The pwynt of Welsh
It’s a language of strength
With so many Freshers coming from outside of Wales to get to Cardiff University, the chances are you would’ve seen the big, dragon-adorned sign just before the tolls – “Welcome to Wales” it reads in English, a kind but common greeting, just as you would see upon entering England or Scotland. But what of the assortment of letters below? Cro-eeso i gum-roo? Crozo I guy-ree?
“Croi-so ee Gum-ree” is how you say ‘Welcome to Wales’ in Welsh, a language which sets the country apart from the rest of the UK. But with the majority of people only reading the English on these bilingual signs and a proposed £1.8m investment by Cardiff University in a project to save Welsh – is one of the oldest languages in Britain still as important as it used to be? Wrth gwrs.
To speak Welsh is to speak 1400 years of this country’s history, a history that involves Welsh cakes, rugby and Gavin and Stacey. It may not be the language of love like French or Spanish, but that’s because it is the language of strength, a strength that resonates from the Battle of Bryn Glas in the 15th Century, to the Battle of England 2015. Admit it, you’ve belted out “Gwlad” during the National Anthem as loud as any Welshie. The 1930s school children of Wales didn’t risk beatings for speaking yn Cymraeg, just for it to be deemed unimportant by a few befuddled freshers.
Now, the chances are, if Welsh is still on the signs, it’s because one or two people can read them. In fact, over 562,000 people can actually read those signs, six per cent of those, living in Cardiff. With these kinds of numbers, it’s no surprise that a knowledge of Welsh is one of the most favoured abilities by employers in the area.
Even if you don’t have any Welsh friends to speak to, you’ve probably found there’s something of a novelty in asking a speaker to translate just about everything you can think of, a novelty which can start some of the best Wenglish friendships during Freshers’ Week.
Welsh isn’t the easiest of languages to speak. If a girl says she has 36DDs, you may be disappointed to learn she actually just has an absurdly long Welsh name. However, not every word looks like something at the start of the letters round on Countdown. You want to smooth out an item of clothing? You’ll need a bord smwddio (board smoothio). Need to microwave some food? Well, the Welsh let that one name itself – popty ping.
And, whereas the stereotypical white girl may be found in Starbucks in an oversized hoodie, the Welsh girl can be found in an undersized rugby shirt in Hoffi Coffi, thanks to just about every welsh coffee-shop owner cottoning on to the fact the Welsh word for “like”, “hoofs” rhymes with a particular hot beverage.
Ultimately, the Welsh language retains its importance, not just as part of a culture or a favourable skill, but as a way of feeling at home in Wales, whether you’re from Newport, Norwich or Nánjīng- and you thought Welsh was complicated.