Welsh in Wales: I think it’s normally a pretty safe assumption that most people speak the language of the country they grew up in. Well I’ve lived in Wales for most of my life and don’t speak Welsh, and my friends that do are definitely in the minority. In fact, the 2009 annual population survey shows that little over a quarter of people in Wales speak Welsh,* and the figure is even lower in southern areas. Why is this?
For those of us living in Wales, we were taught Welsh from a young age at school, and studied Welsh as a compulsory subject to GCSE level. But in my school, there was very little interest in Welsh and most of us scraped through with rudimentary language skills at best. Perhaps this regrettable attitude to learning Welsh is because its re-introduction as an official language was relatively recent, having only been given equal status to English in 1993. Before that, the Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542 had made English the only official administrative language in Wales. Even when the Welsh Language Act was introduced in 1967, it only gave limited rights to use Welsh in court. When you consider that we weren’t allowed to use Welsh in the public domain for centuries, it isn’t surprising that hardly anyone speaks the language here. But shouldn’t we celebrate this new-found right? Surely we shouldn’t waste a liberty which has been refused for so long! I think I’m going to make the most of it by learning a few phrases.
Here are some handy phrases for beginners, like me:
Shwmae – Hello
Bore Da – Good morning
Prynhawn da – Good afternoon
Noswaith da – Good evening
Nos da – Good night
Sut mae? – How are you?
Da iawn, diolch. A tithau? – I’m fine, thanks. And you?
Wyt ti’n siarad Cymraeg? – Do you speak Welsh?
Beth ydy’r Cymraeg am….? – How do you say…. in Welsh?
Diolch – Thank you
Hwyl fawr – Goodbye