Frustrations and a personal short reflection

Learning Welsh has been very important to be this past 15 weeks or so. When you learn another language you also learn more of it’s culture. Being Welsh defines me. Being a Welsh speaker is important to me.The more i learn, the more welsh i feel. Its part of an identity for me.

Yesterday in Blaenau Ffestiniog I spoke to someone in Welsh to buy my train ticket. They didn’t understand. On the train I asked for some drinks in Welsh. They didn’t understand. It was a pattern that continued through the day.

Only in Beddgelert was it any better but my little boy spoke to me in English just as i got to the counter and so I was spoken to in English. There was a long queue behind me so I replied in English.

Later I reflected on the experience. I know some English people will mock my experience and call my language a waste of time. I equally know some Welsh speakers will totally get my frustration.

For everyone else I ask that you consider how disappointing it must be to every day have to speak with people in a language other than your own.

The frustrations I felt yesterday are nothing compared to those brought up in Welsh and certainly nothing compared to those whose heritage has been taken away from them.

Sorry i dont want this to be a political post. But it saddened me greatly. Its not a rant agaibst the English. I have been guilty of this in my countries. But in my own it disappointed me.

Mae’r Iaith yn bwysig. Cofiwch.


It’s surprising that you didn’t find anyone to speak Welsh with in Blaenau Ffestiniog as it is almost entirely Welsh speaking there although I have a friend who lives there who informed me that a lot of people from the Midlands have started moving there over the last few years.
I agree it must be frustrating for native Welsh speakers in particular who are forced to constantly having to revert to speaking in English. All of the older people in my village of Penmaenmawr speak Welsh but it appears to have been completely lost to anyone under the age of 60 . They get pleasantly surprised when I speak ( or attempt to speak to them ) in Welsh . They tell me that you didn’t hear much English spoken in the village at all when they were growing up and one lady (who is 86) told me that her mother couldn’t speak any English at all .

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To be fair it was in the station for the festiniog railway but they spoke no welsh at all. And yes they were from Birmingham.

Ok i know the narrow gauge railway is a tourist thing and i hadnt gone into a local shop but i couldnt believe that not one of the five people i attempted to speak with in welsh on the railway could reply with anything but a shrug of the shoulders!

Dont get me wrong this was just a day out with my train lovibg five year old. I hadnt gone expressly to try speaking welsh. But i kind of feel i shouldnt have to!

There’s a reasonably simple reason for all of this - if you try to do touristy type stuff in Wales, you’ll pretty much immediately encounter the undeniable fact that the tourist industry in Wales centres overwhelmingly around catering for English-speaking visitors. That’s not really surprising since there are millions upon millions of English speakers within a short drive of our tourist attractions. I’m pretty sure that if you tried doing rather more day-to-day stuff you would have had no problem doing it in Welsh. Probably wouldn’t have made for such an entertaining day out, though!
If you factor in the likelihood that some tourist businesses have deliberately been opened by people coming into Wales to ‘cash in’ (as they might see it - it’s a hard industry to make a quick buck in) on the tourist trade, and the historical conservatism of both English holiday-makers and the tourist industry, plus the likelihood that volunteers that help with the running of attractions such as narrow gauge railways will be from England, then it’s not difficult to understand the experience you had.
Nevertheless, you will find some tourist-orientated businesses in that area that are both locally-run and set up with the express purpose of having a positive attitude to the local culture. Antur Stiniog is one that stands out.


Don’t disagree. Just found it immensely saddening

NWhat Rob Bruce said.

I remember myself and Trisha going to Cardigan for the first time after both of us could speak enough Welsh to hold a conversation. Though we had both been there before, it seemingly magically transformed into a Welsh speaking place rather than an English speaking place- because everyone heard us speaking Welsh together. Welsh in the pubs, local butchers, out and about seeing the local historical landmarks and countryside.

The only place we had a problem with no one understanding Welsh was in the large, expensive tourist attraction of a reconstructed Celtic village. Yes, the reconstruction of an old Welsh historical landmark, where the inhabitants would have spoken the ancestor of Welsh, was filled and run by English people with little interest in Welsh history or the Welsh language. Interesting enough guides, enthusiastic over the history they cared about, but obviously no particular interest in Wales, Welsh history or the Welsh language.

Going into this English (in both meanings!) enclave was, after our so pleasant realisation that Cardigan had “changed” :wink:, was a bit like having a bucket of cold water thrown in our faces.

Yes, I entirely get your frustration and disappointment.

I wouldn’t be surprised if it is places like the large, anglicised ones which get the majority of grants and funding, thus helping places like that exist, multiply and grow.


It’s not really a problem unique to Wales, either. So there’s no embarrassment in regarding it as a political issue, because it just is, worldwide.


Specially damaging to smaller cultures overwhelmed by a larger, though. Not really a problem in England (or many other countries!)

You don’t think Americanisation is a problem for England as much as it is for anywhere else? I was in York over the past weekend. Lovely place, some very nice pubs, but with the same unavoidable coffee and fast food chains, the same soulless out-of-town retail parks that you’ll find the world over.


Not to the same extent, no. People running the tourist attractions run them in English. Americanisation of English is nowhere near as much of a problem. So yes, I would definitely say the problems England faces in such things are different in kind, not just in degree.
[edit- and historical sites in England certainly do not ignore English history.]
[edit again- fast food joints and out of town retail outlets are hardly tourist driven, though, surely? Awful things, a sign of worldwide culture being not only intrinsically bad but also boring, but driven by large companies targeting the people who live in an area rather than a result of tourism, surely?]

Trivial examples of that, perhaps are things like:

  • children being “raised” instead of “brought up”

  • groups of people “protesting” something instead of “protesting against” something
    and similarly…

  • people “appealing” a decision instead of “appealing against” a decision

…and I’m sure the list could go on. Actually a lot of the ones that annoy self and spouse are ones that journalists use but which “ordinary [UK] people” by and large don’t use. The Grauniad is an offender here. Ditto, I keep being told by Guardian journalists that “we” are obsessed by all things American…well no, dear Guardian journo, “we” are not so obsessed, even if you are.

No, I am not anti-American of course - there are too many lovely Americans on this forum for that to be the case. And of course, Americans can use the language in any way they choose. It’s just when some British people arbitrarily adopt American usages (when in the UK), when there is a perfectly good British usage available that we all understand, that I go a bit Colonel Blimp-ish.

However, in the grand scheme of things, there are far more important things to be worried about, and I rarely spend more than say, ooh about an hour a day worrying about this sort of thing. :slight_smile: (As Father Ted would say: “Down with this sort of thing”). :slight_smile:

Interesting to hear you mention that you were speaking Welsh with your partner as you went around. Once, when I was in Llangollen, I think, I stood in shop queue behind a Welsh couple. When their turn came they were pleasantly surprised to be addressed in Welsh by the shopkeeper. When they asked why, he said he´d heard them speaking Welsh to one another. That was enough to change his ¨mental language setting¨ :slight_smile:

Unfortunately if you travel alone, or with a partner/companion/group who don´t know or aren´t interested in the lingo, then you´re stuck. I suppose there are badges, t-shirts etc. you could wear, but that always seems artificial to me. Maybe OK if you´re an extrovert :wink:

Well I am leased to say that the head of customer services replied to me after I emailed him to express my disappointment that the staff made no effort to respond to me in Welsh.

He even apologised in Welsh and said he intends to reinforce the message that staff should greet in Welsh and as a Welsh learner himself he will encourage others to do so.

I had suggested that rather than shrug their shoulders a simple Welsh response might be nice.

Eg sori, dw’n methu siarad Cymraeg.
mae’n ddrwg gen i. Gawn ni siarad saesneg.

It may sound silly but it’s just that acknowledgement that someone is making an effort


I find the same thing happens to me when me and my daughter are out speaking Welsh to each other people will automatically address us in Welsh . I can also always tell when someone speaks Welsh by their accent . I seem to be hearing people speak Welsh a lot more lately , even in places I don’t usually here it such as Llandudno . I put this down to me noticing and picking it up more now that I am learning it. Has anyone else experienced this ?

Glad you got a good response from the railway company Peter


I used to think that, but have had to rethink it over the years. Some native Welsh speakers can often surprise you with the accents when speaking in English. I was on the train up Snowdon once and the conductor? (the one who stands at the front) sounded like he was from the Midlands and I did think about locals not getting jobs on the trains etc. When he stepped off the train and started talking to some of the other people he worked with - in Welsh - the Englsh accent had completely gone and he was clearly someone born and bred in the area and a first language Welsh Speaker.

The same thing happened on the Radio once - someone from one of the agencies for something like child protection etc was talking on Radio Wales, with that non-accent with no intonation, that young people tend to use these days, that sounds like they come from Surrey or posh parts of Cardiff. I admit that I prejudicially again thought why hasn’t someone from Wales got that senior job in Wales and then later on Radio Cymru I heard the same person - introduced as speaking from Ynys Mon, talking like the most natural and native Ynys Mon Welsh speaker.

Some people are very good at adopting accents and can easily fool you.


I regularly surprise patients. There hear RP, received pronunciation and assume both that I don’t speak Welsh and that I couldn’t have learned it.

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I stayed at a (terrible, so I won’t name it) B&B in Bangor recently. The proprietor had the thickest, most Cymraeg north Wales accent, so I spoke to him in Welsh, telling him who I was and that I’d booked some days previously over the phone.

Nothing. He didn’t even recognise what language I was speaking (OK, some of that my be my curious not-quite-north, not-quite-south Mid Wales intonation :wink: ).

Apparently it’s quite common in Bangor for people to be monolingual English, as it is in Aberystwyth. It might have something to do with the presence of the University.


I think there’s many factors that have affected the English speaking accents of people in Wales. In the early days there was a move in the Grammar schools to try to eradicate all traces of a Welsh accent when teaching people to speak English, but that was a long time ago. My mother blames some of here very posh English pronounciations for her telephone voice, by saying it’s not posh but down to the way some things might be said in Welsh, but I don’t really believe that - she can pronounce words like Austria, with a really pronounced Aww at the start, which would make the Queen sound common and that really used to make us laugh as kids.

Yours is exactly like my mam!!! Mine spent years listening to RP from actresses in movies, when English actresses all sounded the same - 1920s and 30s - and based her accent on them. After 1936 when George VI became King, she heard his wife and based her accent on that one! The present monarch actually sounds a bit less snooty that her mother did!
Thinks… :thought_balloon: When my Mam went to the first ‘Talkie’, she hated the sound because everyone sounded strange and harsh! She had never heard an American accent before!

I have a problem. I pick things up easily and, for years, worked with a lot of Americans. I tend to say ‘raised’ instead of ‘brought up’, but your other examples make me cringe too!

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The thing is, the Queen’s accent has changed remarkably over the years. Even the Queen’s English isn’t what it was. I just know that when abroad last year a young Italian woman told me I had exactly the accent her (Italian) English teacher was trying to instill in her. In some ways it’s been a blessing and people assume I know what I’m talking about. In some ways a curse for exactly the same reason. What sort of accent I have in Welsh and what it says about me, I have no idea.

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