we are living in Wales we are trying to learn to speak Welsh. Apparently, the further North you go the more Welsh/less English it is, but where we are it is a good mix of both languages. I love the way all the signs are written bilingually and you hear a mixture of both languages in town. Spiderman and I are taking an evening class that meets once a week for three hours and then the rest of the week you are on your own to work at home either in the workbook or on the computer. It moves at a breakneck pace and sometimes I feel I am down in the bottom of a canyon of ignorance that I cannot climb out of  and sometimes  I feel like Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter books. It has kind of become a running joke in class because I always come with a list of questions and a notebook full of coloured diagrams because I‘m such a girly swot.  

Welsh is not an easy language to learn as many letters mutate to become other letters for a variety of reasons such as if the word is feminine (the word for cat--cath becomes gath) or if it follows a preposition. Confused? Yeah we are too. The soft mutation is easy as basically one letter becomes another letter, but nasal mutation makes a word like our town Caerfyrddin (Carmarthen) turn into Yng Yngaerfyrddin. No, it doesn’t look like a word to us either. Plus did I mention that the basic sentence structure is Verb Object Subject? So basically you say Read the book I did. It makes you sound like Yoda.

But aside from the dreaded mutation, it is pretty straight forward.  There are 29 letters in the alphabet and you must remember that W can also be a vowel. The letters k, q, v, x and z do not appear in the Welsh alphabet, but there are many other letters that do not appear in the English alphabet to take their place. The sh sound is represented by the letters si as the word siop (shop) and the  ch sound is represented by the letters ts as in Tseina (China). Also remember that 2 letters together are actually one letter e.g. dd. If you had the word gardd (garden) in a crossword puzzle there would only be four boxes. Here are the letters and how they should sound.

             a-- short: "a" as in "ham"

long: "a" as in "hard or father"


             b--as in "boy"

c--as in "cat" (never the "s" sound as in "cent")

ch--a non-English sound as in Scottish "ch" in "loch"

d--as in "dog"

dd--"th" (voiced) as in "the" (never the voiceless "th" sound as in "thin)

e--short: "e" as in "then"

long: similar to "e" in "then spoken in a southern drawl

f--V sound as in "of",

ff-as in "off"

g--as in "good" 

ng--as in "long"

h--as in "hat"

i--short: "i" as in "sit"

long: "ee" as in "seen"

j--as in "jam"

l--as in "lamp"

ll--an aspirated 'l' which does not occur in English, sounded by placing the tongue behind the top front teeth and smiling and hissing out of the side of your mouth like a cat. As tricky as it sounds.

m--as in "man"

n--as in "name"

o--short: "o" as in "gone"

long: as in "more"

p--as in "pet"

ph--an aspirated 'p' occurring only as a mutated form, sounded as in "graph"

r--as in "rat"

rh--an aspirated 'r' which does not occur in English; the difference between 'rh' and 'r' is similar to that betwen 'wh' and 'w' in "when" and "went"

s--as in "sit"

t--as in "top"

th--as in "thin"

u--short: as in "sit"

long: as in "seen"

w--as in "wind" (as a consonant)

short: as in "look"

long: as in "fool”

y--Y as in “yellow” (beginning of a word only)

short: as in "sit" (clear sound)

short: as in "gun"(obscure sound)

long: as in "seen" (clear sound)

Would you like to play a game? Here are a list of Welsh words that have been adapted from English words. Try using the sounds above to help you sound them out. Pob Lwc! (Good luck!)

banc   cloc   parc    bocs     fflat       rygbi    ffansi    fflyffi   rwm                        

fforc  mwnci   sgowt   lownj  tsips   ambiwlans  siocled   sosej  


iot     pync     twrist   wncwl    sgwp  siwt     nyrs

Scroll down for Answers:

banc  clock   park   box   flat  rugby  fancy  fluffy     room                      

fork    monkey    scout    lounge     chips   ambulance   chocolate   sausage                   

yacht   pink    tourist     uncle     scoop    suit   nurse


  1. Intriguing....and damn hard. I did pretty well on your quiz----about 70-75% right. My favorite word still is (phonetic spelling) POP-TEE-PING!!!