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!

Saying “Yes” yn Gymreag / in Welsh


I remember quite vividly the first time I discovered that there was no single word in Welsh that answers “yes” to questions. I was dumbstruck. But I just want to say yes! Why can’t I just say yes?! [add expletives]!

I now come to think of it as one of the many things that makes Welsh unique and heck it’s a challenge why not! I still find myself playing the “yes roulette” when up staying with the V-E’s. The family are quite patient with me as I pause to make my choice from the plethora of ways to be accepting in Welsh. I’m happy to report that the odds in me making the right choice are improving!

So brace yourselves, these are the many ways to say “yes” yn Gymreag / in Welsh…well the ways I’ve discovered so far! (Oh yes I’m sure there are more ways than 9!)

  • Ydw- yes, I am.
  • Ydy- yes, he/she is.
  • Ydyn- yes, we/they are.
  • Oes- yes, she/he does.
  • Ie- yes (to questions that don’t start with a verb e.g. Is this yours?)
  • Byddi- yes, you will
  • Cei- yes, you can
  • Oedd- yes, it was
  • Do- yes, we/he/she/I did (where action completed in past tense)

Annnddd breath! As Hedd said to me this evening, why only have 1 way to say “yes” when you can have 9!

So now to the report of my learning over the last 7 days…well I’ve started my 5 minute a day SSIW listening exercise. Aran now narrates my train journey Kings Sutton to Heyford each morning! He gets around that SSIW producer!

Yesterday I completed Challenge 6 of the Level 1 SSIW course. Ooh it was a long one at 47mins. Longest one yet. I struggled come the end I have to admit as the left side of my brain ached from concentrating for so long. But I reckon I spoke 80% + of phrases right so I was pleased with that.
Keeping all my lesson “coins” gold in Duolingo has been a challenge this last week which is a shame because I’m looking forward to getting started on the next lessons in the app. They are entitled ‘commands 1’ and ‘commands 2’…watch out Hedd!

This week I’ve also discovered another learning resource. It’s called ‘Daily Welsh’ on the Pinterest app. There is a vocab sheet for near enough every occasion, including ‘The Face’. So I just gotta find the complimentary ‘The Body’ vocab sheet and then I’m good to go on the nursery rhyme Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes!

Tara am rwan!

My first visit to Wales


This weekend was my first visit to Wales to see the V-E family since starting to learn Welsh. I was a little apprehensive that I would be bombarded with Welsh and have to embarrassingly blink blankly back at the converser. But none of that happened at all and I actually really enjoyed practicing my Welsh in real life. The photo above is of the Vale of Clwyd which I took on my walk this morning. Never get bored of that view.

Wel-ish was spoken in full force by me, encouraged by Ian, Hedds dad, who says that over time there would be less English in the sentences but not to worry about it. It’s better to say half a sentence in Welsh than resorting to English completely because I haven’t learnt or remembered perhaps just one Welsh word.

The whole V-E family were very supportive and I even got a “I’m impressed” which I took with great appreciation. I made the most of being in BBC Radio Cymru signal catchment and had that playing in the car all weekend, so I got a bit of immersive learning as we traveled about. I honed my ‘Wales supporter’ vocabulary during the Wales v Italy Six Nations Rugby game (Wales won 33-7, get in!). And I practiced my weather and animal vocab on Hedd and Awel as we strolled the Welsh hills. So all and all a pleasing weekend on the Welsh practice front!

As per I’ve been completing at least 2 lessons on Duolingo each day. This week I have enjoyed lessons on family and weddings. Bride/ groom / mother in law/ wedding dress- all vital vocab for a priodas (wedding) lover like me! Duolingo is also equipping me to be decisive, completing lessons on “must” and “must not”. Watch out Hedd!

Today I completed challenge 5 of ‘Say something in Welsh’ (SSIW) audio learning course and was met with the encouraging message above. Aran from SSIW promises that if get past level 5 then chances are you are going to become a very able Welsh speaker- hooray! 

I found lesson 5 not too bad. I learnt new words like “I’m not sure” / “dw i ddim yn swre”, “interesting” / “diddoral” and “if” / “os”. Along side recapping on words learnt previously in lessons 1 to 4 but using them in different sentences. All meant to deepen the memory of the vocab by repetition which I definitely  think is working.

Now that I’ve completed challenge 5, I have a listening exercise to do for 5 mins each day until I reach challenge 10. It’s all downloaded on my phone so I’m planning to do it each day on the train during the annoying “wifi black spot” on the commute to  work. Nifty way to pass the time me thinks!
Oh in the my last post I was telling you I couldn’t decide whether to go back and repeat any of the SSIW lessons to embed the learning. Well, with the help of Aran’s advice (thanks Aran!), I’ve decided to press on and not repeat any. So this time next week I will be able to regale you with the stories of SSIW lesson 6. 

Tara am rwan/ Tara for now!