Monday, 22 October 2012

Resolutions Revisited: Part 1 of 4

The end of the year is nigh. Browsing this year’s meagre blog offerings I see the “Resolutions of a (Nearly) 40 Something” I rashly posted for all and sundry to see. With just 10 weeks of 2012 remaining it’s time to assess progress.

First up, my resolution to learn Welsh.

Sut mae! Dw i’n dysgu Cymraeg ers mis Ionawr. Dw i’n gwybod llawer o eiriau, ond mae e’n iaith anodd i siarad ac yn anodd iawn i ddeall! Which, roughly paraphrased and translated, means I may be learning Welsh but that doesn’t mean I understand a single word of it! If only everyone spoke the language with the same careful enunciation as my tutor, or in the slow, occasionally painful manner of my classmates and I where long pauses between words whilst one brain rummages through a swirling mass of vocabulary, grammar and conjugations give the other brain sufficient time to dissect the sequence of strangled vowels and consonants and perform an on the hoof (of a lame pony) translation. The reality is that Welsh spoken by a native speaker goes in one ear as a stream of noises, shoots straight across the void of incomprehension and out the other ear, leaving behind nothing but a blank, slightly panicked expression. To be fair, without exception not one of the Welsh men and women on whom I’ve inflicted my fledgling linguistic skills has rebuffed my attempts to speak their language. The response is invariably pleasure that I want to learn, patience in abundance and a twinkle in the eye when they catch me out with a tricky word.

I’m learning to love the quirks of Welsh: the seamless merging of Welsh and English within a sentence, my personal favourites being the expression “dim probs” (no problem); the use of “bach” (small) as a term of endearment for anyone of any age and any sex and regardless of whether you’ve known that person for 30 seconds or 30 years; popping to the “ty bach” (little house) instead of the loo; adopting phonetic versions of an English word in place of the traditional Welsh, like “brecwast” (breakfast) and “plisman” (policeman). But I have no love for the Welsh mutations – these are the X-Men of the language, letters morphing into other letters, letters that clone themselves, letters that can simply disappear. When does a “cath” (cat) become a “gath”? Why does the number five switch from “pump” to “bum”? Who can find the way to Caerdydd (Cardiff) when suddenly it’s Nghaerdydd? Do I live at bucolic “Banceithin” or vampiric “Fanceithin”? These are the questions that trouble the learner of the dark art of Welsh, and the answers to which must be accepted without further question or else forever be confused.

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