*All translations in this post were made possible by the infallible Google Translate.

If you read my post called Watch Your Language!, you know that, for me, learning a new language qualifies as a gratifying pastime.  I spent many years studying Spanish in school and I undertook French-learning as an adult.  Before going to Italy I taught myself using Italian for Dummies™ and found that, because of its similarity to its Romance brethren, I was picking it up quite readily by the end of that trip.  All good, right?

Enter Welsh.

This summer we’ll be in Britain.  Over the course of our three-week trip, four days will be spent in Wales (Cymru).  Always wanting to make a linguistic effort in the countries I visit, I have spent some time making a handy cheat-sheet of Welsh phrases, which I will carry around with me as I interact (rhyngweithio) with the locals.  Frankly, it’s giving me a fit.  The pronunciation is so wackadoo unlike the Romance languages I’m used to that I’m not quite sure how I’m going to manage.  (If the Romance languages are siblings, Welsh is like their 2nd cousin once removed, and at family reunions, English and Welsh keep to opposite sides of the room, because previous attempts at small talk have been awkward at best.)


Part of the Celtic branch of the linguistic family tree, Welsh is well-known for its long, indecipherable letter combinations and tongue-torquing pronunciation, but even short Welsh words can be a confusing mass of vowels and consonants for the wide-eyed neophyte.  The word beer, for example – cwrw – has me grateful I’m a wine (gwin)-drinker.

Wales 4
On Youtube, this meteorologist correctly pronounces this 58-letter Welsh place name.  If only he were that skilled at predicting the weather.

So I had a brilliant idea.  If you’re familiar with the Nextdoor.com website, you know it’s kind of like Facebook, but for local neighborhoods.  People log on to see if their neighbors have, say, a bone saw (gwelodd esgyrn) they can borrow, or to ask for help identifying the animal scat they found in their yard*, or to inquire if anyone else heard that loud banging sound at 2:00 am.  That’s it!, I thought.  I’ll put out a Nextdoor request for a Welsh speaker!  Meet me at the local Caribou – that’s Minnesotan for “Starbuck’s” – and I’ll buy you a coffee and pastry in exchange for 30 minutes of your time teaching me how to say all the phrases on my list.

Naturally, the husband laughed and laughed (chwarddodd a chwarddodd), predicting with annoying confidence that there isn’t a Welsh speaker within a thousand mile radius of where we live.  Anyone who responds, he added, is just a lying mooch looking for a free breakfast.

The good news is that I didn’t have to buy breakfast for a lying mooch.  The bad news (newyddion drwg) is that it’s because nobody responded to my request.  (Yet, when I posted that I was giving away a bunch of overgrown perennials I had dug up from the garden, they were gone within an hour!)  Worse yet, the husband was proven right, something that practically guarantees that he’ll become at least temporarily insufferable to be around.

So what’s a Midwestern French-and-Spanish-speaking, Welsh-speaking-wanna-be to do?  Well, as the husband says, “If I didn’t have any pants, I wouldn’t be able to fly by the seat of them.”  I have pants.  I’m going to have to fly by the seat of them.  Perhaps when we’re actually in Wales a kindly Welsh person will take pity on me and sit down with me to go over the pronunciation.  If so, it will almost certainly be over several glasses of gwin.

Welsh 2

*The “mystery animal scat” question was posted just this week.  Several people responded with “deer,” but there was also “Sasquatch,” “grizzly bear,” “Bigfoot,” and “young wooly mammoth.”  Then one of the authoritative “deer” responders got mad that people were leaving less-than-serious responses.  Then someone responded with a picture of himself capturing a Sasquatch.  So Nextdoor.com?  Helpful and entertaining.

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“I’m a certified Bigfoot tracker. This creature has been successfully captured and released back into the wild.”

Author’s note: I’m disappointed that none of you speaks Welsh, but thank you, neighbors, for giving me a prolonged and hearty belly-laugh, just like I’ll be giving the Welsh when they hear me butcher (cigydd) their language.

Related post: UK Road Trip, Part 3: Wales


51 thoughts

  1. I had so much fun reading this, well done for taking up the Welsh language, it looks amazingly challenging but so does all the languages before we get to use them with natives. Have a great trip

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree here! I lived in Wales for a while and duolingo was awesome to connect more with local people 🙂

      You can also learn how to pronounce Llanfair PG (that’s how we used to shortcut it) on youtube in a children’s song:

      It’s actually not so difficult after listening to this. If you can pronounce it, it’s like one of those party tricks to show people around you hahaha.

      You’ll see, if you haven’t been there already, in Wales you’ll meet loads of lovely Welsh people trying to teach you one phrase or two! I recommend especially exploring the island of Anglesey, which is where Llanfair PG is also located (just not sure if I’m too late with my recommendation now :)) .

      Oh I love Wales 😀 Enjoy!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for the info. Alas, we left Wales yesterday (though we’re currently in Ludlow and went back into Wales quite by accident on a long bike 🚲 ride today. Nevertheless, I will definitely check out that YouTube video when we get home. That sounds like fun! Incidentally, that was my first time in Wales and I just loved it. Gorgeous scenery. I’ll bet it was a great place to live.


  2. I truly admire your effort to learn Welsh, and also thank you for the hilarity of this post, a wonderful break in the tedium of sitting at the Subaru dealership waiting for service. Now I’m feeling encouraged to pick back up on Duolingo and work on my Spanish – if for no other reason than to know the translations of so many street and place names out west.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! You’ve made my day! As for Subarus – as soon as we get back from England I’m buying a new car… a Subaru Crosstrek. Had a Forester years ago and loved it but after 3 years a huge buck decided to do head-butting practice against it while we were going 75mph, so the Forester (and the buck 😦 ) were no more. Then I bought a Ford Fiesta. Big mistake. I knew Ford’s reputation, but went ahead anyway. I’m going back to Subaru and I can’t wait. I just wish their new plug-in hybrid Crosstrek was available in the Midwest. Currently it’s only available on the coasts. What model do you have?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Holy Moly! Glad you guys were ok after the collision with the buck. We have a 2015 Outback. I’m excited for you about the new car! The Crosstrek is awesome, we just needed more space. My only regret is that we couldn’t afford to upgrade to the 3.6 litre engine, which could handle the mountain drives better and allow for towing a camper without taxing the engine. The new Foresters look great too.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. How the Forester handled that crash is one of the reasons I love Subaru. Both airbags went off, the car was totaled, and the sheriff said he’d never seen a deer land that far away from the point of impact. This happened around 9pm (on Thanksgiving Eve) and yet the next morning we had only mildly sore pecs from where the airbags hit us and we were off to do a 5-mile Turkey Trot with no problems. If that buck had hit my Fiesta I’d be flattened like a pancake!


      3. Wow, that is truly amazing! This is our first Subaru and I love it so much. I’ve never felt safer in any other car. They are putting new tires on it today so I’m ready to put another 50,000 miles on it over the next to years just as we did the last two.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Firstly, it would be easy for me to laugh while thinking about you trying to pronounce some of those words, so I will *hahahahahaha* BUT some of them are really hard for me too and I was born there. I’m also weirdly touched that someone is making the effort to learn the language of my fathers (especially as I stopped learning it at age 14) and even if it will sound like a cat with a blocked nose eating a pretzel, I hope you can meet someone in Wales that not only understands you but actually speaks back to you in Welsh. Have a great trip and spill some beer on the holy ground for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha ha! I agree! Though I do believe all those Ws are vowels… at least some of the time. I started DuoLingo at the suggestion of another one of my blog buddies and I now know how to say, “Good morning.” That’s it, though. I’ll work on “Good evening” later today. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. My mother’s side of the family was from Wales. My mother and her sisters could speak a little bit of Welsh, but I learned not a word of it. I’ve been to Wales [once a long time ago] and my memory isn’t of the language but of the beauty. Oh my goodness was it pretty everywhere I looked. Hope it’s the same way for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. WOW!! I had no clue that the Welsh language was this complicated. I admire your eagerness to learn. I really want to improve on my Spanish, but always seem to get sidetracked when I try and make time.

    Have an amazing trip!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great photos of the sasquatch.

    And with the important stuff out of the way: My partner and I were driving around Wales on very back roads at one point (it’s, oh five or six hours from where we living Cornwall). She was driving and I was making a desperate attempt to navigate, but I couldn’t take in the pattern of the letters, and from every place-name sign we passed all I could absorb was that it had a double L. And every place in Wales has a double L. I gather it’s a law of some sort. Take the bus or prepare to be lost.

    On the other hand, it’s beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! We’re actually in Wales at this very moment. Just waking up to extreme soreness as we climbed Snowden yesterday. Yes, the double Ls are a doozy, especially since I studied Spanish in school and desperately want to pronounce them the way Spaniards do. Driving to Carnaerfon today. Wish us luck!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Just turn left at the double L and you’ll be fine. I studied Spanish too and I agree, it didn’t help. Or it sort of did. We stayed at a B & B in Llangollen where the woman who ran it spent some time teaching us to pronounce it. (I think our efforts amused the hell out of her). As far as I could understand it, you combine Spain’s version of the double L with a kind of throat clearing. Unless, of course, I got it completely wrong, which is possible.

        Enjoy your trip. I’m impressed with you climbing Snowden.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Ooch noo lassie what ar’ yew thinkin? Welsh!
    O my God. Welsh?! The pronunciation is next level. My next door neighbour is Welsh but Melbourne is a bit far away. No Welsh choirs nearby ? Love the post, a very entertaining read. I am sure the locals will appreciate you trying. Just go to the local pub when you get there and give it a whirl. The Trainer is a bit of a linguist I’ll get an idea from him …

    Liked by 1 person

  8. My mom’s family is in South Wales (Newport). Very few speak Welsh. Very few. They say some of the kids are learning it in school, but the only adults I know who speak it took it up as adults and also rarely get chances to practice. I know there are places in the north where it is more prominent, but overall good ole English will serve you best. (I do love the cadence that comes from the language. I never come home speaking with an accent, but do sometimes adopt that beautiful musical cadence.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Our experience pretty much matches what you said. We were up in northern Wales and we did overhear some older people speaking Welsh. (You’re right – it does have a musical lilt to it.) What surprised me was not just the number of Welsh people who don’t speak Welsh, but also how many English people were working at shops and restaurants in Wales and didn’t know a lick of Welsh! Thanks for commenting and following!


  9. I like that your making the effort to learn Welsh! I hate it when us English just rock up places in total confidence that everyone will speak English and there’s no point in giving the language a go.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Learning a new language for travel is definitely my favorite incentive! I hate when people travel places and didn’t even bother to learn the basics. Though, we did struggle when we were in Iceland to say even “please” and “thank you!” I felt so bad, but everyone was really kind and said “it’s a hard language, and we know it!” ☺️

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Two destinations we’re interested in as well! Can’t wait to see what you share from there. Yes, we agree, it’s about making the effort to show you respect the culture you chose to come learn from and enjoy! Happy travels!

        Liked by 1 person

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