Welsh Speaking

Here are some hints and tips if you are interested in speaking Welsh, the native language of Wales. Around 20% of the population of Wales are Welsh speaking.

The Welsh alphabet has 28 letters
A, B, C, Ch, D, Dd, E, F, Ff, G, Ng, H, I, L, Ll, M, N, O, P, Ph, R, Rh, S, T, Th, U, W, Y

There are more vowels in the Welsh language than in English. They are of the kind often known as pure vowels, being more akin to those found in Spanish or Italian. Welsh has 7 vowels:
A, E, I, U, O, W, Y

As a guide to pronounciation it is helpful to remember the following points, which indicate where Welsh differs from English usage.

C – always hard as in ‘cat’
CH – guttoral, as in Scots ‘loch’
DD – as ‘th’ in the
E – as in ‘bet’ or ‘echo’
FF – as ‘f’
F – as ‘v’
G – always hard as in ‘garden’
H – hat (never silent as in ‘honest’
LL – no equivalent sound. Place the tongue on the upper roof of the mouth near the upper teeth, ready to pronounce ‘L’, then blow rather than voice the ‘L’.
O – as in ‘lot’ or ‘moe’
TH – three (never as in the)
U – near English is ‘ee’ of deep
W – as vowel sound as ‘oo’ in ‘fool’ or ‘zoo’
Y – (a) in words of one syllable as ‘i’ in did (b) as ‘ee’ in bee (c) anywhere else as ‘u’ in funny

Its an unusual sound found only in a few languages, including Greenlandic Eskimo and Zulu! To get the feel of the sound, simply whisper ‘please’ loudly and listen very carefully to the sounds you’re making. The ‘L’ should very briefly sound something like a ‘LL’. To pronounce the letter, put your tongue in the English ‘L’ position, keep the ridge of your tongue against the ridge behind the teeth and blow (or pronounce the English ‘SH’ as in ‘shut). It is the sound of air hissing over the sides of the tongue and past the teeth that produces the sound and the key is to slowly raise the sides of the tongue towards the roof of the mouth until you get the necessary friction. It should take no more effort than any other letter of the alaphabet.

In Welsh adjoining vowels are common. Ae, ai, aw, ew, iw, oe, oi, ou, wy and yw are the usual forms and are pronounced as the two separate sounds, with, generally, the stress on the first.

A further difficulty for those trying to recognise Welsh words is the Welsh system of word mutations, where a previous word can affect the beginning of a following one, principally to ease pronunciation. For example, “in Cardiff (Caerdydd)” becomes “yng Nghaerdydd” (note that the “yn” also mutates to ease pronunciation).

All languages have their quirks and irregularities. For example, did you know that English has around 200 irregular verbs in common use (I see, I saw, I have seen). Modern spoken Welsh has five. Yes, five (bod, mynd, cael, dod, gwneud). English also has two or arguably three present tenses (I go, I am going, I do go). Modern spoken Welsh has just one.  For more information, please see the article “Is Welsh Difficult?” on the blog Y Cneifiwr.

Bore da – Good morning
Dydd da – Good day
Noswaith dda – Good evening
Nos da – Good night
Sut mae? – How are you?
Hwyl – Cheers
Diolch – Thank You
Croeso – Welcome
Da – Good
Iechyd Da – Good Health