You are here

Welsh for Readers of Testimonies

With thanks to my mate, Glyn Davies, who is a fluent, degree holding Gog (someone from North Wales), who is buying a sailing boat (Hooray!). I've applied for a post as ship's cat or cabin boy.

Sue Northcott

First some hints on pronunciation. Pinched from the Clwb Malu Cachu site:

The Welsh alphabet is:

a  b  c  ch  d  dd  e  f  ff  g  ng  h  i  j  l  ll  m  n  o  p  ph  r  rh  s  t  th  u  w  y

It's also a good tactic to practise all seven vowels separately - ah eh ee o eu oo uh - unless you live in North Wales where, of course, they only have one vowel: 'eugh'.

Pronouncing words in Welsh is pretty easy really - Welsh is a phonetic language, so what you see is what you pronounce.

a short as in 'hat', never as in 'ball'
b   as in 'bag'. Although is there really any other way?
c always hard as in 'cat', never an s as in 'precise'
ch like the ch in the Scottish word 'loch', but with more phlegm
d as in 'dog' never as in 'djinn'
dd a buzzy 'th' sound as in 'this'. Think angry bees with a lisp
e short as in pen
f v This is very, very simple, and when you get really used to it, f will play hafock with your spelling
ff f Equally, you can ffind yourselff getting too used to ff as well
g always hard as in 'get', never a 'j' sound as in the last g in garage
ng as in 'song' where the g isn't hard, like in 'gig', but a soft glottal stop made in your throat
h as in hat always sounded and never silent
i as in 'pin'
j   accepted now because of the loan words from English that use it, like 'garej'
l a 'luh' as in 'lava' but never an 'ul' sound as in 'milk'
ll   not as hard a sound to make as some would have you think. Raise your tongue to the top of your mouth as if you were going to say 'el', then make the 'ell' sound by blowing air round the sides of your raised tongue, instead of by using your voice. You should sound like an annoyed cat
m as in 'mithridatize' Or as in 'mum', if you want to be boring
n as in 'nanobot'
o short as in 'hot', not round as in 'hotel'
p   can I have a p please Bob?
ph an English f or Welsh ff sound, as in 'phase'
r rolled Some people just can't get a rolled 'r' - their tongues are unable to vibrate in the right way. It's a genetic thing, apparently, similar to being able to roll your tongue into a tube, or turn the end upside down. Honestly, some people can, but my tongue's not that prehensile. Roll if you can, don't if you can't
rh hr Make a huffy, breathy sound before your rolled 'r'
s always soft as in 'sit', never a 'z' sound as in 'juxtapose'
t as in 'top' Can it get any simpler?
th as in 'think' softer and less buzzy than dd
u ee in the South but not in the North . If you had stepped in something disgusting and made a kind of 'eugh' noise, the vowel 'eu' sound would about approximate the Northern 'u'. If you don't have access to a Gog who can teach you this noise, stick to the Southern sound - it's much easier
w oooooo
y uh or ee Ok, y breaks the rule that Welsh is phonetic. As a single syllable word, y is like 'uh', on the last syllable of a multisyllabic word it's an 'ee', and anywhere else it's like the unstressed, indeterminate noise of the final e in 'garden' or 'letter'. Ysbyty (hospital) is the perfect example.

Now for the words in Testimonies – I hope I haven't missed anything!
Working from the Flamingo paperback.

Nain Grandmother (in the North only, in the south we use Mam-gu)
Taid Grandfather (Dad-cu in the South)
Llan usually translated as 'church of', but more correctly refers to holy ground usually associated with some saint or other. (Celtic saints are 10 a penny, and often don't seem very holy by modern standards.) I'll use the 'church' version for ease.
Pugh surname from 'ap Hugh', son of Hugh.
Cwm Bugail Valley of the Shepherd.
Vaughan surname. An Anglicised version of 'Fychan' an ancient word for 'small'.
Gelli Grove.
Bronwen pure/white breast (It's also a name for the weasel!)
Hafod Summer place. Could be high ground that gets too cold, or low lying pasture that is flooded in winter.
Annwyl dear .
Beudy cow shed.
Ty Gwair hay barn (literally 'Grass house').
Bro Morganwg the Vale of Glamorgan.
Pentref Village.
Saeth Arrow.
Penmawr High Top , though literally Big head, top or end.
Lloyd surname from 'Llwyd' meaning 'grey'.
Gogledd the North.
Llanfair Mary's church.
Dinas city.
Eisteddfod a festival where competitions are held in various forms of poetry, storytelling, music, dance and the arts.
Cletwr a common name for streams/rivers but doesn't mean anything to me - we assume the Twr comes from dwr (water).
Pontyfelin Bridge of the Mill.
Hendre old town.
Uchaf high/upper
Bwthyn bach little cottage.
Bowen from 'ab Owen', son of Owen .
Tyddyn Mawr large small-holding.
Cwm y Glo Valley of the Coal.
Gwyn White/pure.
Ty bach literally little house (It causes much mirth when incomers name their houses 'Ty Bach', as it usually means 'toilet'.).
Cwm Priddlyd Earthen Valley .
Llanfihangel Michael's church.
Caernarfon the fort (caer) in Arfon (the land close to Mon (Anglesey)). The city where Edward I made his wife stay until his son was born. Then presented him to the Welsh as the Prince of Wales he had promised them, who was born on Welsh soil and spoke no English.
Pritchard from 'ap Richard', son of Richard.
Ruabon place name near Wrexam I think is an anglisation of Rhiw (hill/slope) + abona the old Welsh for afon (river) but again thats our guess.
Diffwys can mean desolate, rough or a steep slope
Llyn Du Black Lake (rather like Dublin).
Hwnna those.
Dai short for David, Dafydd or Dewi.
Moelgwyn white/pure bare hill .
'diwch annwyl' Dear God.
Cwm Erchyll Frightful Valley.
Llinen linen.
Cneu nut.
Craig y Nos Rock of the Night.
Llechog Place of the cuckoo.
Llyn Lliwiog Coloured Lake.
Carnedd a carn.
Y Brenin the King.
Nant Deiniol Daniel's stream .
Stwlan We have never heard of this - northern borrowing of stool?
Llandudno Church of St. Tudno.
Ty Hyll Ugly House.
Cynghanedd a form of Welsh poetry. Glyn says: 'Cynghanedd is explained by John Morris Jones in his excellent 250 page book - as long as you can read Welsh!
It is a strict set of rules concerning alliteration and rhymes internal to a single line of poetry, where the second half of the line will answer the first, there are 4 recognised types. It came to be during the 8th - 9th centuries and became formalised by the 12th and was used extensively by the professional bards. Each line in a poem must use one of the 4 types of cynghanedd for it to be considered a 'strict meter poem':
Henaint ni ddaw ei hunan here the H and N are answered in the same order in both halves of the line but with a gap of unanswered letters ie n dd
A huno maith yn y man and here the n and m (h does not have to be answered)
Bu'r bedd ar agor heddi here there is an internal rhyme that is answered in the penultimate syllable
Pob llid, pob gofid yn gel here there is an internal rhyme and the starting letter of the rhymed word is answered by the starting letter of the last word'

Nosen Lawen 'A cheerful evening', usually an organised village social event, taking place in a barn or hall. Everyone is expected to perform a party piece.
Dolforgan Morgan's meadow.
Cefn Bach little ridge/back.
Hir Gardd Long Garden.
Yr Ysgol the school.
Tan yr Onnen under the ash trees
'Da iawn, diolch' 'Very well, thank you.'
Gwas serving boy. In the South this has become a bit of an insult. Calling someone "'wus" isn't very polite!
Mon Anglesey
Lleyn the peninsular at the North of Wales
Llew Lion