Wednesday, September 07, 2011

*Diolch a nos da. A consideration of language

As a writer I pride myself on my use of language and extensive vocabulary. I have had a series of good teachers in the past, not just at school but also during my career as a journalist. When I am faced with a different country I am determined to try a few words, at least, of the local tongue. I can say hello, please, thank you and two beers in several languages, and I was even taught, one unusual Christmas Eve, to say Merry Christmas in Icelandic. (Gleðileg jól)

But I'm in Wales, and I have to admit that the local language is totally baffling. Not only are individual letters pronounced completely differently from English (For Rhug, hear Rig) but even within Welsh some letters are interchangeable. C and G, for example, often sound and mean exactly the same. So the Cymraeg live in Cymru, or Gymru (pronounced Cummri) depending on what appears to be the whim of the writer.

Yesterday I tried my first ever foray into Welsh speaking. (I can't say that the North Walian attitude towards my Englishness has encouraged me to try to be friendly to the locals, but ...) The nice lady in the pub at Llechwedd Slate Caverns  (I was proud of my attempt to say Llechwedd because I wasn't TOO far off) was kind and so when she brought my bowl of lobscows (pronounced surprisingly like it looks) I said 'diolch', to which she replied 'croeso'. When I admitted that it was my first attempt at speaking Welsh she said it sounded right and I'd done well.

It's a start. But I'm a long way off mastering Welsh and I doubt if I'll be doing any writing in it any time soon.

*Thank you and good night.


Claire Robyns said...

I'm good at languages such as German, Spanish, etc where the words follow some form of familiar pattern. Other languages baffle me. Especially Welsh / Gaelic and, plus, there's so many different variations that you're lucky to visit two towns that understand each other (okay, slight exaggeration, but you know what I'm getting at)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Anne .. gosh you're brave! I've never really tried too often in Wales .. that long one the railway station thing .. Llangogrogr... etc etc 50 lettered name .. is a bit much.

I seem to be able to say names fairly easily .. but that's thanks to the jobs I've had or interest I take .. it certainly helps and then it opens the door to their origins etc .. love the learning it offers.

Welsh and Gaelic .. another story! Your slate mine trip seems to have been a great success ... cheers Hilary

snafu said...

Welsh was never a written language, having no script, so drew on the Latin characters and several words used in its neighbouring country England, but only after the Welsh language was almost extinct. Reduced to a few very small groups of traditional vocabularies, each with their own dialect not every Welsh speaker could agree as to how the Latin script should be applied or pronounced properly, so modern Welsh is a compromise with some odd results and can be argued, not pure Welsh.

Sandra Davies said...

When I was selling children's books I mistakenly a Welsh version of one - it took me a few moments to realise that it was another language and not that I'd had some sort of brain seizure. Thanks to snafu for the education re written Welsh - I didn't know that!