Do you initiate conversation in Welsh before English?

Siwmae Pawb,

Bare with me as this is a long post but i wanted to share my story.

We name our meeting rooms in work after Welsh rivers and we were having a vote to name our newest one. There were a few options but as we currently have the Wye and the Severn, I thought I’d suggest we use Ystwyth to complete the trio from the tale of the ‘Three Sisters’. Anyway a minority of people complained they wouldn’t be able to pronounce it at which point I said I would gladly provide Welsh lessons! :slight_smile:

Luckily the majority voted for my suggestion but what came out of it was I learnt of two people in work who are native Welsh speakers! One I have worked with for 6 years :astonished:

I couldn’t believe it as they both don’t have any hint of a Welsh accent or the way they pronounce words. Needless to say I was overjoyed as I now have more chances to practice but it got me thinking…

Why don’t they use it? After speaking to them both they both agree they need to start using it again but hadn’t in a long time. Obviously now we started chatting in Welsh whenever we see each other work and it’s amazing to hear Welsh being spoken (even if it’s badly on my part) in my work place.

I’ve been learning for a little while now and since I’ve started speaking Welsh at the weekly Cwmbran meet with @jamesmahoney and others, my confidence has gone up. So I’ve now decided to start every greeting in work in Welsh and it’s gone down really well. We have a mixture of nationalities in work but even the French, Hungarian and Indian people are all replying with Bore da :smile:

I wondered do you all use Welsh in the first instance, if so does it trigger other speakers to then reply in Welsh? As I think if we use English first then we are more likely to miss out on chances to promote our language. Even if someone cant speak Welsh, if they hear more of it in public it might trigger them to learn it.

I’d like to hear your thoughts.



Yes, every single time, no matter where I am at the time. I have discovered a few welsh speakers by doing this including, believe it or not, the guy who delivered our Indian take away tonight (and it turns out he lives in our street too).


When I was in Wales, I found that if I spoke to people in English first and said “I’m learning Welsh” they always continued in English, even if I attempted to switch languages afterwards. But if I started in Welsh and they could speak it too, they would stick to Welsh even when I struggled.

I also heard a suggestion that if everyone were to start every conversation in Welsh, regardless of whether or not the person you’re talking to speaks the language, non speakers might just get fed up with constantly having to say “I’m sorry, I don’t speak Welsh” and just learn it! :slight_smile:


(Well known fact) I’m living in Slovenia and have no Welsh speakers at work but when I enter the office I many time greet them with “Bore da.” Now they all know I’m learning Welsh and I don’t get puzzled looks back just some friendly smiles and continuing this way I might get “Bore da” in return one day, who knows.

The story from when I was in Caerdydd you can read here. The “story” describes exactly such situations.


It’s great that you have got people speaking more Welsh at your workplace Michael and encouraged your 2 colleagues to start using their Welsh again. Good work ! I agree it always works better to start the conversation in Welsh first . I find it is often particularly awkward starting speaking Welsh with someone who you have always spoken to in English but as you have found if you just bite the bullet and get in to a habit of speaking Welsh with them then it is well worth it


I work in the NHS. Since bootcamp I’ve changed my dysgwr lanyard for the normal “Cymraeg”. I have two people at work who regularly speak to me in Welsh. I have had (to varying levels of success) doctors starting conversations in Welsh too.

What has amazed me is how few people recognise the Cymraeg sign outside of work (aka parents of patients) and depressing how many of my colleagues had no idea what it meant.

I found the people I have had the worst response from have not been the people who I have to say “mae ddrwg gen i, ond dwi angel dweud hwn yn saesneg nachos fy mod i ddim yn gwybod sut i ddweud ‘prolapsed’ yn gymraeg” - it’s the English speakers who don’t speak any Welsh. Maybe I’ve hooked something in their personality? But by and large Welsh speakers really really appreciate that they can at least try Cymraeg with me first. Even if the vocab is beyond my abilities sometimes.


I’ll always use some Welsh in the first couple of sentences of talking to someone I don’t know, in Wales - but in a work situation, it’s very easy for people to feel they’re going against the norm to use their Welsh in an obviously English workplace.

It’s certainly one of the societal attitudes it would be most particularly valuable for us to change, so you’re doing a very valuable thing - every stone makes a lot of ripples… :slight_smile: :star2:


Great work, Michael. Great to hear Cymraeg being spoken anywhere… even - I might add - if it’s in the quiet carriage of a GWR train! :grin: I was just so happy to hear Cymraeg being spoken, I didn’t mind at all (it was spoken very quietly anyway to be fair!)

Recently, I visited the Mumbles in Abertawe and was dropping the ‘Diolchs’ like there was no tomorrow :relaxed: I definitely agree that the more that people hear Cymraeg being spoken, the more impetus it might give them to learn it.


Hi Anthony.

I work in the NHS as well, but with adults, in a fairly Welsh area. Not a single Welsh speaking patient has shown any hostility to my learning or speaking Welsh.

Among non Welsh speakers there are two responses, one of which I’ve only once met in the hospital situation (from a colleague). She tried to tell me that Welsh wasn’t a proper language and that it would be a waste of time to try and learn it. This was before I started to learn the language in any formal way. The speaker was from Australia.

The other, much more common response is, I would love to learn it, or I started to learn it and it was very difficult so I stopped.

I remember someone telling me a few years ago, who had learned Hebrew in Israel, All Language Learning is Political. This is very true.

I have a T shirt which exemplifies this. I wore it at the Eisteddfod. It bears the logo

“I speak Welsh. What’s your Superpower?”

But I do recognise that I have to be careful where I wear it. In a totally Welsh environment it’s OK. (The Eisteddfod, for example). In a Learner Rich environment it’s totally OK. In a totally non Welsh area, London, or further abroad, there is no problem.

Where I do have to be careful is on the streets of Carmarthen. People have amazingly strong feelings about the language. Do they feel guilty because they don’t speak the language? Do they feel they are being attacked for not speaking it?

And when I get my next uniforms they are going to have Welsh embroidered into them. Scary or what?


I’ve found this quite a lot in work, people who can’t do something want to tell you its not worthwhile or it’s pointless. I think it must be a defense mechanism like you say.

It’s definitely something I’m trying to do but i will admit it’s difficult as a learner because my brain still defaults to English most of the time without me noticing.

Hopefully it will start defaulting to Welsh in a few years without me even having to think! :grin:

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In the canteen at work last week I said Bore Da, Good morning, can I have some breakfast? and the response was immediately in Welsh, with which I carried on. Very pleased with myself and the situation!


I have had the latter a lot - I wish I could learn Welsh. To which I always say you can. A couple of people at work have started using duolingo since I’ve been wearing my lanyard, I have pointed them this way too, but I don’t want to be overbearing. I’d rather say well done and hope they continue that get their backs up.

I’ve had people tell me that “you shouldn’t wear that because you can’t talk about medical things” to which two of my first language friends symbolically took theirs off to make the point that they can’t either.

It is nerve wracking at times. I have, occasionally, I am ashamed to say, avoided the opportunity. However, I do try to use it as much as possible. It is a struggle thinking in Welsh immediately after having a conversation in English.

Margaret I am very jealous, my department won’t embroider our uniform with the symbol and are threatening to take away lanyards. If it does happen I’ll go to the union and the Welsh language officer.


The all Wales nurses uniform was a brainchild of Hywel Dda UHB and there is the option to display, in permanent form, Cymraeg. I wear my ID badge on a lanyard and both my Cymru/Dysgwr lanyards broke fairly easily.

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I may be wrong but I was going to say that I doubt that many people in any profession discuss the details thereof in Welsh, even in Wales, because:

  1. most subjects have a language all their own
  2. in most workplaces there would be too many folk who were not Welsh
  3. a lot of Welsh people go to Uni outside Wales so don’t learn their subject in Welsh
  4. many people end up working in England and their Welsh gets incredibly rusty!
    Do many Welsh speaking doctors know llithriad for prolapse? Do Med Schools in Welsh Unis lecture in Welsh? I don’t think they did in my day and I’d be surprised if they started until recently, if they do at all! Ditto with any science subject. I guess the Law has to be bilingual, but not a lot else.
    p.s. I certainly think the NHS is covered by the Welsh Language Act and has an obligation to have folk able to talk to patients, relatives of patients etc. in Welsh. Very elderly, possibly confused mother-tongue Cymraeg folk really need to hear what they understand! And mostly don’t understand the medical jargon anyway. My Dad, who was not Welsh speaking, was very impressed by a specialist who explained that what his aorta needed was a de-coke! De-jargoning works in any language!

What tiresome idiots. Well done your friends… :slight_smile:

Misguided, I’m doing my best to guide


@AnthonyCusack, hearing you explaining some things about the baby to Katie (Sorry, I don’t know her username here and I can’t spell her name properly) for quite some minutes totally in Cymraeg and how you chatted abouot the whole matter of developing the little one … I have to say you are a starr! And someone dares to say you can’t talk about medical stuff in Cymraeg?

The matter is though - if you won’t start talking about such subjects in Cymraeg too, you’d never learn. So, da iawn ti!

Canu Cymraeg, siarad Cymraeg … that’s you! You’re one of quite some I’ve looked up to and this for tried even harder at least to understand if not (always) to speak a bit more complexly.

I know you enjoy speaking Cymraeg so don’t let such things stop you ever!


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I bet he wasn’t using Medical jargon!
My theory is that the folk saying he needed to be able to discuss medical matters in Welsh to wear the badge are the kind who can’t actually communicate with patients in any language because they use jargon!
My lot have jargon too, all scientists do, but we need to avoid its use when talking to normal folk!
I still remember the shaft of light that shone on my understanding when I found out that the BHK cells the biologists kept on about were from, sorry folks, ‘baby hamster kidneys’!

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What a great question and talking-point!

I walk/run in the park here in Cardiff most every morning, and will usually acknowledge the person running/walking towards me, either with a smile and nod or a ‘Good morning’. Yesterday, a chap was running towards me wearing a rather fetching ddraig goch T-shirt (which I was coveting), and as he got closer he said ‘Bore da’. I just about replied (I’m not a particularly good runner, so I was a bit out of breath!). But it occurred to me that I always default to ‘Good morning’, and perhaps I ought not. I do wear my lanyard with the dog’s whistle on when I’m walking, which has got me speaking Welsh a few times. But I’ll try to remember the ‘Dechreuch bob sgwrs yn Gymraeg’ suggestion.


Since you’ve told me you live somewhere around Sophia Gardens I literally saw you running there on one of its paths while reading this story. …

Yup. trio cofio i dechrai bob sgwrs yn Gymraeg nawr. :slight_smile:

(Oh, by the way … is there equivalent Cymraeg to “Yup …?” :slight_smile: )

No, not really but still … I wouldn’t say 3/4 of the stuff he did in Cymraeg. It was fantastic to listen. :slight_smile: