Arrrrrrrgh! Banging my head on a brick wall

Damn straight it is! A language belongs to everyone and clearly you are proud that you can speak it

May I offer a different perspective to view such bias? Perhaps view your speaking ability as a way to crack other’s bias toward you. Watch their face drop when you speak Cymraeg and demand “Oes ots…” Have a bit of fun with it if you can. This way, if another similar event occurs, your frame of mind will be different. You’ll change yourself and possibly someone else.

I want to share a similar story. My family is from the United States. We are quintessential White America. My incredibly ambitious and successful niece spent several years traveling around Mexico and the Caribbean. Consequently she became fluent in Spanish. She has blond hair, and based upon appearance, and standard American accent she would appear to be one of the last people you would expect to speak Spanish. One day she was helping out at a friend’s construction site that mostly employed Hispanic men. All day they spoke about her the way a group of men would in private (they conversed in Spanish). My niece listened to their comments, not saying a single word. At the end of the day, she walked past them and said with a perfect Spanish accent, “Thank you for the compliments. I appreciated hearing them,” and walked away leaving them stunned and embarrassed. The next day, the Hispanic foreman spoke the to owner, niece’s friend, apologizing profusely because no one expected a blond haired women to speak fluent Spanish. Lessons learned for everyone.


I suggest adding “I’m sorry, the card machine isn’t working”. That one took me by surprise!


If the woman has connected the fact that her ears have been ringing every fifteen minutes or so since her bi-lingual conversation with Isata I think she might run out of the shop if she sees you both.


@annmoore, thanks for sharing your story. (I should probably add a disclaimer here that I didn’t mean this to become a thread about race and racism in Wales, and I’m really not laying that charge at the feet of checkout woman. That said, it’s nice to hear your and your family’s experiences.)

I grew up in Wales, in a virtually all-white town in the 70s and 80s, at a time when I was the only black person that many of my friends had actually spoken to, and programmes like Mind Your Language and Mixed Blessings were on the telly. I doubt that smalltown Wales was very much different from smalltown anywhere-else-in-Britain, and it was an interesting upbringing. In short, being mixed parentage, having spent time in Britain being thought of as black, in Africa being thought of as white, having lived in rural and urban areas, in England and Wales, and having given birth to a blond-haired, blue-eyed boy, I’ve experienced a whole range of situations that have been affected by race, difference, curiosity, and outright racism, and I’ve come to the conclusion that people in Wales exhibit neither more nor less racism than people in England.

There are areas of Wales that have experienced a lot of immigration from overseas, and areas where the immigration is mainly white and from England. On the whole, I think Welsh people are fantastic and warm and funny and welcoming and kind - my family is Welsh, I am Welsh, so that must be the case! :wink:

I was a bit unsure about moving to a rural area after 25 years in Birmingham, but I haven’t once felt like moving back to the city. Although I do get the odd double-take, it’s far more noticeable in the summer, when tourists are in town, with their perceptions that the Welsh countryside is white. It isn’t white or monocultural, of course, and since I’ve been here, just along a road with only 4 houses on it, I’ve met people from Hungary, Sri Lanka, and Sierra Leone. And rural Welsh people themselves, of course, travel and read and engage with people from across the world. There’s a lot of change to be made, and I think racism will be around for a long, long time. But things are changing in the countryside, and I think as more people of colour move in, more people of colour will learn Welsh, and the perception of what a Welsh speaker looks like will change.

Oh, and you’ve posted your picture just fine. Great message, too!


Oh dear. I hope not. But at least we’ll have broached the subject…

1 Like

When it’s about languages I think people react in a whole lot of different and sometimes strange ways.

I speak pretty fluent French, I might as well be French from the way I look, but I do have a foreign accent.
In France, it very often happen that people switch to English or even an almost impossible to understand Italian just because they’re trying to be nice, or because they’re used to do so.
Or, from time to time, and from what you described it might as well be the case with you, they’re just worried that the operation with a non-native (and not necessarily a bad speaker) is going to be slower and people in the queue are going to be mad at them for taking so long.

On top of that there’s certainly a lot of assumption people make based on details that are not necessarily easy to guess.
I’m Italian, I grew up and always lived in Italy and don’t have particularly foreign traits but when I go to any touristic area in Italy, even Italians speak to me in English!

So I wouldn’t worry about other people reactions and just persist! :wink:


I as a native Slovene speaker, in my own little country I always listen to what language one is speaking in when talking to the people. If I speak that language, I give them the same treat no matter how good or bad speaker of any language that person is. Not seing well might be a benefit here because I grew to get used not to even notice what color, “shape” or anything else one person is. The one who approaches me is only that … a human being who wants to speak with me in to them desired language. I also, when I (accidentaly) traveled somewhere abroad, never had the issue of not being responded in the language I wanted to speak in. Mind not even one language I actually can speak fluently except my own tongue and whenever I tried to use some of the knowledge of whatever language, I was answered in that language. So, usually I had to be the one to shamefully admit this is the whole range of language I posess the knowledge of.

In our country I didn’t encounter a lot of racism although I should not believe it doesn’t exist. Maybe it exosts even more than I’m aware of but I didn’t encounter it though. However I fought another battle - a battle of being recognized as disabled person what quite some time is just like being a racism but when there came to languages I never had a problem. But, yes, my country is really tiny one on the map of the World and I didn’t travel to rural areas of foreign countries.

When I came to bootcamp, seing you @Isata, I hold you for something special, something misterious and full of knowledge of all kinds but surely cheerful and happy person. You posess sun within you which radiates out qjuite uncontrolled so I’m surprised you encountered particular range of racist events in the mix of other ones. Woman of Sun you are to me and you (at least to me) brought cheerful blessings during the bootcamp and my heart sings every time I see you around no matter is it on here, facebook or somewhere else (too rearly. :slight_smile: )

So, as all the others say … keep going speaking Welsh, your tongue and don’t mind what the other people are thinking. Every human being (or every being everywhere of that matter) is unique and so are you and that’s how you should be taken … daughter of Sun, Welsh woman speaking her own tongue with pride!

Tatjana :slight_smile:


That’s a lovely uplifting message Tatjana and it made me smile.


Thank you very much. I’m extreamly happy when I bring smiles to faces what doesn’t happen too often (at least not that I’m aware of).


1 Like

I wonder if it might help to be aware that (in the vast majority of cases) people who have been trained to see Welsh as a language that they should only speak with other people they know…

…are suffering from a well-known element of colonial subjugation. There’s plenty of writing about this in post-colonial theory.

They’ve been trained (in some cases directly, in others through societal change) to believe that speaking their first language can be seen as an act of racism - in some cases, they’ve been successfully trained to believe that speaking their first language makes them backwards, less educated, of less value.

So when they don’t speak Welsh with you unless you pressurise them, it feels to you - working hard to access a new language and the culture and society it carries - as though they are the power-brokers, and they are choosing to exclude you.

But (in the vast majority of cases) the reality is largely the other way round - they are the powerless victims of the power-brokers - they have been led to have very negative feelings about their own language and culture, and to be afraid of being judged, of being accused of hatred of the English, all that kind of stuff.

And, importantly, this isn’t ancient history we’re talking about - Welsh media was flooded with political attempts to paint Welsh language campaigners as racist for much of the first five or six years of THIS century - including a notorious front page headline of the ‘Welsh’ Daily Mirror calling the Eisteddfod ‘The festival of fear and hatred’.

Wales isn’t post-colonial (yet). The psychological subjection continues - and, tragically, it can make learners feel understandably negative about the sufferers whose defensive mechanisms feel like a deliberate refusal to welcome (and it’s muddled, inevitably, by the occasional bad apple).

But please, the next time you meet a Welsh speaker who feels uncomfortable about using their Welsh with someone they don’t know, try to remember this, and feel sorry for them, and help them understand that it’s okay for them to use Welsh with you, and that you would appreciate it - once they really get that, in almost all cases they’ll be happy and relieved to make the switch (even if it really just works by getting you included in their ‘known Welsh speaker’ circle - but the more it happens, the more likely they are to adapt a more positive attitude to using Welsh with people they don’t know - so it’s hugely valuable for all of us when you take the time and trouble to lead them through this process)… :slight_smile:


What beautiful things to say! Thank you so much for that, Tatjana. You are a very special person and I’m honoured to have met you.

I’ll consider making that my superhero name!

I don’t know the theory, but I do know that I’ve experienced it with Catalan – I can usually get through it because (a) my Catalan is usually better than their English (not gonna be the case in Wales) and (b) my Catalan is genuinely better than my Spanish, which I actually mostly speak larded with accidental Catalanisms. I remember we went to a bar in Ripoll on our way back from Spain/Catalunya last year, which looked kind of dodgy, slightly down-at-heel, and ‘local’. But it turned out to be really friendly, and I was speaking Catalan with them and my partner was speaking Spanish; and the landlady’s daughter was asking her, “why are you talking Catalan with the gentleman, mum?” and her mother was explaining that I’d started it :slight_smile:
Talking the non-state language is seen as fundamentally not something one does with strangers, even when it’s honestly the most effective way of communicating – and TBH for most of us here it’s going to be a while, if ever, before we can honestly say that we’re more effective in Welsh than English…


OK, I’m getting all this. So how about if I play on the fact that I’m a new speaker of Welsh and ask if it’s ok for me to practice?

I’ve tried it before and it generally works. Admittedly on one occasion I was met with an expression of fear, possibly because the person to whom I was speaking didn’t fancy being put into the perceived role as a teacher.


My hears has spoken. I always say my true feelings and this time there’s no exception.

thank you for your kind and beautiful words also. I’m equally honoured. :star:

Do that! :sun_with_face:


If I could chime in…
So i’ve just moved back to Bristol after 4 years in Wales, Cardiff specifically. I’ve been offered jobs around SE England so it looks I will be moving there as all my industry is there for the time being. I was learning Welsh for about three and a half years, but would have classed myself as fairly proficient after maybe 2.5-3 year. In the first year I used to get annoyed- the biggest problem was attitudes from anglophone friends and co-workers (i was a PhD student).

I came across these situations several times throughout learning. One thing I did and still do to provoke a response in Welsh when I know said clerk/worker speaks Welsh is to ask something that shows your level of the Welsh and requires a long response. So instead of starting things off with ‘Shwmae’ or ‘sut wyt ti’, try something like ‘Wyt ti’n gwybod lle galla i parcio am pum muned?- even if you know where you can park for five minutes.
Or in your case as the supermarket, intentionally forget something and say ‘O sori, wnes i anghofio’r llaeth- rowch muned i fi er moyn pigo fe la’ - and you run off to fetch ‘forgotten’ milk concealing your smile. Return to counter and pretend to be out of breath- ‘sori am hwnna, dw i di’ cael diwrnod uffernol a dwi’n anghofio popeth heddiw’ even though your day wasn’t hellish and your memory is sharp as a tack.
Basically, try to engineer opening statements and situations with shop assistants where you can.

One of the things professional languages learners and linguists emphasise is to really focus on enunciation. Try not to sound to sound like a learner, but a native speaker. I took this onboard early on and I’ve lost track of the number of times people have told me that they though I had gone to a WM school in Cardiff! If possible try speaking faster- it sounds more natural.


I understand your frustration, I’m in Pembrokeshire and although live in quite a Welsh speaking strong hold, I’m often running into a negative attitude about the language because the native Welsh speakers “don’t speak proper Welsh” or are afraid of teaching me how they speak and “not proper school Welsh”. They also slip back to english way too easily but they are just being too kind to this struggling learner. I think Aran explains the sad truth that so many first language speakers are just too embarrassed use their language with a stranger.


I was reading around in this subject yesterday and it’s remarkable how common this phenomenon is around the world.

I read something on Galician and could have substituted Welsh and English for Galician and Portuguese or Spanish and it was exactly the same effect.

There were contrasting examples such as Swiss German and to some extent Canadian French, but the Swiss example is really interesting, beacuse the high German is still the high status variant, alongside the Swiss German, which has high esteem. The esteem with which people perceive the language seems to be crucial. The status is important and linked to this esteem, but many languages and dialects aquired naturally with minimal perceived effort can be low status and widely used, particularly if the high status language form is very codified such as Arabic.

I would love to go on a sociolinguistics course and learn more about this area - it’s fascinating in terms of the psychology.


Oh, no! We can’t afford to lose successful learners! Please come back immediately:slight_smile:


Although I keep annoying Bristolians by forgetting that it isn’t part of Wales. Well, Avonmouth anyway.


That’s an interesting sociological observation. From reading Simon Brook’s Why Wales Never Was: The Failure of Welsh Nationalism I can see why Cymraeg would be on life-support due to the Blue Books, enacting pro-English language reforms, and the Welsh upper-class supporting the reforms. I’m surprised to hear speaking Cymraeg is still stigmatized with ideas of “lower-class,” “poor education,” “inferior,” and shocked to hear how prevalent the stigmatization of Cymraeg is in 2018! Really? Let’s look at quality of character rather than an appearance, language choice, geographic location…etc to determine if a person is decent or not. Sigh!

But then again, I live in the the United States and we have Trump because too many people are concerned with the perception of losing their “privileged status” to minorities who have a different skin color, associate with a different culture, or live in an impoverished neighborhood. NY Times article supporting above statement. I just thought use of a language would be different.