Adventures in Welsh

united-kingdomP’nawn da, ffrindiau! Sut dach chi? Dw i’n dda iawn, diolch yn fawr! To be honest with you, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to write about this month. I know I’ve got a bit of a reputation as a serial dabbler, and I can’t deny that I’ve definitely earned it in the past – but recently, I’ve been nothing of the sort. I’ve been quite faithful to Welsh, aside from a spot of vocabulary farming in both Vietnamese and Cantonese, but we don’t need to go into that. I thought this month I could go over what resources I’ve been using to help with my Welsh learning, both the formal and informal, because I’ve been really enjoying myself. There’s a wealth of quality stuff out there, especially if you live in the wider UK, not just Wales!

DBA29B3E-49E0-456B-B1A6-3984559CD943The main thing I’ve been using is the Routledge Basic Welsh grammar reference and exercise book. Honestly, it’s marvellous – I’ve even bought the Intermediate level book so I can move straight on, when I finally finish the Basic level. If I’m being really and truly honest with myself, I’ve got a bit of a bad habit of getting on my high horse when I feel like a textbook is being condescending. I know, it’s ridiculous. Like I’m some language-learning expert (I’m not) or even a trained linguist (I’m definitely not). In fact, my English Language teacher at AS Level took me to one side toward the end of Year 12 and asked me politely not to take the subject into the next year as I, and I quote, ‘clearly wasn’t interested in linguistics’. Everything I’ve learned since then, since I discovered I actually was interested, has been from the myriad of textbooks I’ve accumulated over the years. during six months stints of learning everything from Faroese to Farsi. And because of this tendency to dabble, I’ve read the first few chapters of quite a lot of these books – so while they’re explaining what function a verb plays in a sentence, I’m growing impatient and frankly bored. It’s a vicious cycle. This series is quite unlike I’ve anything I’ve used before – it’s genuinely quite funny in places, and you’ve got to respect a textbook that’ll tell you up front when there’s no point in learning a particular construction because it isn’t used outside academic circles. Obviously different languages will be written by different people, and maybe it’s just that Gareth King is a master grammarian and wordsmith; but it’s a theory I’d be willing to test out on my next project, whatever it may be.

When you live in the UK, it’s surprising how many resources are available outside Wales – I can’t tell you how thrilled I was when I was able to subscribe to an honest-to-goodness Welsh-language magazine, aimed at learners of Welsh. It’s called Lingo360, a part of Golwg360, which is also available online. It’s essentially a newspaper, with both news and cultural articles, and those written specifically for Lingo360 even highlight difficult or lesser-used words that you can click, and the site provides an English translation. CCA26672-E0FB-4C1A-8C6F-7AFDB415EEFAOf course, there are also a range of online dictionaries – personally I get a lot of use out of both this one and this one (though admittedly this can be a little harder to read), but even good old Wiktionary is pretty good for Welsh – it very rarely lets me down, and if it does it’s usually because the Welsh word is a special case that doesn’t work in the same way as other languages. Though obviously, me being me, I’ve also got a paper dictionary to refer to if there’s ever a power cut and the phone network goes down simultaneously. In case of a zombie apocalypse, if you need the definition of a Welsh word, I’m your guy. But as an online quiz once told me, I’d only last about fifteen minutes in a situation like that so you’d better be pretty quick.

Aside from all of these tools, there are a number of books aimed at Welsh learners written by Colin Jones, who was even kind enough to read them aloud; they’re available on Audible, and I’ve bought two of them – Coed y Brenin (King’s Wood) and Cwm Gwrachod (Witches’ Valley), along with the Kindle versions so that I can read and listen at the same time. Obviously, reading and writing fiction are big motivators for me (Polyglot NaNoWriMo, anybody?), but I haven’t dared give them a go just yet. I’m still struggling to form sentences, I’m not sure I could cope with a novella – even one aimed at learners. Not yet, anyway. So while I’m still acclimatising myself to the way the language works, I’d like to thank whichever deity is currently on duty for Pobol y CwmSkärmavbild 2023-02-01 kl. 17.47.45. For the uninitiated – Pobol y Cwm (People of the Valley) is a Welsh-language soap opera that’s been broadcast since 1974, set in the fictional village of Cwmderi. It’s quite possibly one of the most ridiculously overblown and yet wholesome things I’ve ever seen, and I’m completely hooked. How many gay builders can work at one firm in a small village before one of them will attack one of the others with a pair of scissors on Christmas day? Is it actually possible to speak both Welsh and English simultaneously without so much as pausing for breath? Thanks to Pobol y Cwm, we know the answers to these questions (and more), and they are, respectively: two, and not unless you’re Kelly Evans (played by the wonderful Laura Phillips, we have absolutely no choice but to stan). I’m gushing now, but honestly, I love it. I look forward to Thursday nights when I can binge all three of the week’s episodes in one go. I won’t say it’s the reason I’m learning Welsh, because it absolutely isn’t, but it’s a hell of a motivator to keep going. One day, I’ll turn those subtitles off for good!

Well, hopefully this has proved helpful if you’ve fancied dabbling in Welsh yourself – hopefully before too long I’ll be writing posts in Welsh, so if you enjoy my nonsense you might have something at least semi-interesting to read. I don’t dare promise any more than that, I’d hate to be done for false advertising. As always, you can catch me on Twitter, Instagram and on Mastodon if you want a good chinwag about verbal nouns, start a Kelly Evans fan club, or even just have a chat. Thanks for reading, diolch yn fawr, and I’ll see you right back here next month. Hwyl!

– J.


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