Caneuon Agoriadol (yn y Gymraeg)

No, I don’t actually speak Welsh. I do have a passing interest, though. You know which theme I’m going to start with.

Bob y Bildar

Y Brodyr Coala

Traed Moch

This translation’s clever. Individually, those two words mean “pigs’ feet”. Colloquially, however, the phrase means “a shambles”.

Postmon Pat

Sam Tân (Claymation)

Here’s an interesting fact – this is actually the original. That’s right – Fireman Sam was made first in Welsh and then dubbed into English. It was also dubbed into Gaelic fairly early on – both “Sam Tân” and “Sam Smàlaidh” sound better than “Fireman Sam”, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Sam Tân (Amimation)


More Fruitless Thinking About Languages

Why is it that I have more e-mails in my inbox in Welsh than I do in Gaelic? And I have none in German, French, or Hebrew. Even from my Hebrew teacher, whom I e-mailed in Hebrew but who replied in English.

InboxAh, anyway. Chan eil fìos agam gun robh mi ag ràdh mu dheidhinn anns mo bhlog seo, I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it on the blog, ach cha d’fhuair mi nòtaichean math às am measadh Mòdal a Trì agus chan eil mi a’ dhèanam h n Cùrsa Adhartais a-nis. Tha mi an dòchas gun tòiseach mi an cùrsa a-rithist ann an September (le cobhair Dè!).

Meanwhile, I’m no longer studying Greek (such a relief!) but I’m doing modern Hebrew at WEA, which is fun, because at least 50% of it is talking; but also a little odd, because with a year of Biblical Hebrew under my belt, I’m definitely ahead of the class. It’s useful practicing the talking, but most of the time, it’s more like I’m being reminded of stuff I already know than actually learning at this point. But still fun!

Le weekend passé, j’ai parlé un peu de français à la homeschool bush dance. “Ah, Rachelle, comment ça va?”

“Euh… Bien, merci…”

“Parles-tu beaucoup du français maintenant?”

“Euh… Non… Non, je ne parle rien du français. Mais… mais hier… hier j’ai cherché au YouTube pour le vidéo du OuestJet, le vidéo du Poisson d’Avril du OuestJet… c’était très drôle.”

Yes, you may wince in horror at my French abilities there.

Nous avons parlé un petit peu en français et puis, ma famille est arrivée. Ma maman ne peut parler du français et ma soeur peut entender un peu. Ma pére a dis EN ANGLAIS qu’il AVAIT parlé du français bien. Et donc, je ne peut pas parler en plus en français.

Jeudi j’ai entendu mon amie parlent en français avec son père. Elle a étudié le français avec le même professeur mais l’année avant moi et elle parle COURAMMENT. C’est déprimant.

C’est évident: je dois pratique le français en plus. En quelque sorte. Je ne sais pas quoi.

Und auch muss ich Deutsch üben. Ich hab’ das schon gesagt. Ach jetzt sprech’ ich immer noch kein Deutsch. Jemals.

So what now? Nothing can change, really, since I’m barely keeping up with schoolwork as it is. My New Years’ Resolution for this year was to stop running after every shiny new language that caught my eye and focus on ones I already knew. Well, that worked, since I did a Welsh intensive in February. I’m still eyeing off a couple of new languages for next year, such as Kaurna… and a friend has suggested we might do WEA Farsi together next year. At least I’d be able to speak Gaelic, Welsh and Hebrew with her, though.

That’s probably enough fruitless musing about my linguistic failings. I’ve a lecturer pestering me about an essay…


Thought of the Day #9

A little less than 1600 years ago, a little Welsh PK was captured to be a slave by Irish pirates. He went on to found a missionary movement that would reach not just all of Ireland, but also Scotland and the Nordic countries.


I can’t help but think he’d be appalled if he saw what people did in his name today.

About Me Yn Gymraeg

Mi scrifies i o efo tri gwrsai Gymraeg. Mae ‘n ddrwg gen i nac ydw fy Nghymraeg braf.

Sut mae! Rhunedd dw i. Dw i ‘n byw yn Adelaide. Dw i ‘n dwad o ‘r Alban yn wreiddiol ac dw i wedi dysgu Gaeleg yr Alban. Dw i ‘n mewn ysgol Cymraeg rwan yn dysgu Cymraeg. Dw i ‘n hapus yn dysgu Cymraeg. Dysgrwaig dw i ‘n yn brifysgol ac dw i ddim yn gweithio rwan.

Bidh mi ag eadartheangachadh an t-sgeulachd beag seo air Gàidhlig a-nis. Sgrìobh mi e le ach triùir leasan Cuimris. Chan eil mo Chuimris uabhasach math…

Halò! ‘S mise Raghnaid. Tha mi a’ fuireach ann an Adelaide. Tha mi às an Alba agus tha Gàidhlig agam. Tha mi ann an sgoil Cuimreach a-nis airson Cuimris a dh’ionnseach. Tha mi toilichte Cuimris a dh’ionnseach. ‘S e oileanach a th’ annam ann an oilthigh agus chan eil mi ag obair a-nis.

As always, if there are any Welsh-speakers around reading this, feel free to correct me! Obviously my Welsh is very, very basic at this point.

Language Update

Would you believe me if I said that in thirty hours, I’d spoken six languages?

Mind you, “spoken” is a bit of an overstatement when it comes to the last. Okay, so, four of the previous five (Gaelic, Hebrew, Welsh, German) have the CH sound, all pronounced without any questions or comments, and so does the sixth (Greek), and yet apparently it’s too difficult to pronounce. But that’s an old gripe. In my opinion, Australian or not, if you’re teaching a language with the CH sound, you can jolly well pronounce the CH sound! It’s not that hard! (And if it is, feel free to choke).

Anyway… Rather than rant about stupid Australian language teachers with dodgy accents (two of the languages), I’ll try and calm myself by detailing my abilities in each language.

ENGLISH (English) – no change, as far as I can tell, to my ability to speak English. Self-rating: C2

DEUTSCH (German) – as I mentioned at New Years’, my German abilities have shot through the floor in the last two and a bit years. Don’t get me wrong, I can still handle a basic conversation, but now I have an obvious accent and a more hesitant vocabulary. As for the grammar – I don’t know that I’d really remember much at all. Self-rating: B1

FRANÇAIS (French) – well, I’m probably not up to the standard I was when I did the Year 12/ DELF B1 exam eighteen months ago, but I don’t feel like I’ve lost much. If there’s any of my languages (other than English) which presents itself in my life regularly, it would be French. I’m not sure why, since I live in one of the Germanest areas of Australia, but I think a lot more people have studied French. It seems to be a pretty popular language at the moment. Self-rating: A2-B1

ESPAÑOL (Spanish) – I can still understand it. I could probably form a sentence or write a paragraph, but to be honest, I haven’t really wanted to since I stopped learning it two and a bit years ago. I’m not even sure why I learnt this language in the first place. Probably something about it being a global language and the only other option at the school being Indonesian. I never got particularly good at Spanish, anyway. Self-rating: A1-A2

GÀIDHLIG (Gaelic) – the only language with which I feel I’m progressing well. I’m not quite making the same leaps and bounds as I perhaps did last year, but we’ve got on to some much trickier stuff and I have less time in the week to devote to it. Self-rating: B1

GAEILGE (Irish) – I only learnt this for about two months before I realised two things: (a) there’s no way I’m ever going to be able to pronounce this language, and (b) Irish people can be really racist to non-Irish. Which resulted in me leaving the classes and never looking back. Ah, well, the more I know of Gaelic, the more I understand of Irish. I’d probably be a solid A2 when it comes to reading and hearing this language.

עברית (Hebrew) – after struggling last year with oh-so-much rote grammar and definitely not memorising lists and lists of vocab words, I realised that basically the only thing I’d achieved was the ability to read the alphabet and a basic understanding of Hebrew tense roots. And that first was rendered almost useless whenever I was presented with anything in cursive. Two weeks in Israel gave me the sound of the language for the first time, as well as a handful of phrases, some useful vocabulary, and two songs. I’ve now enrolled in an evening class at WEA for Modern Hebrew, so I’m actually excited about learning the language now. Self-rating: A1

KOINH (Greek) – all the gripes about rote grammar and vocab list memorisation apply to this, with the notable exception that I haven’t been able to escape to somewhere that teaches it like an actual language. I mean a modern language. You know, with speaking. As it is, I dread the lessons, which are both painful and dull, and got syllabus shock for the first time when going through it in the class yesterday. There is going to be so much homework for this, especially considering we don’t really seem to do any actual learning in class. Or speaking of the language. It’s all syntax, and most of that is just common sense. Yes, we’re reading 1 John, but it’s all, “Let’s challenge ourselves and try to translate directly!” Yeah, right, the only good part about the class is the bit where I get to read Greek out loud. Listening to a couple of the others try, not so much, but that’s the only fun bit, is reading it. I’m so busy this term, I’m strongly considering dropping it, since it’s the only non-mandatory subject I have at uni. And the homework is insane. Self-rating: A0?

CYMRAEG (Welsh) – this was just for a bit of fun when I saw the week-long intensive listed on the WEA catalogue website. In hindsight, it’s probably not the best idea in the world to do a language intensive in the first week of lectures, since I’m so exhausted and actually beginning to dread going again tonight, but overall it’s been fun. Welsh is such a fun and cool language. It has such a cute sound and in terms of vocab and grammar, it’s fairly straightforward. We learnt about mutations yesterday, which was all sort of fun and I’ve been looking forwards to. Gaelic only has one sort of mutation (lenition/aspiration), while Welsh has three (softening, nasalisation, and aspiration). Only problems are (a) the teacher’s actually Australian, although living in Wales for the last 12 years, and speaks Welsh with the most Australian accent I can possibly imagine someone speaking Welsh. Her blàs isn’t there! I don’t know how someone can live in Wales for that long and not pick up the blàs. And (b) speaking Gaelic gives me a distinct advantage when it comes to grammar, while being about 40 years younger than my classmates gives me an advantage when it comes to vocab. Let’s just say that after three days, the gap is widening. Self-rating: A1

Well, it’s a bit of a depressing, gripey list, but there you have it. I even managed to curb my complains about Greek in general and the Welsh teacher and other students in particular.

A Few Similarities and Differences between Gaelic and Welsh

Well, since I’ll be going to my first Welsh lesson, part of a WEA two-hours-for-five-days crash course, this afternoon, I thought I’d do a post about it.

And yes, I know part of my language policy for this year (which I might get around to typing up and posting at some point) was to not run after every shiny new language which catches my eye, but I’m sure I had a very good reason for enrolling in the Welsh course other than sheer excitement at the possibility of doing so.

Distraction from the woes and trials of student life with a sister leaving home? The ability to finally unleash a long-held desire to learn this strange and different Celtic language which none of my ancestors definitely ever spoke? The fact that the teacher is from Wales and probably won’t come out and hold the course ever again?

Anyway, last year at the Sgoil Nàiseanta, there was a Welsh-speaking girl there. Since we were about the same age, we ended up sharing a room, and we stayed up late on the second night nutting out exactly where the similarities and differences between our two languages lay. Some were expected. Some were more surprising.


The Grammatical Similarities

They’re different languages, but they’re still closely related, and after a comment from one of the teachers at the Sgoil, the first topic of conversation was grammar. Welsh and Gaelic do share grammatical features which English doesn’t have, which is only to be expected.

Like Gaelic, the verb comes first. Unlike Gaelic (but like Irish), it conjugates slightly. Like Gaelic, verbs have different positive, negative, and interrogative forms. The negative interrogative is formed with “nach…?” in Gaelic and “nac…?” in Welsh.

Like Gaelic (and Greek, for that matter), Welsh has no indefinite article. It’s “yr”, though, which bears no resemblance to Gaelic’s “an”.

Like Gaelic, Welsh lenites/aspirates/mutates/smooths initial consonants. Unlike Gaelic, the system is much, much more complex. Welsh, like Gaelic, also has prepositional pronounce, although it calls them “personal forms of prepositions”. This means that a preposition joins with a following pronoun to create a whole new word. I’ll use a preposition which is the same in both languages (but not when conjugated) to demonstrate:

AR                          AIR                         ON
arna                       orm                        on me
arnat                      ort                          on you
arno                       air                          on him
arno                       oirre                      on her
arnon                     oirnn                     on us
arnoch                   oirbh                      on yez
arnyn                    orra                        on them

Okay, that’s not very similar. I will point out, though, that prepositions cause the object to lenite/mutate in both languages.

Numbers, which don’t really bear much similarity to each other, have two systems in both languages – one based on scores, and the other decimal. Welsh’s score-based system is a little more complex and requires multiplication by nine a couple of times.

The Vocabulary Similarities

There is a major shift between the two languages involving the P/B sound in Welsh and the C/G sound in Gaelic. For example, “mac” and “mab” (“son”) or “ceann” and “pen” (“head”). An S-T shift (similar to that between German and English) also pops up occasionally – such as “sron” and “trwyn” (“nose”). On the topic of body parts, “leg” is the same, “càs” and “coes”, but Welsh has a word for “foot”, “droed”, while Gaelic just called that the “bottom leg”.

The word for “year” is similar – “bliadhna” (G) and “blynedd” (W) – while “month” is pronounced identically – “mis” (W) and “mìos” (G). “Week”, however, is completely different (“seachdainn” vs. “wythnos”). “School” is similar – “sgoil” and “ysgol” – but that’s pretty much universal. The names for different levels of school are completely different.

“Water” (“uisge” and “dwr”) is completely different, while the similarity between “fire” (“tèine” and “tan”) is visible only if you squint. “Fish” and “horse” are also completely different, with a clear Latin borrowing in Welsh (“pysgod”, as opposed to “iasg”, and “ceffyl” verses “eich”), while “dog” (“cù” and “ci”) and “pig” (“moc” and “mochyn”), and are the same, and “cow” bears resemblance to the Latin word in both languages (“bò” and “buwch”).

“Big” (“mòr” and “mawr”), “small” (“beag” and “bach”), “old” (“sheann” and “hen”), “new” (“nuadh” and “newydd”), and “bad” (“droch” and “drwg”) are all the same, while “glas” is “green” in Gaelic and “blue” in Welsh. “Black” is also similar, with “dùbh” in Gaelic and “du” in Welsh.


This isn’t strictly relevant, but I find the comparison between various names for places in the Celtic languages quite fascinating.

English   Great Britain           Wales                       Brittany
Gaelic      Breatainn Mhòr     Cuimrigh            Breatainn Bheag
Manx       Bretyn Vooar           Bretyn                       Vritaan
Irish         Breatain              Breatain Bheag        Briotáin
Welsh      Prydain Fawr          Cymru                      Llydaw
Cornish   Breten Veur             Kembra                    Breten Vian
Breton     Breizh-Veur            Kembre                    Breizh

It’s almost worse than the “glas” confusion.

I explained this to my roommate at Sgoil Nàiseanta: “In Manx, they call Wales ‘Bretyn’, and in Irish it’s ‘Breatain Bheag’, which is Gaelic for Brittany, and our word for Wales is ‘Cuimrigh’.”

She grinned and said, “Well, at least you know how to pronounce it!” “Cuimrigh” in Gaelic is pronounced exactly the same as “Cymru” in Welsh.

Film: Make Me Welsh

About: In some parts of Wales, the majority language is still Welsh. In Gwynedd, the language of instruction in all schools in Welsh. Children moving from other parts of the world who don’t speak Welsh, like non-English speakers coming to Australia, must spend a term in a language-cramming unit before being allowed into mainstream school. This documentary follows several of these children for a year.

Language: Bilingual (English and Welsh)

Subtitles: English subtitles, only on Welsh dialogue

Year: 2015

Time: 58 minutes

This is a series of posts showing you some of the films and documentaries I’ve been watching in the past months.

Film: An Féidir Linn?

About: The Irish treat their language much too clinically, with targets and deadlines and one body responsible for realising the dream: the education system. Marketing Institute of Ireland CEO Tom Trainor takes that a step further, visiting similar language communities in Wales, Scotland, and Spain (Basque Country) in order to form a business plan for the Irish language.

Language: Irish (some English)

Subtitles: English subtitles

Year: 2013

Time: 52 minutes

This is a series of posts showing you some of the films and documentaries I’ve been watching in the past months.

Film: The Welsh Knot

About: About 25% of children in Wales are in Welsh-medium education, many of whom do not speak Welsh at home. This documentary follows two teenage girls from two different parts of Wales, one in the heartland areas and a Welsh-speaking family, and one in South Wales and an English-speaking family, and asks them and other teenagers what they really think of the language.

Language: English (some Welsh)

Subtitles: English subtitles, only on Welsh dialogue

Year: 2010

Time: 58 minutes

This is a series of posts showing you some of the films and documentaries I’ve been watching in the past months.

Film: Patagonia with Huw Edwards

About: 2015 is the 150th anniversary of Welsh settlement in Argentina, in the Chubut valley, where several thousand people still speak Welsh today.

Language: English (Some Welsh and Spanish)

Subtitles: English subtitles, only on Welsh and Spanish dialogue

Year: 2015

Time: 58 minutes

This is a series of posts showing you some of the films and documentaries I’ve been watching in the past months.