Attitudes in Caerdydd. Help!

Given I’m always being told to discuss my experiences at the end of the podcasts, here I am. I mention this as I come to the end of Level 1, I’m being asked to discuss my experiences. I keep putting this off but I suppose now is a better time than ever.

It would seem that the biggest enemy to Cymraeg is Welsh people themselves. I don’t make a big deal about learning Welsh because I know it will be followed by the usual economically illiterate spiel. I speak it with some (slightly) older colleagues at work (I’m a PhD student and I work in a lab), one of whom is always impressed at my skills. I go to Cant a mil (Welsh shop near my residence) and practice with them now and again. It would be nice though to meet other speakers/learners around my age whom I can befriend and practice with. The monthly meetups are a bit far as I’m based at the hospital and experiments over run, and go long into the evenings. Is there a Facebook group for Cardiff Welsh Speakers?

I went into a charity shop the other day and picked up a Welsh dictionary. When I told the old lady at the counter that I am learning Welsh, she came out with some nonsense about English being the international language etc etc. My supervisor sends his kids to Howells- a top private school in Cardiff, and he told me that even the Welsh teacher doesn’t think it’s useful. So it would seem that at all levels of society, there is this old fashioned and imperious view that English should rule, and other languages should only be learnt for economic benefit.

I don’t find the language ‘hard’ (yet) and I love how it sounds, but for the most part the public attitude surrounding Welsh in Cardiff is rather frosty. I’m not speaking as much as I should be and I’m worried it may slow me down as I start Level 2. It’s a shame that so many people here don’t realise they have this great language.
:’(

On a brighter note I am enjoying Welsh music on youtube and BBC Cymru and I’m going to start watching Y Gwyll!

Thoughts? (sorry if this sounds a bit like a rant- because it is!)

Oh and diolch yn fawr iawn to the SSIW team. I really enjoy the course! Welsh is awesome!

6 Likes

Croeso! I can’t really comment about attitudes in Cymru, per se, as I live in Australia. But I think this attitude of ‘don’t bother, everyone speaks English anyway’ is just a pervasive element of the way English speakers are, in many ways. I encounter this attitude all the time in my attempts to promote this beautiful language, and it extends to other languages too, even ones that are spoken by vast numbers of people.

From what I’ve seen, many people who have been brought up in English speaking backgrounds have grown up in their own little bubble, and it’s easy to think that there’s no need to learn another language when you speak the third most popular language on the planet. And that can be true (to a lesser extent than what they think, though), if your purpose is solely to make yourself understood.

However, what people don’t understand is that communicating and connecting are two different things. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to talk to someone in the language they identify with, rather than just one they speak. That is what helps make genuine connections with people. Sure, you COULD make your way around the world only speaking English, and it’s ubiquitous enough that you’d probably do fine. But you’d miss out on so much, it seems pointless to me.

Sorry, this is probably way off topic from what you were expecting. I just had my own little rant to vent! :smile:

8 Likes

I had a similar experience when I was in Cardiff recently, but at an individual level, I found that quite a few people were willing to speak Welsh, no matter how limited the conversation. Comments like the ones you quote, in my opinion, are wholly useless or uninformed at best, and are best ignored. The Welsh teacher worries me though, if correct, why the blazes is (s)he continuing in the job?

6 Likes

Shwmae Mihil,
I’m a bus driver in Cardiff and it is a constant source of frustration for me that hardly anyone greets you in Welsh. Yet there will be 1 or 2 people who will, and often as they complete their transaction or leave the bus, leaving you little time to respond (speaking English more often, it still takes me a couple of seconds to switch to Cymraeg, by which time the passenger is already making his/her way to their seat or halfway down the road!!

I do wear the orange ‘Cymraeg’ badge on my tie and my jacket too, but rarely get people coming to me enquiring about anything in the medium of Welsh. Thankfully, nobody has ever spouted their negative opinions about the language to me either (probably because I come across as a speaker and they don’t want to offend me!)
There are places in Cardiff that welcome the use of Cymraeg, if not encourage it, and offer events in Cymraeg as well. One such place in Womanby Street is Clwb Ifor Bach. There are many live music events held here in both Welsh and English and the staff speak Welsh with you too if you use it with them. Another place where the staff will speak Welsh with you is Y Mochyn Du in Sophia Close - where our monthly meetings are held. There are other places also, if you look for them!
Don’t let the attitudes of the narrow minded few slow you down in your learning though. I completed the entire Old course when I was living in Kent, England, so obviously I didn’t have many opportunities to speak Welsh often there, only at meetings with other learners/speakers arranged through this forum! The important thing is to remember that you do have the right attitude and that you are helping to preserve this beautiful language along with MANY others who you will surely start to come across on your journey to acquire this language.
Pob lwc!
Gav

6 Likes

I couldn’t help but quote:
"Shakespeare and Milton may have done their little best to spread acquaintance with the English tongue among the less favoured inhabitants of Europe. Newton and Darwin may have rendered their language a necessity among educated and thoughtful foreigners. Dickens and Ouida (for your folk who imagine that the literary world is bounded by the prejudices of New Grub Street, would be surprised and grieved at the position occupied abroad by this at-home-sneered-at lady) may have helped still further to popularise it. But the man who has spread the knowledge of English from Cape St. Vincent to the Ural Mountains is the Englishman who, unable or unwilling to learn a single word of any language but his own, travels purse in hand into every corner of the Continent. One may be shocked at his ignorance, annoyed at his stupidity, angry at his presumption. But the practical fact remains; he it is that is anglicising Europe. For him the Swiss peasant tramps through the snow on winter evenings to attend the English class open in every village. For him the coachman and the guard, the chambermaid and the laundress, pore over their English grammars and colloquial phrase books. For him the foreign shopkeeper and merchant send their sons and daughters in their thousands to study in every English town. For him it is that every foreign hotel- and restaurant-keeper adds to his advertisement: “Only those with fair knowledge of English need apply.”

Did the English-speaking races make it their rule to speak anything else than English, the marvellous progress of the English tongue throughout the world would stop"
Jerome K. Jerome

Considering that this was written 100 years ago, it’s quite reassuring to think that smaller national languages, including Welsh, have survived so far, so certainly they will not die out anytime soon. As for the remarks that people make, surely no considerate, polite and well-educated person would ever take the liberty to say anything like that. If we stopped to listen to everyone’s opinion, we would hardly ever accomplish anything. I think, judging from what I’ve read, that among the Celtic languages, Welsh is the most cherished and well-protected and it shall be fine.

P.S. I do apologize to all the English speakers whom I might have offended. It’s a very well-known sad fact that a lot of English people really want to learn a foreign language, but having taken some classes they go to the chosen country, try to communicate and find that the natives are much more fluent in English than they are in the language spoken in the country. So the poor students feel embarrassed and leave any attempt to learn anything, because what’s the point.

6 Likes

I’m really sorry to hear about your experiences, Mihil. My own experiences of Cardiff are very different, but that’s probably more to do with where I live (the fairly Welsh Canton/Pontcanna area) and my partner’s work (Welsh media, where everyone speaks the language - I work from home, so it doesn’t matter what language I speak!)

There is also a weekly meet-up in Chapter (again, in Canton) on a Monday evening. It’s supposed to be 6.30 to 8.30, but in reality people arrive when they can (I often don’t get there until about half 7) and stay until they’re ready to go home (10pm or sometimes later). There are a number of very proficient learners and beginners, and stages in between. Everyone is very friendly and supportive. That might be easier for you to get to than the less-often one at the Mochyn Du?

Also over this side of town (sorry! I don’t know the rest of the city very well yet) is the Caban bookshop - well worth a visit.

And the new Welsh Language Centre in the city centre Hen Llyfrgell should be open in January - I hope this will bring the language more out into the open in the city.

4 Likes

Sorry to hear this. I must say I’ve come up against similar living in Barry. There’s no denying that it can be a problematic issue, particularly in the South.
Having said which, I send my kids to Welsh school and have thoroughly enjoyed working through all the SSIW materials. I work at UHW on Mon-Wed so if you’d ever like to meet for a coffee, for example in the IV lounge at lunchtime, just let me know. (Hum ho, I guess I also count as “slightly older” by now, sigh…)

4 Likes

A very warm welcome to the forum, Mihil - and great to see that you’ve done so well up to now! :thumbsup: :star2:

Yes, sad but true. It’s easier (and tempting for a lot of people) to point the finger in other directions, and focus on historic grievances, but there’s no denying that if we had the social and political will, Wales could be a fully bilingual country in a generation, just by expanding Welsh medium education (a point which was made to me once by a Labour AM, who said it was only dinosaurs and fear stopping it from happening).

On the brighter side of things, there are some 40,000 or so Welsh speakers hiding very effectively in Cardiff - so once you start to find your way into those distributed communities (and getting to know Sara and Netmouse would be a great first step in that direction!) you’ll start to see the opportunities all around you that no-one as yet does enough to make visible to new speakers…

3 Likes

Hi Mihil,
I used to live in Cardiff and unfortunately I moved before @faithless78 started driving the buses as I greeted the driver in Welsh every single morning and not once did one actually answer. I kept it up though as I figured if they heard no other Welsh at all during their day at least they heard ‘Bore da’ from me :smile:

The Welsh for Adults Centre at Cardiff Uni do organise activities from time to time, like Ten Pin Bowling in Welsh, so it might be useful to keep an eye on what they’re offering. They do have a Facebook page where they post coming events, but having said that, SSiWers do tend to outgrow activities specifically aimed at ‘learners’ fairly quickly. It’s a good idea to keep an eye out for any Welsh events on, e.g. at Chapter or the Sherman Theatre, that you fancy going to, then post on here and see if others fancy going along as well. If you flag me (@Dee) I can always pop an announcement in the weekly email as well and see if that rustles up a few takers for you.

7 Likes

Now there’s a thought! I wonder how many people there are working at the hospital who are speakers/learners, but who don’t know anyone else among their immediate co-workers with whom they could practise. Would it be worth trying to organise some kind of meet-up in a lunchtime or similar? Or ask the canteen if they can set up a Welsh corner, so people could start conversations with others they don’t know but yn Gymraeg? (Although it would have to be done carefully or it might seem a little bit like ‘the Welsh enclosure’.) Or is there some kind of intranet where you could try to find out who/where the other speakers (including learners) are so that you can arrange to get together somehow?

4 Likes

I has been tried, up to a point. The guys who organise the Welsh language aspect of undergraduate training used to hold occasional meet-ups at lunchtime for learners, but they were pretty poorly attended. (Then both of them went off on maternity leave last year and it petered out completely.)

That’s not necessarily to say it wouldn’t be worth trying again, of course. :grinning:

2 Likes

I’m going to throw in another perspective here. If you lived in Porthmadog in North Wales, you would more often than not be greeted in Welsh every place you go. In South Wales, however, there are loads more Welsh families who don’t actually speak Welsh, not from fault of their own.

You can imagine the conflicting emotions this could cause someone: being Welsh through and through but not knowing how to speak the language. This can cause Issues of cultural identity, feelings of inferiority in their own country, and so on. Some people, like many on here, are proactive and start learning Welsh (and they usually progress very quickly because they have super pronunciation as they’re Welsh).

However, other individuals don’t learn Welsh for their own personal reasons, and it’s very common for these individuals to justify this by telling themselves that Welsh is not a language that’s necessary to learn because they already have English, the ‘International’ language.

When a Welsh learner then enthuses to someone who is Welsh, but not Welsh-speaking - about learning Cymraeg (which, by the way, you should enthuse about as it’s an ace and important thing to do), you might get all manners of reactions from ‘Well done you, I should get round to doing that too!’ to ‘There’s no point, it’s a useless language’.

I’ve seen the same attitudes time and again in Scotland, actually, where some Scottish people who don’t speak Scots Gaelic get all defensive about the issue, deeming the language useless, outdated and justify it by saying that Gaelic was never spoken in the lowlands anyway. True or not, it’s down to issues of national identity in the end and that’s a complex issue. It’s quite sad, in a way. I don’t mind people not wanting to learn Gaelic/Welsh, but I do mind people making excuses by attacking the value of a language they know very little about.

So when people react negatively towards the fact that you’re learning Welsh, just keep in mind that there might be other issues involved for them. I’m, for one, delighted that you’re learning Cymraeg! Da iawn ti!

Also, if there’s no Welsh learners group in the area, set one up. Even if it’s just a meet-up in a cafe near-by. Here’s a FB page for Dysgwyr Caerdydd. https://www.facebook.com/dysgw/?fref=ts

Pob lwc gyda dy Gymraeg, @Mihil!

6 Likes

Ah, rumours can be so deceptive. Before picking up the dialect to learn, I’ve asked people where people actually spoke more Welsh, in the North or in the South, and I was told that I should learn the Southern one. Which is what I’m doing now. It’s very sad to hear that there are less speakers in the South.

Gavin - we got off the bus today and my wee girl waved to the driver and shouted diolch before jumping off - I was so proud of her!

Helo Mihil - I am also often found wandering around UHW. Also if you live around there I am only in Eglwys Newydd if you ever fancy a chat. In Eglwys Newydd we have a lovely bookshop (Siop y Felin), a Bodlon and a meetup on Fri evening once a month…

Hope to see you around

3 Likes

Possibly numerically they are reasonably numerous in South Wales, because the population density is higher in South Wales (I assume). But I also assume they are fairly widely spread out and there are not areas where most people can or do speak Welsh. I’m sure this could change (and in a generation, as I think Aran qoted someone as saying), but it won’t change unaided. SSiW is one of those agents for change, although not the only one.

3 Likes

P’nawn da Stella. The only communities which have 70% or more Welsh speakers are found in North Wales.

Thanks a lot, @mikeellwood, @guynicholson and @louis. Well, nothing to be done now, I’m glad that the two dialects are not so different from each other and that native speakers will understand whichever I speak.
I’m considering now to do the Northern course after the Southern, though.

3 Likes

Thank you all for your kind words of encouragement!

@louis I know I think its atrocious, and I did think about reporting it. It’s totally unfair on the children. How can they be motivated if their teacher isn’t. Is that the sort of intellectual liberalism that £13 000 a year gets you?

@faithless78 I’ll be sure to look out for you on the bus! I wonder if many other people in public facing jobs do so, (e.g. taxi drivers, cashiers). I saw the cymraeg sign at ‘gol’ in leckwith, but we had been beaten 10-0 so we just wanted to leave asap!

@Netmouse, yes I would really like that! I never hear any Welsh in their so we can try! @jenny_white_378 I did pass Siop Y Felin on my way to Ysgol Eglwys Newydd (I help promote science to kids in my spare time). I wanted to pop in but was in a hurry.

@stella That is a brilliant quote. I’ll have to save it somewhere!

4 Likes

For the money!! Which is the very worst reason to teach anything!! I’d say it fits the Public School ethos! So does Linguistic snobbery!! My mother had it!! And my dad had it hammered into his brain as a child by his step-mother!

Re your main problem… I worked in research and our PhD students worked more hours than anyone. I can totally appreciate your difficulty. We had one chap who came over from the States and never dealt with jet lag. He just worked nights!! I had to communicate by notes for ages!! I suppose there are no other post-grads wanting to learn Cymraeg? It sounds as if Eglwys Newydd is you best bet!! Lwc dda!