Over the past few years (since considering myself as a Welsh speaker – rather than a learner) I’ve noticed a huge push with all things Cymraeg. Street signs, documentation, token gestures in the media, sports and elsewhere. It’s a stark change from around 10 years ago when people would say that they spoke ‘no Welsh whatsoever’ when confronted with the ‘dreaded’ question, “wyt ti’n siarad Cymraeg?’
Nowadays, I hear the response, “my Welsh is limited.”
Whether the amount of Welsh that people speak has increased in the last decade or not, the fact they’re more inclined to ‘admit’ that they speak at least some of the language is promising to say the least.
This morning I was watching a YouTube clip from an English-language Irish TV show and I was amazed to the see the support for the Irish language – a sister language to our own Cymraeg. However, my amazement was not found in the passion of the Irish-speaking guest nor from the audience members identifying as Irish speakers. My amazement came from the swagger and expectation that no translation (from Irish to English) was required to ensure that everyone understood the meaning. Throwing ‘go raibh maith agat‘ into the middle of an English spiel did not require repetition in English. (That means ‘thanks,’ by the way!)
Last night I went to watch my beloved Wrexham AFC (who beat Torquay 3-1, he proclaims proudly). The club itself have, in recent months, made a huge push off the field with their use of Welsh. I even had the honour of translating one or two items for the club – something I know I’ll cherish forever.
Just before purchasing my tickets at the gates I decided that I wouldn’t use a word of English – despite being pretty certain (which in itself is wrong of me to assume) that the Ticket Salesperson (who shall now be known as TS) would not speak the language fluently. This is how the conversation went:
Me: “P’nawn da”
TS: “Hello there”
Me: “Ga’ i dau ticed, os gwelwch yn dda?”
TS: “Of course, no worries”
Me: “Diolch yn fawr”
You can imaging the smile on my face.
I went on following my usual moral of using ‘diolch’ instead of ‘thanks’ at all times when I ordered my cheeseburger and fizzy drink and went to watch the mighty reds come from a goal behind to score three fantastic team-goals in the second half. Bliss.
Just before the end of the game, the stadium announcer informed the crowd that nigh on 5,000 were in attendance. He did so firstly in Welsh (where one or two smatterings of applause were heard) and then in English (after which the whole crowd rose to their feet to acknowledge a fantastic turnout).
Thinking back to the Ticket Salesperson and the largely monoglot English-speaking audience in the YouTube clip, they were also given no choice but to understand anything that was said to them in only either Welsh or Irish – and understand they did. Completely!
On the flip side, would the smattering of applause have been instead a roar of appreciation had the crowd known that no English translation would be provided? Would they have switched on to the language knowing that the only way to access the information given was to listen a little harder?
In Wales, we ALL know a bit of Welsh. And, with a bit of time and effort (and no switching off), we can understand so much of the native language that is around us.
So whether you’re lucky enough to speak fluently the language of the heavens, or if your Welsh is merely ‘limited,’ switch on. Read the Welsh first. Listen for familiar words and phrases when people use our language. Say ‘diolch’ INSTEAD of ‘thanks’ (or just before, if you must) at all times. Be proud of the wonderful amounts of Welsh you know.
Cymraeg am byth.