Learning Welsh

I’ve recently been toying with a vague idea of learning Welsh. To put this into perspective, it’s one of a long line of vague ideas to do things which I have had over the years. Do not be surprised to learn, in ten years time, that I still have the same vague idea.

Actually, after reading my list of medical adventures, you may be surprised to see that I am thinking that far into the future. I don’t blame you for that, as I did nearly write “five” and “next year” before deciding to use the power of positive thinking.

After reading a couple of translations of theΒ Hedd WynnΒ poem I became interested in knowing which translation was more true to the original. There are two here and another one here. At that point I used Google, which produced a version that fitted in with the translations. As time has gone by I’ve started thinking I really out to do better than Google. There are internet language courses, so my only excuse is indolence.

I’ve made a start with some road signs.


I’m clearly going to have to expand my vocabulary if I’m going to make any inroads into translating poetry.

Apart from sloth my only other problem is that Welsh is the most foreign language I’ve ever seen written in the Roman alphabet. It’s even more foreign than languages written in the Greek or Cyrillic alphabets.

In fact, the more I read about Welsh, its dialects and its counting system, the more I feel that it may be beyond me.

34 thoughts on “Learning Welsh

      1. simonjkyte

        Was going to say if you know anyone in Wales nearly every library has a few copies in stock. You will be fine – whilst the vocab is a bit unfamiliar, the grammar is pretty easy compared to a lot of languages. With the one awkward thing of frontal case inflections!!!

  1. simonjkyte

    It won’t be beyond you. Your problem will be that even in Wales people speak English. Outside Wales, you may need to connect to people over the internet. But that’s not really a problem is it? the Welsh Government backs a specific course (which is in teh two main dialects)

  2. iantoddu

    You say you know of online courses, so you probably have heard of SSiW (Say Something in Welsh)? The first course is free (and the first course teaches you a hell of a lot), and it is excellent. I found it to be one of the best resources I used – I found it useful with any and all of the “real world” courses and books I was using – and it’s downloadable mp3 files, so you can use them whenever and wherever you like.
    Anyone else reading it should give it a try too. (Like I say, the first course is free).
    Good luck! You won’t need it any more than with any other language (the more unfamiliar the language to you, the harder the very initial stages will be, but that will soon pass!), but it’s traditional to wish it! If you start on this journey, you will enjoy it.

  3. Paul Handover

    Came across to your place to thank you for your recent decision to follow Learning from Dogs! Reading this interesting post of yours reminded me of my days of living in South Devon. There were some old-timers, born and bred Devonians, living in some of the smaller rural villages who could still speak the ancient language of those parts. When I queried the roots of this old language I was told that it was a dialect of the Welsh language.

    Don’t know the truth of that but interesting nonetheless!

    1. iantoddu

      Nice story, but unfortunately untrue. There may have been a few dialect words derived from Cornish (or the Celtic language even before that) – there are such words in all English dialects, and there may have been more in that – but the language itself would have been a dialect of English. (Even Cornish eventually died out as a living dialect [it has since been revived, glad to say!])

  4. squimple

    Go for it! I’m so pleased to have learnt to speak Welsh over the last year or so.
    Road signs are hard going, not all that useful to learners and often inaccurate!

      1. Rini

        No harm in learning now. I knew a guy who graduated with a language degree at age 60. You can do it. πŸ˜€

  5. derrickjknight

    Many years ago, in North Wales, when we were visiting a farming family, the wife referred to their youngest daughter as a ‘damage’. The husband snorted into his coffee and said ‘you mean an accident’. At home Mrs Farmer spoke only Welsh.

  6. jfwknifton

    I tried Cornish which is the same family as Welsh and it is impossible. None of the vocabulary is like English and therefore you forget it straight away. What does “glΓΆyn byw” mean? ‘Butterfly’ or ‘going by’ or what? Brain changes also make it much more difficult to learn a language as you leave childhood behind. Up to 35-40 OK-ish then it becomes really difficult. If you want to do a language perhaps try the French-Spanish-Italian group.
    I didn’t want to go on, but I learnt all of this the hard way. I won’t get that time back again!

    1. iantoddu

      I know many people past childhood who have learned Welsh to fluency. I did it when I was past 40, I did not find it really difficult, and know other people in the same position, so you are incorrect.
      It was simply your personal experience – one which does not fit in with many other people I know.
      I found it *far* easier to learn Welsh to fluency than Spanish -mostly because I had an interest in it – and also had people to speak to in the language. Those are the most important things.

      1. Lavinia Ross

        I took Russian long ago, and enjoyed it. The class was 2 hrs a day, 5 days a week. I did help our professor took a break after the first hour and brought in a cart with coffee, tea and schnapps. That was a LONG time ago. πŸ™‚

        Good luck learning Welsh. It looks interesting!

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