Monday, May 14, 2007

Sut ydych i heddiw? (How are you today?)

Today's comments on Ruby's blog prompted some memories of my schooldays in a mining community in South Wales. Suddenly lots of stuff came flooding back. There's far too much to divulge in one small post, but I thought I would share a few things. As the comments were oriented around language, let's begin there.

Ruby asked if I could speak Welsh. Sadly not. When I grew up in South Wales in the 1970s, Welsh was treated as a foreign language. That's a bit bizarre I know, but in that part of South Wales only a small minority of people were fluent in Welsh. There was one local Welsh school where everything was taught in the mother tongue, but I went to an English speaking school where Welsh was introduced in the 1st year of high school (equivalent of today's Year 7). It was compulsory until O'level, but I chose to enhance my German and French skills instead. In today's cultural backlash, there is a lot more emphasis on learning Welsh and maintaining what was once a dying language.
I regret not spending more time learning my mother tongue, but my lacking in Welsh linguistic skills doesn't prevent me from the odd party trick!

Ironically, I chose French and German o' levels to expand my career options. However I have never needed to use my linguistic skills in my work, except on one occasion whilst working for a technology consultancy in London. Whilst preparing market research material for the Welsh publishing market, it soon became clear that most of the Welsh publishers couldn't quite make sense of the questions. Sadly yours truly was not of much help and was as speechless as my fellow English colleagues and consequently we had to invest in proper translation services. On reporting back to our MD, all he could say was "...and I thought you were bloody Welsh?"

A list of my favourite linguistic Welshisms

Oi boyo
Down by here (pronounced year)
see e.g. Well, we were going into Cardiff see
Dirty Mochyn (Wenglish means dirty pig)
do do e.g I do do this

and my favourite of all... I love the way people's nicknames are based on their profession or key characteristic, for example:

Dai Bandit (whose job it was to fix the gambling machines in pubs)
Dai the Box (our local undertaker)

Anyway, if you are planning to go to Wales and need some help pronouncing the place names, try this BBC Website. You can even learn to say Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch


Ruby in Bury said...

A lovely post. I love the name "Dai Bandit"!

We went on holiday to North Wales a couple of years ago, staying in a little cottage in the back of beyond, but in the vicinity of Snowdon. It was so amazingly different from anywhere else I've ever been. We had a great time, but the cottage we stayed in was a bit spooky :-O. None of the kids would sleep in the third bedroom as there were weird noises in it in the night!!

I read a book while I was there called "Travels in an old Tongue" by Pamela Petro - about an American woman who was crazy about all things Welsh, learnt Welsh and then went to travel round Wales! It was a really interesting book!

21st Century Mummy said...

The book sounds like a good read. Looks like she set a trend. Read this story recently: