EISTEDDFOD ENTRIES 2015 - Book review - beginner

A short book review, up to a maximum of 500 words, written in English, about a book you have read in Welsh. This category is for those who are fairly new to reading in Welsh, and the review should aim to present a book useful to others who are just starting to have a go at reading.

Passports and Presidents gan Anobeithio

My choice of book was easy – I’ve only read one! ‘Camu Ymlaen’ was the first adult book I found which I could read without a dictionary.

The 60-page book contains short biographies, interviews, stories, the kind of jokes you get in Christmas crackers, poems and songs. My favourite extract was about that famous Welshman, Barack Obama. I was also thrilled to learn that the first European to reach America was a Welshman, Madog, in about 1100, and that America was not named for Amerigo Vespucci, but for a Welshman, Richard Ap Meurig. Cymru am byth!

But reading is about diving into a book, and getting swept up in its characters, events or arguments. So to be honest, reading even this easy book didn’t feel like reading to me. The text looked like Klingon, and I had to mentally translate every word very slowly. The vocabulary list at the end of each extract reminded me of school textbooks, and the book wasn’t exactly a page-turner. There are five more books in this series, from beginner to intermediate level, and I may work through them, to build up my vocabulary and familiarity with the written language.

However, I’m lucky enough to be learning Welsh while living in Wales, so my most rewarding reading isn’t in books. When I’m driving, I literally read the road - ‘araf’ on sharp bends, ‘ildiwch’ at junctions and ‘arhoswch’ at roadworks. I’m starting to unpick the meanings of a few house names and villages. And from standing in interminable queues at the Post office, I have worked out how to renew my passport in Welsh. That could come in very useful if the day ever comes when I can apply for a Welsh passport. After I’ve passed the nationality test with my amazing knowledge of famous Welshmen…

Camu Ymlaen, ed. Melin Wyn James, Y Lolfa (www.ylolfa.com), Talybont, 2012, £4.95


Gwnewch y Pethau Bychain gan Mair Dancoed

When I started to learn Welsh with SSIW, I did something I don’t normally do - I listened to and followed the instructions! Therefore, I made no attempt to learn to read or write Welsh. Consequently, although my spoken Welsh is making progress,I am unable to read or write much at all.
Now for the next step; try to read a book in Welsh. I tried a few but found them all very hard. I have, as yet, a limited vocabulary and have to look up many words in the dictionary. Even words I know well, I don’t recognise in written form. This makes reading a slow and painstaking task, more akin to an exercise in translating than reading for pleasure
By chance I came across Gwnewch y Pethau Bychain -Do The Little Things - byFfion Heledd Gruffudd. I started to read it and, o joy! it was bilingual. A short paragraph in Welsh was followed by the same in English. No need for a dictionary.
Gwnech Y Pethau Bychain is a book of suggestions and ideas on ways to encourage the use of Welsh in day to day situations. It is divided into four main sections; The community, school, work and the home. Many of the words occur over and over again and so become familiar.
In this book we are encouraged to implement a suggestion each day. I have tried a few and hope to try more. I have labelled items in my kitchen with their Welsh names and I frequently speak to my dogs in Welsh “Siaradwch a’r ci yn Gymraeg! Dysgwch iddo ymateb i orchmynion Cymraeg. Mae cwn yn gallu bod yn ddwyieithiog hefyd! - Talk to your dog in Welsh! Teach the dog to respond to commands in Welsh. Dogs can be biingual too!”
I have since discovered books with a similar format and have loved them all. The appeal of Gwnech Y Pethau Bychain for me, however, lies in the modern and relevent nature of the language.This is a book for now and it tries to inspire us to use Welsh more each day. Welsh speakers are encouraged to help non-speakers, children and learners to use more Welsh.
I have enjoyed reading this book very much. I found it a useful bridge into reading Welsh. A way to dip a toe in the water and make a start. Try it, if you haven’t yet read a Welsh book. It gives you the help you need to begin the journey. Who knows where it may lead.


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  • Passports and Presidents gan Anobeithio
  • Gwnewch y Pethau Bychain gan Mair Dancoed

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