Bore da, ffrindiau! Sut dach chi? Y Bioden Ieithoedd dw i. Dw i’n dysgu Cymraeg. And if you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll probably know that I’ve been dysgu-ing Cymraeg for quite some time, with embarrassingly little to show for it. My voracious dabbling is well documented on this blog, and although it does seem like I study a lot of languages at the same time, this actually tends not to be the case – I actually flit between them and spend maybe a month on each; Welsh unfortunately took a back seat while I focused on Korean and Cornish, but now we’re back in the valleys, baby! I was working through a textbook but I found the pace a little slow, so I’ve decided I’m going to invest in one of the Routledge Grammar reference books, and then supplement that with a bit of Duolingo. My good friend Dewi Lingo. This decision handily coincides with the new Duolingo interface, so I thought I’d talk you through my experience of that so far!
Now, it’s well documented that the Welsh Duolingo course is obsessed with parsnips. Parsnips and dragons, you could easily be forgiven for thinking that those are the two most important things that any Welsh learner should know. I’m sure I could wander into any pub in Bangor and proudly announce to the assembled masses, Y ddraig goch dw i! Dw i’n mwynhau bwyta pannas! and receive a raucous standing ovation for my efforts. But ideally, I’d like to be able to cover a little bit more than that. Now, normally, Duolingo teaches you some absolutely bizarre phrases that you can then take away extrapolate bits of grammar from. I quite enjoy this approach, I like to take a language and vivisect it, trying to work out how the pieces fit together, swapping out vocabulary to form my own sentences in a Frankenstein fashion. The thing I’ve noticed with Welsh is that actually, this is remarkably easy, and you can cover quite a lot of ground with relatively little knowledge of grammar – when producing your own sentences, the construction dw i’n [insert a verbal noun of your choosing here] helps you to express rather a lot without worrying too much about conjugation, and even if it isn’t the most sophisticated way of communicating, you’ll most likely be understood. The problem arises when you blurt out one of these sentences to a Welsh speaker, and they respond – this is where I inevitably get completely lost. But nevertheless, I think the way the Duolingo course is laid out actually works very well for Welsh in particular.
Now, granted, it’s only been a week. But thanks to a brief foray into the ol’ Español earlier in the year, I’ve somehow found myself firmly planted in the Obsidian league (which I still think sounds a bit like a supervillain team, but there you are). It’s going well so far, but I just hope that as these units progress, I’ll be able to put together some more complex sentences. I think, in addition to the grammar reference book, if I start consuming more Welsh-language media, that’ll certainly help. I’m a little nervous to put it in writing, but at the moment, I’m thinking that I may even try to take part in Polyglot NaNoWriMo using Welsh this year. I know, it’s ambitious – some might say downright stupid, but just as soon as I get the past tense sorted out in my head, I honestly think I’d be able to give it a damned good go!
Now, just because this month is turning into a bit of a personal Eisteddfod, don’t for a minute think I’ve given up on my other languages – Korean, Cornish and Latgalian. Every couple of days I’m still reading over my notes so that they won’t completely wither away to nothing, even if they’re not currently my main focus. That’s one of the advantages of my own personal brand of dabbling – no one knows what the next month will bring. Least of all me.
Dach chi’n siarad Cymraeg? Do you have any tips for Welsh language media I could start reading/watching, any recommendations for children’s books, perhaps? Then please, get in touch! You can leave a comment on this post, or as usual, you’ll be able to find me on Twitter and Instagram (I’m @sprakskatan on both). As always, thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next month. Take care!
– J. ✨