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Anglesey, Wales

Mind your language!

Posted by Jonathan Broom on May 03, 2018
Mind your language!

When visiting Europe, diligent British holidaymakers attempt to master at least a few words and phrases of the language of the country they’re visiting. Whether it’s resurrecting a bit of classroom French for a “bonjour” or a “si’l vous plaît”, or learning a word or two of Portuguese (“obrigado”; “com licença”), or Spanish (“hola”; “buenas noches”) – it’s polite, and it’s a tacit acknowledgement of your opposite number’s ‘nationhood’: you and I may look the same, we may have similar likes and dislikes, but we come from different backgrounds, different traditions. In large part of course it’s that ‘otherness’ that makes travel so appealing: so (to coin a phrase) mind-broadening.

And sometimes a smattering of the local language is a matter of necessity.

While not a necessity, the same should hold true for visiting Wales – particularly North Wales. Obviously not a nation as such: there are no hard borders, no customs officials, no passport control or anything like that – but while visitors can be assured of a warm welcome in the principality, Wales has an identity of its own, and is rightly proud of it.

You could of course argue: “yes, but they all speak English” – and yes, they do; but Welsh is far from a dead language. In fact if anything, of late it’s become more widely spoken, not less. Plus which, you could surely say the same for most of, say, Scandinavia; but a few words of Danish in Copenhagen, Norwegian in Oslo or Swedish in Stockholm are always warmly appreciated.

Welsh people certainly don’t consider their mother tongue as a second language, but as something of a defining characteristic; and it can only be courteous for the visitor to try and master a few Welsh words and phrases.

It’s not an easy language to get your tongue around, however: there are a lot of ‘ll’s, pronounced as a sort-of hissy H and L combined. Ditto ‘dd’, pronounced ‘th’. Plus which, many letters do not make the sounds that non-Welsh speakers might think they should: ‘y’ and ‘w’ are co-opted as extra vowels, and used freely as such, the latter taking on a ‘u’ pronunciation (the Welsh for ‘bus’ is ‘bws’).

But the following are just a few words and phrases that might just earn you a warm smile when you’re holidaying at Henllys, visiting the pubs, restaurants and shops of nearby Beaumaris or exploring the beautiful countryside of Snowdonia:

Hello     S’mae (s’my)

What’s your name?     Be’ydy dy enw di? (bay uhdi duh enoo dee?)

Nice to meet you     Braf cwrdd â chi (brahv corth ah khi)

Please     Os gwelwch yn dda (os gwel oowch un tha)

Thank you [very much]     Diolch [yn fawr] (dee-olch [un vowr])

Cheers     Iechyd da (yeh-chid dah)

You’re welcome     Croeso (croy-so)

Excuse me     Esgusodwch fi (es-gis-od-ooch vee)

I’m sorry     Mae’n ddrwg gen i (my uhn throog gen ee)

I can’t speak Welsh [well]     Alla i ddim siarad Cymraeg [yn dda] (alh’a ee thim sharad kim-rye-g [uhn tha])

Maybe not – but at least you’ve had a go.

Until the next time:     Hwyl (hooil)*



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Jonathan Broom
Author: Jonathan Broom

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