Welsh for beginners
Croeso i Lanymddyfri!
Llandovery is a town where you will sometimes here Welsh spoken on the streets and in the shops - read on to find out more about this ancient tongue!
Why not have a go yourself? The phrases below will get you off to a good start…
How are you? (informal greeting)
Sut ydych chi
How are you? (formal greeting)
Os gwelwch yn dda
Welsh (Cymraeg) is a Celtic language that shares linguistic similarities with Breton and Cornish and is one of the oldest languages in Europe with rich literature and fascinating history. The earliest Welsh literature, epic poems written by Taliesin and Aneirin, dates back to the sixth century when an old form of Welsh was spoken in most of the western part of Britain, from southern Scotland as far as Cornwall.
Nowadays over 20% of the Welsh population speak the language fluently (the 2001 census showed an increase in the number of Welsh speakers in Wales) and it is taught in schools right across the principality. There is a thriving Welsh-speaking media scene in Wales, with a television channel (S4C), radio programmes (Radio Cymru), newspapers and magazines (Y Cymro and Golwg), as well as films, books, poetry, websites and blogs, all produced in Welsh.
In some areas of Wales, such as the northwest, Welsh is spoken by the majority of the population. This is not the case in the Brecon Beacons, although the chances are that you'll hear the language spoken in Llandovery and Llandeilo, especially on market days. There's also been a revival of interest in learning Welsh in the past few years, and Welsh evening classes are well attended, even in the more English-influenced areas such as Abergavenny and Crickhowell.
Since the Welsh Language Act of 1993, Welsh has been granted equal status with English in Wales. The act resulted in the establishment of the Bwrdd yr Iaith Gymraeg (Welsh Language Board), which promotes the use of the language. It also ensures that Welsh speakers can speak their own language in the courts and obliges organisations in the public sector to provide services in Welsh as well as English. This means that Welsh-speakers can conduct their lives completely through the medium of Welsh, should they wish - writing cheques in Welsh, filling in official forms in Welsh and educating their children in Welsh schools.
Welsh pronunciation can be challenging for those learning the language. Words such as 'tywyll' (dark) look as though they're made up of consonants, but in fact, 'w' and 'y' are vowels in Welsh. There are new sounds to learn such as 'll', which has no direct parallel in English. Try placing your tongue behind your teeth and breathe through it. 'Dd' is pronounced in the same way as the 'th' sound in the English word 'those'; 'ch' is pronounced as in the 'ch' in 'loch'. However, once the rules are learnt, they are adhered to much more than in English!