Elizabeth Jane Corbett

writing her way home

The language of Heaven

Well, friends, I am all cared out. I have been to untold medical appointments, sat through an ACAT assessment, been on a number of snail-pace shopping trips, held a series of one-sided conversations, and watched a helluva lot of British police procedurals.

And I am still smiling.

It is time to unfold the third secret of my success.

It is, of course, Welsh.

Yup! That’s right Cymraeg.

‘Hang on,’ you say. ‘You’ve been learning Welsh for years. It hasn’t helped in the past.’

‘You are right,’ I say in reply. ‘But, I’ve recently stepped up the pace.’

Last month, I booked a trip to the UK. I will be spending three weeks in Wales. Two of these, in the North, where Welsh is still the first language. ‘Why?’ I hear you ask (gosh you are inquisitive tonight). ‘Do you have family there?’

No, I explain with great forbearance. My reasons are profound and also threefold.

  1. Because I want to
  2. Because I can
  3. Ac achos, dw i’n eisiau siarad Cymraeg (and because I want to speak Welsh).

The Welsh part is is actually rather rash. I am sick to the stomach nervous about the whole thing. Not about making myself understood. About actually plucking up the nerve to say something. It’s all very well to learn a language, and quite another thing to speak it!

I have tried to be brave while making bookings, throwing in the odd Welsh sentence, a few succinct greetings. And I have already made some fantastic mistakes. Telling one woman, ‘I am a tight budget’ (rather than on one). Asking another man what the word nwch meant (apparently North Wales Car Hire).

In an effort to boost my confidence, my friend Dai Tren, suggested I learn some of the North Walian dialogue, in preparation for the trip.

‘What?’ I said. ‘Won’t they understand my South Walian (spoken in halting sentences, with eyes closed, and an Australian accent)?’

‘They might,’ he replied. ‘But they will answer in their own dialect.’

Well, I hadn’t thought of that!

‘Fe fyddi di’n OK,‘ he said. But try and do the first twenty six lessons of  saysomethinginwelsh before you go.

Right, I thought, doing a quick mental calculation.

Fourteen weeks until I leave, plus two weeks in England. That’s two-plus lessons a week, not including the bonus lessons.

‘It’s colloquial,’ Dai said. ‘The way people speak every day. I found it helpful.’

Well, I have to admit, Dai’s Welsh is better than mine (probably because he does more homework). I decided it wouldn’t hurt to check this SSIW out.

The website made some extravagant claims. 10,267 Welsh learners. No reading, or writing. No revision.

In short a miracle – and exactly what I needed.

The first lesson was very colloquial. ‘Rydw i’n shortened to: Dw i’n. Rwyt ti’n mynd i fedru siarad (you are going to be able to speak), shortened to: ti’n mynd i fedru siarad. With a few kind of lazy words like licio (like), instead of hoffi, and trio, for try. But mostly it involved Aran (my new best friend) saying words and phrases in English and me trying to say the equivalent in Welsh, before his wife Catrin repeated them. I was allowed to use the pause button, at first. But forbidden to move onto the next lesson until I could say the Welsh before Catrin every time.

Now, folks, this is where the i word comes back in to my tale. Not a Welsh i – the Apple i. You see, I realised I could download the Mp3 files onto my iPhone.

Yes, that’s right! My iPhone.

This week, I have done SSIW while cooking, cleaning, doing dishes, hanging washing, cleaning cupboards and putting out the bins. I have even listened to the lessons while out walking. Although, this did earn me a few stares. Okay, I wasn’t wearing earphones (because of my hearing aids), so it did look rather like I was muttering.

But hey, this is Adelaide. I saw a woman walking an Alpaca, the other night.

So, there you have it, the secrets behind my week of caring – Skimble, Apple, and SSIW.

But, I must conclude with a disclaimer.

My friend Dai Tren, doesn’t actually have an iPhone. I don’t even think he has an iPod. Indeed if the SSIW website is to be believed, an i device isn’t strictly necessary. Likewise, some claim to have been helped by other, android, languages.

Me, I am not convinced. To walk round the block repeating Spanish, in place of Welsh, just wouldn’t work work. It just wouldn’t. I mean, for a start, Welsh is easier, never mind the extra vowels and the mutations. And so very handy. I mean, think of all the places you can speak Welsh.

What? You never wanted to visit Patagonia?

No friends, I fear my friend Dai Tren is probably just a freak. Those android claims nothing but a hoax. For, i, is the prefix of choice. And Welsh is the language of heaven.

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5 Comments

  1. What a lovely post! Good luck with your trip, and do let us know if you’re in the Pwllheli area at any point…:-)

    Oh, and you can move on to a new lesson when you can say 80% or so of the sentences before Catrin – we don’t want you to die of frustration…;-)

  2. Tahl-on-SSiW

    Great, funny post. I really enjoyed reading this. You’re going to have a great time. 🙂

  3. Dee

    From a Kiwi who spent a large portion of her life in Australia and now lives in Wales – Welcome to SSiW, and if you’re passing through Cardiff, make sure you drop a note on the SSiW forum and we can let you practise your Southern Welsh before you head to the wilds of the North 🙂

  4. Wow! I woke up this morning and three visitors from Wales. What a nice surprise. I will see you on the forum. 🙂

  5. Shw mae, Hanner Cymraes!

    I hope you don’t mind – I’ve added a link to this post on a story from another SSiW learner at eh WelshClass site on WordPress. If you’d rather I remove it, just say!

    It’s here: http://welshclass.wordpress.com/2011/04/25/after-a-year-of-learning-welsh/

    All the best with your Welsh – you’re going to love it here! (Wales that is, but the SSiW site as well…)

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