A 'Foreign' thread (split from Reasons to Learn Welsh)

Welsh isn’t a foreign language. Otherwise, a very commendable reason.

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I’m not quite sute what you mean. For me, a foreign language is any language that is not my mother-tongue, so by that definition, Welsh is a foreign language.


[quote=“Hendrik, post:336, topic:10504, full:true”]

Tonight on Friday philosophy corner…in my opinion, for anyone born in Great Britain, Welsh language is not “foreign” as it is for us (although your definition can be correct too)


I think it’s important in this thread that we support people’s reasons, rather than taking issue with semantics.


Gisella’s right, Hendrik. Yours is a bit of an unusual definition of a foreign language within a British context, and probably conflicts with most people’s understanding of the term. But we’d better agree to differ, otherwise it will become nothing more than a question of semantics.

Good luck with your Welsh learning.

For quite a lot of people learning Welsh with SSiW, English is a foreign language so the same would be true of Welsh. As we don’t necessarily know someone’s nationality, it’s best not to assume they are British.


In this instance, the person describing Welsh as a foreign language had an English (British) name, and that was the whole point of my raising the matter. Otherwise you’re obviously right, Margaret.

This contribution after I specifically asked for us to avoid taking issue with semantics is not promising. As a result, I’ve had to split this off from the other thread, which is an entirely positive thread and was being derailed.

There’s nothing actively unpleasant in here, and it would be entirely acceptable on most forums, but we have a very strict zero tolerance policy on ‘telling other people they’re wrong’.

For clarity’s sake, your initial ‘Welsh isn’t a foreign language’ claim could have been phrased in ways that would have fitted with our standards - you might, for example, have said ‘The question of whether and when Welsh is a ‘foreign’ language is complicated, isn’t it?’ or something like that.

I hope this gives you a clear understanding of our expections - please let me know if any of it seems unclear… :slight_smile:


It’s more of a relativistic issue. Foreign is a general term, to mean that from outside, so how that outside is then defined on an issue, such as language, will vary. We tend to think of foreign as in ‘countries other than our homeland’, but there is no need to treat languages the same way. We use the term foreign bodies, such as viruses or bacteria in our bloodstream, because they weren’t produced in our bodies. So any language that you don’t know from early childhood is foreign, but once you have learnt it it is no longer foreign in that sense of foreign.

An illustrative example may be Australia. Most Australians speak English as a native language, but English is not native to Australia, the language did not form there. To these Australians the various first nation languages will sound ‘foreign’ to them, even though they are native to Australia, unlike English.

Hence how we define foreign in language can be relative to where we come from and in a union state, like the UK it’s already fairly complicated! It’s an interesting diversion.

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And the funny thing is that
@david-ball-1 hadn’t even defined Welsh a foreign language. He only said he enjoys trying to speak foreign languages on holiday (therefore also learning new languages in general).

I had’t added comments in the other thread cause it was off topic, but since we’re here why not?

Since I was born in Augusta Taurinorum, in ancient times I would have probably wanted to conquer Wales, rather than learning the barbaric Welsh language. :wink: So I’m glad we’re in different times, and people from all over the world can chat in this forum about languages, semantics or whatever.

@Y_Ddraig_Las, yes, absolutely, the idea of what’s outside does vary.
Even though foreign comes from Latin (like fuori, out/outside and forestiero anyone not from the town) we translate foreign with straniero which apparently comes from external, not that different but for some reason we commonly refer to anything from outside the country with it.

(It is currently unfortunately being more and more associated to something negative by a growing wave of nationalism and intolerance here but this is going too far so back to languages).

In North East of Italy (where by the way a lot of my relatives live) many people speak German as first language. But we still call German foreign language. (maybe because it’s national language of other nations neighbor countries?) However, there are.minority languages in the same areas or nearby like Ladino and Walser, or Sardinian in Sardegna that are different from Italian but we do not define straniero or foreign. Why? I don’t know, I think because they’re originating from areas within the country and not widely spoken elsewhere.

Therefore, this is probably why I perceive Welsh as British as English and do not consider it foreign to anyone born in Great Britain. A bit like @Wrexhamian it seems.

But of course…there can be a million different interpretations. :slight_smile:


I find it galling having to look for Welsh under the “Foreign Language” section at Waterstones… Avoiding the “foreign” word might be achieved by many imaginative means… I’ve toyed with writing to Waterstones management to suggest a few. Instead I have concluded I’ll order and collect books from a local sole trader bookshop (local to a Shropshire town, not really local to me). Shelf space is limited there: sections, thus, need no headings.

Learning Languages of Planet Earth - would that section title exclude enthusiasts of Klingon?

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I’d like to apologise for my earlier post for any offence it may have caused. After having read the posts, and learning that Aran felt it necessary to separate it from the original thread, I would also like to apologise to him. I’m sorry that it’s taken a while for me to respond, but I don’t currently have Internet access at home and most of my electronic mail comes through to my other email address.

Welsh is a language spoken by my fellow UK nationals, but one earlier generations of my fellow Englishmen sought to subjugate. I was aware of this in broad terms, but hadn’t really done anything about it. However, four years ago - during my last trip to Wales- I read a book on the subject of Welshness and I learnt some rather shocking specifics. I decided then to try my hand at putting right what had been done wrong on my next visit there, which is next month.

I’ve never thought of it as a "foreign language in the way I do Italian; just as one spoken in a different part of the UK. A different language rather than a foreign one. With hindsight, the wording of my earlier post could have been clearer, as it was never my intention to demean or belittle Welsh, not the harm done to it over centuries in the name of the English language and the English state.


Well said, David. Problem solved. And good luck with your Welsh studies.


Shw mae, @david-ball-1 ? Thank you for your lovely attitude, and for your effort to learn more about Wales and our language. I hope you really enjoy your time with us, the course, and with us, the speakers of this beautiful language.

A word of warning, though. You’re learning Welsh. You’re one of us now…

Croeso cynnes! (A warm welcome!)

Also, diolch to @Wrexhamian for your open-ness and immediate response. Most of the web doesn’t work like this, but our forum does. We sometimes disagree, and having people from all over the world and with many different first languages, we sometimes misunderstand.

But you both seem to be people who accept and respect people’s differences, and that is all we can ever ask of you.

Diolch both!


I’m still quite keen for any suggestions for my thinking through - and sending - a letter to Waterstones. Mind you the local authority language-teaching centre encourages you to order coursebooks through their recommended book supplier… I feel the same way, though, about Irish being under that “foreign” section, or languages spoken by many immigrant communities of longstanding. It is as unfortunate a term as “stranger” - as in “stranger danger!”. “Outlandish languages” might at least raise a smile/riot.

I looked for books and any printed materials at WH Smith on Wales, language culture and anything else in their central shop in Birmingham in April. The manageress enlightened me that I could get newspapers in French, German, Spanish, but no printed press material in Welsh - hardly surprising. What was there came from dispersed places round the shop - by subject matter content.
Early on a Saturday morning, in empty shop, she was happy and willing to help me look for stuff.

At WH Smith in Carmarthen I was able to speak my first few words of Welsh in the wild at the till, while buying a birthday card with Welsh greeting, it went okay, the assistant there was benign and patient. On the whole, I know we are lucky still to have any retailers left. Perhaps shops and cafés will lead the way.


I was quite surprised to come upon this thread. I am of mainly English ancestry, but heritage is another matter. I, too, am really touched by your posting here. I am journeying into understanding and meeting a lot of help and patience. I am not always finding it easy. It’s good to hear something of your travels/travails in language and culture/cultural awareness. I think there is need to note that it’s a well-worn path, and I wish there more people in Britain and all UK and Ireland and all Europe and the Americas, and, well all the continents, on it. If we build more lanes to this “motorway” of winding foot&cycle paths, will the travellers come along to fill it?

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Just a thought on this subject, I’m from East Anglia where a foreigner is from the next village but a stranger is from another country. So in Norwich the Huguenot refugees were strangers and welcomed because of the textile skills they brought. One of Norwich’s museums is called Strangers Hall.


Another very similar word to throw in the mix could be estranged?

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I was on holidays so I didn’t read the whole topic but I’d like to join in anyway.

This is the definition of what is foreign language from Wikipedia which I’d agree with.

For example I was living in ex Yugoslavia where we had 5 official languages among which not even one could be said is foreign language regardless I live in Slovenia where majority speaks Slovene.

I don’t agree with somewhere said above that foreign language is every language you don’t know or understand. I would definately say that Welsh in Welsh part of UK at least isn’t foreign language neither is any other other language spoken in UK in their areas at least. Since you live in the same country neither of languages which are spoken in UK shouldn’t be considdered as foreign language no matter does one understand it and is able to speak it or not.


No need whatsoever for you to apologise, David - it was entirely clear that you did not intend to demean or belittle Welsh, and it is entirely reasonable for an Englishman to think of Welsh as a foreign language…:slight_smile:

You did not cause a problem in any way, and I did not separate this thread because of your original post…:slight_smile: