Learning Welsh

Have you ever tried to learn another language? This week I am giving a week of my all too short holidays to doing an intensive Welsh course to add to the once a week course down at the pub which I've been going to since February.

Why? "Why bother when everyone speaks English anyway and it's fearfully difficult and you'll never be fluent?" asked the husband of a friend.

This is a tricky one because the answer is a mixture of offensively holier than thou and staggeringly trivial. The pious sounding bit: it is a form of respect for the country you have chosen to live in (no egg throwing please); the trivial bit: it was driving me mad that I couldn't pronounce road signs.

So far it has been one of the best things I have done since we came here. I love the class. I love the enthusiasm of the tutor, the gentle micky taking to and fro, the surprise of the new. One of our number is a woman in her sixties, warm and friendly and deceptively mild looking. After we had staggered through a particularly tongue twisting session I said "Well, we're practically bilingual now."

Quick as a flash she came back "And we were already bi-sexual."

Her 30 odd year old son comes too. "Mam." He groaned and put his head in his hands.

"Don't worry, Nig" said someone else. "She doesn't know what it means." We have a break and the retired fireman buys another round. It's as good as a play.

This week's intensive course might just kick me on to actually being able to say something to someone other than another learner. The teacher is bouncingly enthusiastic, stupendously organised, throwing games and rules and vocabulary at us, managing the class through its highs and troughs and bouts of low energy with the skill of a conductor with an orchestra.

And Welsh has such lovely words: hiraeth and hyfryd, penderfynnol and uchelgeisiol, respectively longing , lovely , determined and ambitious. One day I shall read the Mabinogion in Welsh but for now (and with apologies in advance to any Welsh speakers)

Dw i'n licio gweithio yn yr ardd ac cerdedd yn yr mynyddoedd (which I hope means I like to work in the garden and walk in the mountains).

What a fabulous language. This could be a very long term project. I'd love to hear from anyone else who has been down this road.


  1. Good to hear from you Elizabeth. Great blog, well told.
    Welsh is such a lovely language-I love to hear it being spoken, although it always sounds so tricky.

    I agree with you about respecting the country you have chosen to live-if we end up retiring to Welsh Hills, I think I would have to make an effort. Really admire you for sticking with it...

    warm wishes

    PS-I speak only a little French but can get by well in Greek-We have friends in Aegina, one of small islands and spent many weeks out there over the years. So I have made an effort to eat/speak the greek way when there, and the Greeks LOVE IT! Even the boys will order their food/manners/ask directions etc in Greek!

  2. Da iawn! Ardderchog! I've been trying to learn to speak Welsh too. At first just for the fact that if this were France, I'd be learning French. Now I want to keep up with my kids who are or will be going to a Welsh school. Hannah, 5, is already fluent, her teachers tell me. I've done Cwrs Mynediad, but from a group of ten, only one (me) wanted to carry on and do the second year, so the course ended. I'd love to hear how the intensive course goes - I haven't yet plucked up enough courage to have a go at one of those! But I'm beginning to get a bit braver with the language and start to speak it with my Welsh friends. Yes, I also think it's a long term project, but I have other friends who learned and are now so fluent you'd never know they just started, like you and I, with a once a week course. So stick with it. The course in the pub sounds a great idea! Hwyl fawr, PM xxx

  3. What does Hwyl fawr actually mean?! I'd love to learn Welsh - well, have a go anyway! Languages were always 'my thing' - but I bet I'd struggle now, especally with something like Welsh which bears no relation to the languages I aleady know. Good for you for being so committed.

  4. Well done, well done! I'm off on mine next week! it does help though doesn't it.. opps have to dash catch up soonX

  5. Goodywhoo is my favourite word sounds so much nicer than plain old owl.

    I would love to be able to speak Welsh and try to use what little I know with the children. My goal is to do one of those intensive six week courses when convenient. I am also hoping that the older two won't lose what they have learned now we are living in England. They were taught in Welsh for the last 5 years.

  6. Hi you may get this you may not!
    Gwynnynog country fair is on tomorrow a lovely walled garden there with B potter connections, it's about 2 miles out of denbigh up the hill through the town, it opens at 10.30 i won't be there until 12 ish may see you..xx

  7. Hi Elizabethm. Good for you for taking the Welsh class! I'd welcome any opportunity to learn another language. I think that the secret is to suspend all self-conciousness and just be child-like!
    I enjoyed your diary. We too have been looking at houses with our son and his wife. We have looked at some doozies!!

  8. How fab - would love to pick up another language. The class sounds so funny, very Alan Bennett!

  9. Good for you Elizabeth. I have tinmkered with learning Gaelic, my daughter is fairly fluent. These languages must be preserved, in them is a rich culture and sense of humour and identity which without people like you would be lost forever!

  10. You have inspired me to learn an ancient language........what would that be, in Derbyshire?

  11. Hi Elizabeth - hope the course went well, and you are so right, it IS a gorgeous language. When Jimmy was working in Wales a lot, he picked bits up and was going to do an intensive course as a courtesy to his colleagues but now his work has shifted areas so he hasn't and he is a bit sad about it.x


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