My fascination for Cymraeg

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Languages are actually great. It’s true that sometimes they give us difficulties, because there are so many of them. But I do think it’s great that there’s such a variety of languages on this globe we call planet earth. We learn about different languages in school and/or from our families and friends, but some languages are on another level. This is where I get really interested in languages and linguistics. When it’s out of the ordinary. I guess that’s why I’ve been and am so attracted to the Welsh language
Cymraeg.
I’ve always been fascinated with sort of hidden languages. With hidden, I don’t mean that they don’t exist anymore, or are not actively spoken, but wit hit I mean languages that are not spoken by the vast majority in a region or nation. Especially Welsh and the Basque language really interested me. In fact they absolutely fascinated me, and Welsh in particular. The reason why I want to talk about the Welsh language in particular is the fact that I’ve been trying to teach myself some Welsh, and it’s rather tricky! It’s a complex language to learn and it’s hard, but that’s also what makes it so appealing to me. I’ve always had the connection with Wales, because my grandfather was born and bred Cardiff. I think it was only natural for me to develop some kind of interest in this nation. I found that there’s only so much you can learn about Wales from reading English texts and with good reason. Throughout history, the English and the Welsh not always got along. In fact they fought out some wars, so it would be strange to adopt the english language as a source when it comes to the true hearth of the Welsh nation. That’s why I wanted to learn Welsh as well, trying to understand my heritage a bit better.
Cymraeg
The language is spoken in Wales and predominantly in the Northern part of the nation. Historically, Cymraeg was part of the language spoken all over the British Isle and had evolved into a full language in the 6th century. After the invasions of the Danes and Normans, the language changed on the British isle and Cymraeg was only spoken by people in the part of the Isle, that we now know as Wales. The Cymraeg that is spoken now, is known as the Modern Welsh which has been spoken since the 16th century afther the Bible was translated into Welsh by William Morgan in 1588. Before that there were other periods: Primitive Welsh, Old Welsh and Middle Welsh. According to the 2012 census, there are over 700.000 people in the UK who speak the language. 630.000 of them live in Wales and use the language (562.016 of them actually speak it. 2011 census). Approximately 110.000-150.000 people speak Welsh in England, 1.500-5.000 in Argentina and 6.000 in USA & Canada. It’s absolutely not a dead language, in fact it has an official language status in Wales. As it has an official language status, all of the official communication is done in English as well as in Welsh. You can see it on the roads and the signs, but also the letters you receive from the government. You can see it in the communication of national sport teams like football or rugby. This indicates the relevance of the language in Wales itself and the pride of it as well.
Learning
I had this period that I wanted to see everything that the Welsh have produced. From books, music, films to sports, news and papers. I wanted to see Welsh tv-shows in Cymraeg and so on. This was incredibly hard and even with subtitles on, I didn’t feel like I fully grasped what was being said. And yes it’s fun to able to say Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, it’s not the
same as actually knowing the language. I was watching a live football match streamed on YouTube by Sgorio and it was in Cymraeg. I loved hearing it, but I never understood anything they were saying and I really wanted to. That was the moment for me, to actively start teaching myself Cymraeg.
I didn’t really know where to start as it’s hard to start learning a language that’s so different from your own. In this case I had to learn it as an English speaker and that’s isn’t my first language either. I found that Duolingo is perfect to start with. I’ve now put some odd hours into it and I think I’ve got the basics under control now. After getting the basics, watching TV series en films were teaching me things as well. Watching Elis James, a Welsh comedian, and actually understanding a few things, that made me very happy. I guess that’s a start and while I’m not spending 5 hours a day learning the language, I regularly try to keep up with it.
I like to set myself goals, even if they take time. Learning a complete new language is very difficult and I have to be patient, but it’s worth it!

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  1. oktober 2, 2018 / 10:57 am

    Hats off to you, Marc – it’s such a tricky language! I took it for A Level so I’ve got a good understanding, but I’m nowhere near fluent. S4C, the Welsh Language channel (http://www.s4c.cymru/cy/) is a good place to start – try watching some of their cartoons and children’s programming for basic Welsh. A while back they had a Welsh Learners programme as well, not sure if you can track that down, but that was great for learning conversational Welsh.

    • oktober 3, 2018 / 6:32 am

      Thank you for your kind comment Nia! Also, these tips are great tips, I’ve found some of the Welsh Learners programma to be very helpful 🙂 Diolch yn fawr!

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