Elizabeth Jane Corbett

writing her way home

Responding to a phone call …

I haven’t posted in Cymraeg for a while.

I bet you thought I was slacking off.

But rest assured the pursuit of bilingual proficiency is still gyda fi – with me.

Last week I learned about how to respond to phone calls. Now this is a great relief because, when I grow up, I want to live in Wales.

I plan to work in a library.

Now, I am presuming old ladies are the same all over the world. That somewhere in Wales there is a library, like my current branch, that specialises in services to the antiquarian female of the species.

Just in case you are not familiar with the antiquarian female. They are renowned for worrying about their fines – even when their seniority makes them exempt. They chase up their reservations with terrier like tenacity. They also like to speak to their favourite librarian – which can be a problem when a library service employs a new phone system, and their call no longer goes to a specific branch.

But not to worry. Now I have done Gwers un deg tri – that’s lesson 73, I reckon I am now employable anywhere in the Welsh speaking world.

Here is how I think it will go:

It is 10:01 am. The library opens at ten, and if the antiquarian female is not pacing up and down outside the library door, she will be on the phone.

Bore da, ga i’n siarad gyda Rhiannon, os gwelwch chi ‘n dda? – Good Morning, may I speak to Rhiannon, please.

O (that’s, Oh, in Welsh), mae Rhiannon yn mewn y cyfarfod, bore ma. Ga i chi helpu chi? – Oh, Rhiannon is in a meeting. Can I help you?

Nage, unig Rhiannon – no, only Rhiannon (you gotta hand it to the elderly, they are persistent).

Ga i ymryd neges? – May, may I take a message

Wel, dw i ‘n eisiau yn gwybod a Rhiannon wedi ffeindio fy llyfr – Well, I want to know whether Rhiannon found my book.

Beth ydy y llyfr enw? – What is the name of the book?

Dw i ‘n ddim yn cofio enw. Roedd e’n enw doniol – I don’t know the name. It was a funny name.

Gadw Rhiannon yn llyfr i ti? – Did Rhiannon reserve the book for you?

Wel, dydw i ddim yn gwybod! Dw i ‘n eisiau gofyn Rhiannon – well, I don’t know! I want to ask Rhiannon.

Ydych ch yn cael y card llyfragel? – Do you have a library card?

Wrth gwrs! – Of course!

Fe fyddi di ‘n darllen y rhif yn y card cefn, os gwelwch chi ‘n dda? – Will you read the number on the card, please?

Here, you must bear in mind that I have had to repeat these quetions a number of times, in a very loud voice, but I am not sounding harrassed or impatient. I am impeccably polite. It is the first thing we learn in library school – especially in regard to old ladies.

O, mae ‘n dau, sero, sero, wyth, pedwar, sero, sero, dau, pump, naw, un, pump, dau, saith – Oh, it is: 20084002591527

Ydy y llyfr enw y Guernsey literary ac tynnu croen taten cymdeithas? – Was the name of the book, the Guernsey literary and potato peel society?

Ydy enw yna! Sut oeddet ti ‘n gwybod? – Yes, that’s the name! How did you know?

Fe welais i ‘n ar y cyfriadur – I looked on the computer.

Wel, dyna deallus! – Well, there’s clever!

That’s it folks, five minutes in the life of a bilingual libararian.

I will not tell you how long it took me to write that crisp and rivetting piece of dialogue. Nor will I let myself think of the possible number of mistakes, contained therein.

I will simply sit back and await lucrative job offers from all around Wales. I will probably get Llareggub (that’s buggerall backwards, in case you were thumbing through your dictionary).

So I won’t be giving up my daytime job, just yet.


Guilt free chocolate …


My ‘almost’ good news …


  1. I like your invented word, “llareggub”, it will be my new go-to word in times of stress. I will pronounce it with a very, very bad welsh accent, but no one will know, because it has just been made up!!

    It’s better than “Banker”, which replaces “wanker” in our household after our children told us off for using rude words. But “banker” works on so many levels in this financial climate, don’t you think?


  2. I wish I could claim inspiration but it is Dylan Thomas’ town in Under Milk Wood. 🙂

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