What’s ‘filiwn’ in English?

I really should be marking GCSE work right now but a little chat about contemporary ‘mishaps’ with the Welsh language can hardly be seen as procrastination…. I teach the language therefore it’s kind of like working! Glad that’s sorted!
When I was learning Welsh in school, the only way I looked at mutations was with the down hearted view that life wasn’t meant to be easy – hence why we have them in Welsh. Initial consonant mutations are found in all Celtic languages (but not Cumbric, according to my friend Anthony – see previous blog on Cumbric language!) and, I must say, do make the ancient tongues flow and sound better on the ear. Despite this they’re annoying at the best of times, cause constant head aches for all their users (why is North East ‘gogledd DDwyrain’, for example? Cymal adferfol, efallai?) and make things like this almighty mix-up happen….


Now to the non-Welsh speaker this means nothing. But if I were to explain that after the preposition ‘at’ (= up to) there is a soft mutation, and that both ‘b’ (as in ‘biliwn’ = billion) and ‘m’ (as in ‘miliwn’ = million) change to ‘f’ (therefore ‘filiwn’) with this mutation, we have a problem.
What seems to have happened is the Welsh BBC news writers received only a translation of the English headline in which to write their article. This being ‘It is thought up to 1bn tonnes of coal cold lie beneath Swansea Bay’, then translated as ‘Y gred yw y gall hyd at filiwn o dunelli o lo fod yno’. This has then been interpreted as being from ‘miliwn’. Confusing stuff. The article in Welsh then goes on to mention a tidy 1,000 times less coal is under the bay.
It was in a later conversation with a Welsh speaking friend where this ‘cock-up’ went brilliant! He couldn’t see the value in spending millions in order to retrieve such a small amount as one MILLION tonnes of fossil fuels. His arguements continued to angry proportions until I mentioned that it was in fact up to one BILLION tonnes. And yes, I did let him carry on for a few minutes before doing this. It was funnier that way.
And the following ‘gems’ only leave me with the idea that Welsh speakers are being plotted against and killed off!


Welsh translation: Workers exploding (but only the Welsh speaking ones!)


Welsh translations: 1) (Welsh speaking) pedestrians look left and 2) (Welsh speaking) pedestrians look right

Cysga’n dawel, Cymry Cymraeg.
Sinister (from the word for ‘left’ in Latin – how coincidental?!) smiley face 🙂


One thought on “What’s ‘filiwn’ in English?

  1. It is important to get a translation done right instead of having “that guy from accounting” do it over the weekend. I would also like to point out that a professional translation agency usually offers proofreading services (or just includes them in the translation fee). Believe me, it does help!
    Especially with medical translation, where peoples’ health is at stake, you shouldn’t be relying on something that could just leave you stranded at a critical moment.

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