My Welsh learning journey continues…

It’s been a long old time since my last post (4 months!) but I am still here and my Welsh learning journey continues…

Learning Welsh for me is not just apps and audio courses but also being involved in all the different events life hands you through the medium of Welsh.

Since I last wrote I have attended my first Welsh Christening and sadly my second Welsh funeral. I feel honoured and blessed to have been at both as a member of the Vaughan-Evans family.

The Christening was for my husband and I’s niece and nephew- Dyfan and Elan- in Anglesey at the end of May. The service was completely in Welsh, 100%, and I was disappointed in myself that I couldn’t follow much of it even with the Welsh service sheet! However my disappointment was slightly diluted when speaking to some first language Welsh people afterwards who also struggled to match the service sheet with where we were in the service! Phew! It was a lovely day, incredibly special for Dyfan and Elan and the whole family.

In June we lost our wonderful Beth to a brave 18 month fight with cancer. Beth was my mother in law and so supportive with me learning Welsh. At the end of June we said goodbye to Beth at 2 beautiful Welsh funeral services. The welsh hymns and music were so emotive…it reminded me how powerful music is- it transcends language. Beth’s eulogy was delivered by Nick- a fantastic public speaker. Again all in Welsh and I didn’t understand a lot but the feeling and sentiment of the speech all around how caring Beth was transcended and resonated with me anyhow. It was as though without language all my other senses were somehow heightened…it was the most ‘present’ I have ever felt at a funeral and even though I couldn’t understand all the words I laughed and cried with everyone as Nick delivered anecdotes and memories. Near the end, Nick included a message to me. He said Beth told him how proud she was of me learning Welsh which was really touching and makes this journey in the pursuit of Welsh even more meaningful. 

At the end of June, The Vaughan-Evans family took part in Snowdon Rocks- an annual charity hike up Mt. Snowdon in aid of the ‘By Your Side’ appeal by Awyr Las (Blue Sky) who supports people with cancer and their families across North Wales. The family hiked in memory of Beth and everyone made it up and back safely. My father in law, Ian, and I caught the train up to meet everyone at the top so had some time at Llanberis as we waited for the train. Ian set me a series of Welsh challenges which I accepted apprehensively. I successfully ordered a Welsh cake and a cuppa at the cafe in Welsh. And, dauntingly, I asked a complete stranger if they knew where ‘Stephens cafe’ was. Luckily Ian was there to help me interpret the answer and you will be pleased to know we actually found Stephens cafe where we met the walkers as they made their descent! It’s about 10mins up the first part of the Llanberis route if you want to know for future…they make a good cuppa! Ian said encouragingly that that is a big milestone for a Welsh learner to ask a question of a stranger yn cymraeg. And I did it- WOOP!

Lots more has happened since then but perhaps I shall leave that for another blog post and I shall leave you with an update on how I’m getting on with my more formal learning….

I’m so behind on my Welsh learning app Duolingo with everything going on. Frustrating that I am having to keep going over old lessons to gain “health” before I can start new ones. But I’ll keep preserveering.

My goal for October is to also re-engage with my Say Something in Welsh course by doing at least 2 lessons….it’s good to have a plan!

Ta ra rwan!

Advertisements

A lovely gwyliau / holiday in Snowdonia

At the beginning of the month I had a lovely extended May bank holiday in Snowdonia National Park with Hedd and my friends from secondary school. It was a great weekend and Hedd enjoyed showing my London based friends the delights of Snowdonia. We climbed Snowdon, climbed Cwm Idwal, took them to my favourite beach Newborough in Anglesey and of course to took them to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch!

​I was so chuffed with our Snowdon climb. The visibility was fantastic. Plenty of “Mae h’in braf iawn” (it is very fine/glorious) on the way up! I’ve climbed Snowdon before but never seen the view from top before because it’s always been drenched in cloud. But this time the views were incredible. Plus a Welsh male choir reached the submit at the same time as us and treated us to a hymn which made the whole thing even more glorious!

​Hedd and I stayed on a few days and saying Ta ra to the London crew. We climbed Cader Idris- known as the giants thrown. Great weather again but too hazy and test out the claim that from the top of Cader Idris you can see all the way to the Gower in South Wales to the Great Orm on the North Wales coast. Hedd and I conversed in Welsh all the way down….mainly about food and what we should have for dinner that night! We were obviously hungry after the climb!

The month of May (Mis Mai) has been full of breaks away for hedd and I and so my daily learning on DuoLingo has been sporadic! Getting back my “gold coins” on after holidays when didn’t do it everyday is a bit of a slog if I’m honest and there’s been lots of repeating previous lessons instead of learning any new vocab which is a bit frustrating but it’s a good way to embed my learning!

Mid may we had a lovely (hyfryd) weekend in North Wales celebrating my sister-in-law Teleri’s 30th birthday. Fantastic day in Llangollen on a canal boat with the beautiful weather and friendly boat crew making for a great family day. On the Sunday we went with Beth (Hedd’s mum) to the “big breakfast” at Gellifor Capel in support of Christian aid…all very Welsh. And I conversed yn gymreag with some of the parishioners. After a few “rabbit in head light” moments after each question they asked me, I enjoyed practicing my Welsh with the support of my Vaughan-Evans family pointing me in the right direction with a few prompts! I even featured in the speech Nic Parry made to thank people for coming giving me a well done for learning Welsh! It reminded me how generous and appreciative the Welsh are with their language….they are so supportive, they love that I am learning and trying to speak it. I’m not going to lie, I felt a little in the spot light (!) but a big thank you to Nic and all the Gellifor Capel parishioners for their lovely support and encouragement.
In this last week I’ve completed Challenge 11 of my SSIW course. So far I have learnt how to talk about myself and to other people. In Challenge 11 I have started to learn how to talk about other people….bring on the ability to gossip yn gymreag! This lesson I learnt the Welsh for ‘he’ and ‘he is’ = ‘o/fo’ and ‘Mae o’ and lots of sentence combinations talking about this fictional man! I found myself using the pause button more than usual…I felt out of practice with the format after not doing a lesson for quite a few weeks. I think I need to make sure I don’t pause so much next lesson me so not to start a bad habit!

My ‘in the pursuit of Welsh’ journey continues…..

Ta ra rwan!

10 lesson milestone reached!


Hooray, challenge 10 of Say Something in Welsh complete (*trumpets, party poppers aplenty*)! I found repeating the new sentences in my Welsh before Catrin more tricky this lesson. And I have to admit I used the pause button a few times just to give me a chance to formulate the sentence. You see, in lesson 10 I learnt the Welsh for “to ask you” which when you start wanting to say “to ask you something” it mucks around with the order of the words, the syntax. You gotta say the equivalent of “something ask you” when you say it in Welsh….all very tricky to get right when you’re up against a clock!

Now I’ve completed lesson 10 I have a new daily listening exercise. Its crazy! 5 mins of speeded up Welsh- twice the normal speed- to give my “listening muscles more of a workout”! Imagine a conversation between a man and woman recorded, press play and then fast forward and there you’ve got what I’m listening to daily for 5 mins! I listen to it whilst on the train to work, and the mega speed plus the motion of the train has made me feel a bit tweasy at times!

I’m at topic 56 out of the 97 topics of lessons on Duolingo now so over half way. This has included over the past couple of weeks lessons on ‘the news’. 
Quite sad really, but probably not surprising, that the vocab Duolingo generates for learning about the news includes:- “man was shot, man was arrested, car was stolen, house was burned down, boy was caught, girl was killed/injured/burnt….” I was taken aback to begin with and then I was disappointed at Duolingo’s lack of positivity. But then I guess that it’s sadly reality. The News is rarely balanced between bad and happy news. But I hope that Duolingo teaches me more happy vocab in the coming weeks.

Tara rwan!

Two Weekends in Wales and Penblwydd Hedd

Where did March go?! Feels like I’ve blinked and we’re suddenly in Spring! Can’t say I’m complaining though; sunshine is out and I’m in flip flops! In March I also enjoyed two weekends in the trot in North Wales so I was able to ymarfer siarad cymraeg / practice speaking Welsh quite a bit. And we also celebrated Penblwydd Hedd / Hedd’s birthday. I won’t say the age but if you look closely at the cake in the photo and the clue that it’s fun to say in are Irish accent you won’t be far off!

For Hedd’s birthday we had Emyr and Manu to stay and Ewan and Ger came across from South Wales/ the South West. Ewan, Emyr and I all have partner for whom English is a second language. Ewan is with Laura who is Spanish, Emyr with Manu who is German and me with Hedd who is Welsh. We are all actively learning our partners languages at the minute and it was fun comparing tales and tips. We all agreed that we were improving our knowledge of English grammar whilst learning the grammar in Spanish/German/Welsh…I mean really what is the “imperfect”?! And all agreed that for us, learning these languages is going to be a life long exercise; we’re in it for the long game!

Sticking with the birthday theme, Happy Birthday in Welsh is Penblwydd Hapus and here’s what you got to sing:-

Penblwydd Hapus i ti, Penblwydd Hapus i ti, Penblwydd Hapus i (name*), Penblwydd Hapus i ti.

Simples!

​Hedd and I were fortunate enough to be up in North Wales for that blazing weekend of sunshine when the region enjoyed temperatures warmer than Spain and Turkey. It was a glorious place to be and we made the most of the weather celebrating Sul Y Mamau Hapus / Mother’s Day and doing lots of walking in Moel Famau country park. 

The video shows the view of the Vale of Clwyd (where Hedd grew up) with snowy Snowdonia and Prestatyn and the coast in the distance. The walk also gave me the opportunity to practice my Welsh opinions, weather and farm animals vocab- plenty of dafad/ sheep!

There were a couple of *caution Welsh learner* incidents, not going to lie. A particular favourite of the Vaughan-Evans clan is when I said in Cymraeg “think I am gay” instead of “I think he is gay”….confused silence and then laughter insued! And then Hedd had to save me in the Welsh shop in Ruthin (Elfair) when the shop owner mistook me for a lady called Meinir and I thought he was talking (in Welsh) about my necklace which was made in north wales by Meinir Wyn (thinking back, why would a random man know a designer of a necklace?!?) so I replied back (in Welsh) “yes yes Meinir” whilst Hedd look on completely confused and luckily stepped in to rectify the situation! Dear, dear, dear never mind….plus point- I obviously look Welsh!

Radio Cymru was on all weekend (standard!) and in the car journey up it was all about the build up to the Wales vs Ireland football game. I was chuft because I could understand quite a bit of what they were saying on the radio. My vocab on sport, time, opinions and being in a pub is obviously on-point!

Life and work has been a bit manic this month so there’s been some days when I’ve missed Duolingo, but I’m trying to keep to doing it bod dydd/ every day. I was also determined to get past lesson 10 on my SSIW audio course by the end of March but alas I only managed to complete challenge 9. On the positive though, the first half of challenge 9 I found quite easy, which took me by pleasant surprise. Second half was more tricky but I still managed to repeat sentences before Catrin circa 90% of the time so I’m pleased with that. 

So a new month and a new goal…to get past SSIW challenge 10! You know what they say…under promise, over deliver!

Tara rwan!

“Mwstas”- my new Welsh word fav’!

So I have a new favourite Welsh word that I have learnt this week…”mwstas”, Welsh for “moustache”. It’s a fav of mine in the English language so I’m pleased it’s an equally pleasing word to the eye and to say in the Welsh language! Not found an opportunity to use it in a sentence yet but I will endeavour to do so this week!

I am back completing Say Something in Welsh lessons- hooray! Still managed to recall learning after a 2 + week gap which was a relief! Having now completed Challenge 8 i’m 1/3 way through level 1. At the start of this lesson Aran promised that after completing all of level 1 I will be able to manage a whole week just communicating in Welsh…hmm, one step at a time eh!

Aran described the word game lessons as brain teasers today. And it really felt teasing as I strained to piece together the bits of Welsh I’ve learnt over the last 2 1/2 months to make new sentences; quickly having to decide if it past or present tense, if there’s a mutation, if the order of saying things in Welsh is different to English…all before Catrin starts to say the sentence. The game calls on me to park perfection and just give it a bash….80% right and you’re doing okay! I think I was there or there abouts!

In Duolingo this week I’ve completed lessons on ‘can&when’ and ‘describe 1’. My favourite phrase by far is “Dyn ni’n hoffi yfed gwin ddwywaith y dydd” / “we like to drink wine twice a day”!

We welcomed Hedds parents Ian and Beth for a weekend at ours this weekend. I was determined to speak Welsh as much as possible and I did alright. I think they were impressed with my range of vocab and willingness to practice. Or as we say in Welsh “ymarther”. And so to another week of ymarther ymarther ymarther!

Tara rwan!

Battling Through and Saying “No” yn Gymraeg / in Welsh

So it’s been a couple of weeks since my last blog post and since then I’ve had a long weekend in Falmouth (Cornwall), contracted food poisoning, had a hazy week recovering from said food poisoning and painted our newly spruced up bathroom (“ty bach” yn Gymraeg – literally “little house”). I can’t lie my Welsh has taken a back seat throughout all of that. But I’ve kept up with my DuoLingo daily (ish) and conversing with Hedd.
Last week on 1st March we also celebrated Saint Davids Day (Dydd Gwyl Dewi) – The patron saint of Wales. I’m not sure if it’s because my senses are tuned into the Welsh language more this year but I thought there was a lot more coverage about it on telly/ social media. The BBC website, ‘Give Welsh a Go’ gave me a few giggles (http://www.bbc.co.uk/cymrufyw/39117700) where they had got TV stars from Eastenders, Casualty and Let It Shine videoed trying to say Welsh words. I’m relieved to report that my Welsh pronunciation is better than Dannii Minogue!

On the Duolingo I completed a some what timely set of lessons on health (!) including the phrase “Mae bola tost gyda fi” / “I have a stomach ache” which I was able to repeat with conviction earlier on last week!

I also completed lessons on ‘order’ (as in before/after) and now have the following phrase in the memory bank “cyn i’r heddlu gyrraeddd” / “before the police arrive”! Not sure what eventually Duolingo is preparing me for there!

Sport was another lesson – “England has lost” being one of the phrases…we all know who DuoLingo are supporting in the Six Nations then!

My favourite word learnt for this week has to be the Welsh for whiskey which is “Chwisky”…you literally pronounce it like you would if you were drunk on whisky!

Whilst I am channelling my inner “yes” to the Welsh language as I attempt to get back on the figurative horse this coming week, to complete the series on “saying yes, saying no” that I blogged about a couple of weeks back, here’s how you say no in cymraeg.

Just as in saying “yes”, there isn’t a single word in Welsh to answer “no” to questions. Take your pick from the following options*:-

  • Na- no (caution:-sometimes can come across as a bit rude)
  • Nac ydw- no I’m not 
  • Nac ydy- no he/she isnt
  • Nac ydyn- no they/we aren’t
  • Dim- none
  • Naddo- no in the past tense

(*list is unlikely to be exhaustive…it’s Welsh after all!)

Tara rwan!

My first SSIW Oxford meet up

So this week on Wednesday I went along to my first Say Something In Welsh (SSIW) Oxford meet up. John, who is the organiser extraordinaire of the group, got in touch with me via the SSIW online forum and invited me along. Having never met John before I did think I should have suggested he wear a daffodil to distinguish himself in the cafe but a friendly face and a Welsh magazine on the table did the trick!

John has been learning Welsh for 4 years, has done an Open University Welsh course and a Welsh immersion course in North Wales. As I sat down after saying my opening gambit “Helo. Helen dw i” (hello I’m Helen), I realised I really didn’t have a lot of vocab to draw on to make Welsh conversation with someone I hadn’t met before! But I muddled through for an hour or so and I managed to ask some questions and understand John’s answers. John was incredibly patient with me and helped me move some of my predominately English sentences into fully Welsh sentences. I realised my Welsh past tense was particularly lacking…need to work on that!

It was great to hear his ideas for learning Cymraeg and he also very kindly gave me a copy of a magazine targeted at Welsh Learners called Lingo Newydd. He gets them through the post and the articles are colour coded depending on what level of Welsh speaker you are. Clever!

I also briefly met Richard, another Welsh learner living in Oxford, before heading for my train home; my brain abit of a blur. Whilst the SSIW Oxford group meet up every week, I think what I’ll do is see where my learning is at in a months time and go back for a meet up then. Think I need more vocab and ability to ask questions under my belt to really be able to contribute. But I’m proud that I went, met my first new person via the medium of Welsh and all on a Wednesday evening after a days work…phew!

By completing SSIW lesson 7 today, I’m almost a third of way through level 1. Although today’s lesson went okay, it was the first time I had a real feeling of the learning going in one ear and out the next! Hopefully I’m wrong!

Learnt lots more past tense in this lesson which is good and also learnt some questions starting with ‘when’ which I think is a handy addition. ‘When’ in Welsh is ‘Pryd’ or ‘Pan’ depending on the context of the question…yep never simple!

On DuoLingo this week I have enjoyed learning commands. By the looks of things you just add a -wch on the end of the direction word. That plus a voice infection exclamation mark and you’re good to go! Useful vocab I think for when Hedd and I are on niece and nephew babysitting duty!

I’ve just started learning some more opinions in Welsh too. I shall leave you with the Welsh for ‘pretty’ which is ‘bert’….lol!

Tara am rwan!