Elizabeth Jane Corbett

writing her way home

Understanding Welsh words – or, should I say, misunderstanding? :-)

Last month I attended a Welsh language Summer School in Aberystwyth. It was one of the most tiring, inspiring and exhilarating holidays I have ever been on. I reeled through the days drunk on words and meaning. When I got home, I found the Welsh language had entered my dreaming. If you’ve been reading this blog, you may have spent some of those moments with me.What you won’t know is that I also got filmed for Welsh television.

What? I hear you say. How could this be Liz?

Well, that’s a good question, and, if you are patient I will explain. But from the outset, I have to say, there was a fair bit of misunderstanding involved.

Right, now we’ve got that out of the way, let’s start at the beginning.

First, I learn Welsh. I go to the classes at the Celtic Club in Melbourne, do Mp3 lessons when I’m walking the dog. I also watch Welsh language television. Now, if you know anything about television rights, you will know that watching Welsh television from Australia involves an element of illegality. But for the purposes of this blog, let’s just say I watch short segments of Welsh language television on YouTube.

One of my favourite programmes is a show for learners called Hwb and, because I’m a cool info savvy public librarian, I follow the Hwb Twitter stream. I also spend time on a fantastic forum called Say Something in Welsh (yes, if you haven’t worked it out by now, I have a mildly obsessive personality). Anyway, in addition to the forum, SSiW sends out a weekly email newsletter and, as SSiW has links to Hwb (yes, Wales is a small place), they give us regular updates on what is happening.

One week, the newsletter said Hwb were looking for dysgywr o ddramor – learners from overseas. According to SSiW the success of Hwb depends on having as much interaction between learners and the program presenters as possible. This set up a rather uncomfortable feeling in my breast. Not only do I watch Hwb regularly and ‘illegally.’ I also owe my current proficiency in Welsh to the amazing SSiW team. And let’s face it there was no denying the fact, I am a dysgwr o ddramor.

‘If anyone feels up to doing a two minute Skype chat,’ the newsletter said, ‘just get in touch with Owen from Fflic television.’

Well, what could I do? They’d even provided the cyfeiriad ebost. I typed it into the address bar and sent a message – about our Welsh classes in Melbourne, my own language journey, the fact that I was planning to do summer school in Abersystwyth. All in Welsh by the way, which is where the word misunderstanding comes in.

Conscience assuaged, I pressed send. And promptly forgot about it. I mean who expects a return ebost from a stranger on television?

You can imagine my surprise when, two days later, I received an ebost from Owen. I pulled my dictionary out. ‘Helo Liz,‘ he said. ‘Diolch am dy ebost. We’d love to have you as one of our dysgywr o dramor (at least, I thought that’s what he said. It was all in Welsh). It would be incredible if we could come to Aberystwyth and meet you.

Wow! I thought, aren’t Welsh people kind. But why come to Aberyswyth, if I’m going to be chatting on Skype? It sounded like an awful lot of bother for a two minute TV segment.

Nevertheless, I sent Owen the dates of my course and turned my attention elsewhere. We were in the throws of buying and selling houses at this stage. I also had a five day stay in hospital somewhere in the middle. Being on Welsh television hardly impacted my consciousness.

Until I received another ebost from Owen.

‘I’ve been in touch with your tutor,’ he said (in Welsh remember). We’ve been given the all clear to film you in class.’

He added a date which was precisely three days after my arrival in Wales.

Great, I thought, I’m going to be jet-lagged on Welsh television.

About this point, it began to dawn on me that this was shaping up to be more than a two minute Skype chat. They were bringing a film crew to Aberystwyth and they were going to spend a whole morning filming me. Added to which, it was right at the beginning of the course. So, I’d be a complete twpsin on on national television. At that point, I made a firm decision:

I’m not telling anyone in Australia about this.

True to their word the film crew arrived in Aberystwyth. They gave me instructions. I understood about a quarter of what they said. I somehow managed to mutter a few things. Had manifold mistakes recorded for posterity and, to top it all off, no one wanted to sit next to me in class that morning.

At the end of filming, I signed the consent form. ‘Diolch yn fawr,’ said Owen. Bydden ni’n dweud wrthot ti pan bydd y eitem yn ddangos. O ie, hoffen ni’n siarad gyda ti ar Skype nes ymlaen, hefyd.’

By which I understood that the Skype chat was still going to happen at a later date.

I’ve been back in Australia almost a month now and, last week, I received another ebost from Owen.

‘Hiya Liz,’ the program will be on television this Sunday, 30th of September. ‘Please tell all your friends.’

My friends! Oh, dear, what a dilemma. I sent an ebost off to the course coordinators (I figured I owed them the courtesy). Considered posting a: hey, guess what, on the SSiW forum. But decided against it.
But the big questions was should I spill the beans down under?

On the one hand, this was a big moment. I’ve never been on television before. On the other hand, it was guaranteed to be embarrassing. I don’t even like looking at photos of myself, let alone a short film segment of me muffing up a foreign language. But what about my family? And the Welsh speaking world? It is a small community? What if people found out anyway?

In the end, the matter was taken out of my hands. The SSiW eNewsletter has a new segment entitled: Coming up on Hwb.

Under this weeks heading it says:

‘We meet Liz Corbett from Melbourne who attended a Welsh language course at The University of Wales, Aberystwyth. (Liz also learns with SSiW and some of us met her at the Eisteddfod).’

That’s the thing about the World Wide Web. It disseminates information.

SSIW has 23,000 members. Many in Australia. Some who even go to my Welsh class – the cat was well and truly out of the bag. Therefore, before any of you stumbled across my stuttering Welsh presence, I thought I’d better announce it.

Here it is, for the first and, possibly, last time in history, a YouTube of me speaking Welsh on national television.

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6 Comments

  1. It’ll only be the last time we see you speak Welsh on national Television if we don’t do that Skype chat with you!!

    The honourable mention is truly appreciated!
    Ymddiheuriadau am yr holl dryswch!

    Diolch o galon am bob dim, Liz!

    Cofion cynnes iawn,
    Owen

  2. Ah wel, efallai dw i wedi gor-ddweud y dryswch, tipyn bach. Mae fe’n gwneud stori yn wella. 🙂

  3. Congratulations, Liz, this is fabulous even though I couldn’t understand a word you said, except Melbourne.

    Your confidence grew the more you spoke. I think you’re a television natural.

    Well done.
    Chris

  4. Thanks for your good thoughts! And I look forward to catching up with everyone!

    teach yourself complete welsh

  5. Hello Liz – would you like to take part in a bloggers’bulletin called ‘The Next Big thing’ where you post information about your writing etc. It’s a one-off and needs to be done by Wednesday October 24.. If you’re interested e-mail me on marilynachapman@btinternet.com and I’ll tell you more…

  6. Hi Liz,
    Nice to catch up with you again. You’re braver than I am! I’ve been asked to do interviews like this and just never reply!!

    Laurel

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