So, as we all have more time on our hands these days, I thought I should tell you what I, as a native Swede, find the hardest about Welsh pronunciation. There are two things really, but I think I’ve finally got the LL sound sorted, which leaves this big conundrum: diphthongs (two vowel sounds in one syllable).
Now, this may surprise you, but my native Swedish does not have diphthongs at all. I’m OK with them in English – or maybe I should say I’ve always thought I was OK with them in English? – but I have issues with them in Welsh.
To illustrate: in the very common sentence starter Dw i , my question as a Swede is: which vowel do you stress? Is it “doo-y” to rhyme with English “Louis”, or is it “dwee” to rhyme with English “twee”? Or should it really be two syllables, “doo ee”, which is what my Swedish brain desperately wants it to be?
It’s particularly difficult with all the words with wy or yw in them (and you have to admit that there’s an awful lot of those!). How do I know if dwylo is “dwee-lo” or “dooy-lo”? Or is it actually “dwuh-lo”?
I experience this frustration every time the Daily Word on Twitter (which I think is a great concept) tells me to put equal stress on two vowels. My brain struggles with this concept… although I think I’m slowly getting there; whether it sounds right or not is a different story!
The thing is, most Welsh speakers probably won’t even understand my problem, because they probably genuinely do stress both vowels more or less equally (whatever that means), and my questions won’t even make sense. So I’m not really looking for a solution, just sympathy…
Here is a genuine question, though: does u always form diphthongs? That’s clearly the case in dweud (which I guess really features a triphthong), but what about the word Duw ? Do you say “dee oo” (two syllables), “d-yoo” or “deew”?
And please don’t tell me “it doesn’t matter” – I know I will be understood whichever way I say it, but I’d like to be as accurate as possible!
Oh, and here’s another one while we’re at it: in diphthongs with an i , is the i ever stressed? I remember being confused the first time I noticed that Skewen (in Neath) is written Sgiwen in Welsh and assumed it was meant to be pronounced “skee-wen”. It was only after I had started learning properly that I realised that iw could also be pronounced “yoo”, which of course made it much more similar to the English form. But is that always the case, and if not, how do you find out?
OK, I know how to find out: just listen to native Welsh speakers. I know that, and at some point I’m going to start doing just that (BTW, I have done both the old Course 1 and the new Level 1, so I have learnt some pronunciation from there). But for now I just wanted to share a problem that probably isn’t even an issue for most of you!