How far Welsh has travelled

Published 13th June 2013
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The land of my Fathers: how far Welsh has travelled

As mentioned in my first blog, my father was Welsh and my mother is Argentinian. Seemingly worlds apart, these two countries nevertheless share a common bond – the Welsh language. This is often hard to believe even for people living in Wales. However, true it is. For those unaware of how a Welsh colony came to be in Patagonia, Argentina, here is a quick history lesson. Very quick, I promise!

In 1865 a group of 153 Welsh settlers left their home country destined for the southern part of Argentina. They hoped would be their new Welsh promised land. Travelling on the Mimosa, they crossed the Atlantic and arrived on the shores of Puerto Mardyn. The land which first greeted them was not the fertile country they had so hoped for. Further travel was needed. Many continued the journey until they reached the more fertile land in the Chubut valley in the shadows of the Andes. Here, most settled.

After visited my mother’s home town of Trevelin, at the very foot of the Andes, I loved the thought of this ‘little Wales’ so far from its home country. Welsh Tea Houses are a favourite amongst the locals. Chapels stand proudly in the Argentinian sunshine. Peoples’ names are a wonderful medley of Welsh and Spanish – Jorge Williams, Eduardo Hughes, … My Argentinian relatives, whose first language is Welsh were astounded when my brother and I had to confess that we did not speak it. ‘What do you mean you don’t speak Welsh? You live there!’ Hanging our heads in shame, we placed the blame firmly on the shoulders of our parents! For not having made us learn a third language when we were younger!

The presence of what many perceive as a minority language in such a far away land fascinates me.

To think what an unusual ​language combination so many locals have! But this language combination goes a step further in that it is a form of Spanish which differs from that spoken in Spain. Car is not coche but auto, bus is not autobus but colectivo, out with Vale! and in with Bueno!

These are just some simple examples of linguistic differences between the Spanish spoken in Spain and that spoken in Argentina. I won’t even go into the Spanish words influenced by the Welsh language!

So, when in Patagonia, if you don’t speak Welsh, adapt your Spanish! This issue of ​localisation, that is to say, adjusting your words to the cultural differences of the target language is particularly pertinent in the field of translating. How much more appreciative are speakers of languages other than yours when you are aware of and deal appropriately with not just bold linguistic differences but also simple nuances!

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