Posts tagged welsh language.
murderbynumber asked: Oh my, I love this blog! I wish I had known about it sooner. Anything Welsh and Wales is my weakness! If you don't mind my asking, what sparked your interest in Wales and Welsh as a language? Did you find it difficult to pick up? I'm currently independently studying Welsh and have applied to study in Wales, and it's so rare to find someone else who's interested!
Thanks so much for your note!
My interest in Wales began when I was a teenager. While my peers were out partying, I was home, reading about historical linguistics and “minority” languages like the Celtic family and Basque. I tried to teach myself Welsh, but the only book I could find at my library (this was before the internet) was a very old (and not very helpful) copy of Teach Yourself Welsh.
In college, I majored in English, but as I was getting ready to graduate I applied to various postgraduate programs in linguistics. My “long shot” application was to a tiny Ph.D. program at Harvard in Celtic Languages and Literatures. I’d never get in, but I had to try, right?
Well, I did get in, and that’s where I went to graduate school (at least, the first time around), and that’s when I started studying Welsh seriously. I spent a summer at an immersion program at the University of Wales, Lampeter, and by the end of that I was nearly fluent. For economic reasons, I ended up leaving Harvard (I talk about this on my other blog here and here). In the nine years since, I’ve lost my grip on the language, but I can still read it.
People are under the impression that Welsh is a difficult language. In my opinion, this is an illusion that stems from its unusual orthography: for instance, “w” as a vowel really throws people off. However, once you start learning, you find out that orthography is one of the great things Welsh has going for it. Unlike English, once you learn the rules, you’ll know how to pronounce an unfamiliar word just by how it’s spelled.
The grammar and vocabulary is also easier than you would think—at least for an English speaker, and at least once you get past the fact that you have to start your sentences with the verb—in part because of the Latin (and later, English) influence on the language. Irish, coming from a nearly un-Romanized island, doesn’t have this and is a much more difficult language for an English-speaker to learn.
Anyway, that’s my take on Welsh. I love the language, and I regret losing the ability to speak it.
John Thomas, ca. 1885.
John Thomas, ca. 1885.
Matson Photo Service, Welsh tablet of Lord’s Prayer on Olivet, ca. 1940-46. Source: Library of Congress.
Matson Photo Service, Welsh tablet of Lord’s Prayer on Olivet showing Mr. Hughes, ca. 1940-46. Source: Library of Congress.
Geoff Charles, 1968.
Geoff Charles, St. David’s Day, 1952.
Nodyn/Note: Image shows three girls in traditional Welsh costume at the School Eisteddfod.
[A group of London Welsh youngsters who spent the Caernarfon Eisteddfod week camping on a farm yard]. Source: LlGC ~ NLW (Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru/National Library of Wales) on Flickr.
Geoff Charles, 1959.
Geoff Charles, 1959.
Note: I about died of cute when I saw this.
Gwynfor Evans (Plaid Cymru) talking at Bryncrug.
“John Williams leading a congregation at Peniel Church in song at Gymanfa Ganu, a Welsh songfest.” Pickett, Wisconsin, 1946. Source: Wisconsin Historical Society.
Chromolithograph card of two women and one man from Wales in ‘native’ Welsh costume, posing next to a Singer sewing machine. Part of a ‘Costumes of All Nations’ set created as a souvenir at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.
Here’s what the back of the card says:
WALES, a great peninsula in the west of Great Britain, bounded by the Irish Sea, St. George’s Channel, and the Bristol Channel, and touching the English counties of Cheshire, Shropshire, Hereford and Monmouth. The population of Wales contains Brythonic elements mixed with Goidelic and Invernian or pre-Celtic, probably pre-Aryan. The principality of Wales in administratively a part of England, though differing more or less widely in blood, language and national character. It is a mountainous land contains Snowdon, the highest point in South Britain; and is in the north particularly picturesque. The climate is similar to that found in England. The Welsh language is generally spoken throughout Wales. The costumes shown in our picture are those of peasantry living on the west coast of Wales. The tall hats worn by the two women are exclusively Welsh, and are considered very valuable heirlooms, being handed down through several generations.
National Eisteddfod of Wales, Ebbw Vale, 1958 : Telynores Eryri and Dilys Wynne Williams in their Gorsedd outfits. Source: LlGC ~ NLW (Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru/National Library of Wales) on Flickr.
Geoff Charles, 1958.
Geoff Charles, “In search of the Welsh language in Ebbw Vale: Dewi and Olwen Samuel with Shan the cat,” 1956. (Source: Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru / The National Library of Wales, on Flickr.)
Photo-archivist’s note: “Image taken on a visit by Geoff Charles and John Aelod Jones to Ebbw Vale to see how such an anglicised area would react to the National Eisteddfod, during which they met many local residents, including Mr and Mrs Samuel, who are both teachers and both Welsh-speakers with Shan the cat.”