I’m really glad to have stumbled on this resource.
I have always considered myself to be Welsh (in my heart and genetics at least). My Mother is Welsh, my Father is Welsh, my Grandparent were Welsh, My Aunts, Uncles and Cousins are Welsh. I was raised Welsh, surrounded by British people, have always supported the Welsh team, I can sing every Max Boyce song ever written and I even had a Welsh accent until I was about eight years old (Well, actually my teachers thought I was Irish).
My parents immigrated to South Africa in 1976 and I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa seven years later, an only child. So sadly, the nationality stated on my ID does not correspond to how I identify myself. Perhaps I’m “Transnational”.
When my parents move on, I’ll have no blood family here besides my own children (who I consider to be half Welsh). Don’t get me wrong, I love these guys, I always wear my green and gold on condition that Wales are not the opponent (I was just as upset as all of you last week, maybe more so because I was so looking forward to having a dig at my work colleagues on Monday).
My folks are from Barry, and cannot speak a stitch of Welsh. I remember my Dad singing his own version of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau to me when I was young and I made a conscious effort to memorise the words. It was only later in life that I realised he had made the words up, making me look like a tool when I proudly sang them in front of all my mates.
You see, because of my South African accent and ability to speak Afrikaans, I have always exaggerated my Welshness. If you wear a red rugby jersey, I’ll wear the jersey, a flag as a cape and carry 17 KG’s of leaks and Daffodils around all day.
About a year and a half ago, I decided that I needed to learn the actual words to the anthem. There is a coffee shop around the corner from my office that is open nice and early and I go there every day while waiting for the traffic to die down. I found a YouTube video which included the English phonetic spelling of the words and was able to memorise the song over two coffee sessions. I didn’t tell anyone, it was my little secret.
Last year, my Dad and I drove up to Nelspruit to watch Wales take on South Africa (That penalty try devastated me until the rematch later in the year). As the opening chords of the Welsh anthem began to play, I summoned my deepest baritone voice and belted it out perfectly, word for word. My Dad watched me in utter astonishment and then began to cry (tears of pride, just to clarify). It was a really special moment.
Of course I had no idea what I was saying. But I wanted to.
I searched far and wide for Welsh language clubs or schools in South Africa and online but couldn’t find anything until this last Sunday when I found the SSIW app in the Google Play store. I really didn’t expect much but decided to use my morning coffee sessions to give it a try. Man am I surprised! It feels like I have flown through the first four lessons. Luckily, Afrikaans also makes use of rolling R’s and back of the throat G’s, plus my middle name Is Lloyd (which I have always pronounced in Welsh, much to my Wife’s irritation) so the funny goose sound in the word “Gallu” comes naturally to me.
I’ve found the following routine to be very helpful indeed:
- After dropping my son off at school, I listen to a lesson while in traffic on my way to the coffee shop (speaking out loud in the car) and while I am drinking coffee (speaking in my head).
- I practice throughout the day whenever I have a gap.
- I listen to the lesson again on my way home while in traffic (again speaking out loud).
- When I get home I write down all the words and phrases I have learned that day (using English phonetic spelling not Welsh, that is another journey for another year).
- I then write down as many sentences as I can using the words and phrases I learned throughout the day (again in English phonetic spelling like ““Dween mendy sharat Cumag aggos dween Gally” = I am going to speak Welsh because I can).
I know we are not supposed to write anything down (and I don’t when I’m listening to the lessons), but I find this really helps me to retain what I have learned, keeping it fresh in my mind the next morning (I speak Welsh in the shower).
My parents have two Welsh speaking friends from Swansea, so at least I will have someone to practice with when I get further along, but right now, like learning the anthem, I am keeping this a secret.
I would really like to thank the SSIW team for putting this together, it is very clear that you guys have put a great deal of effort and instructional thinking into this resource. I never thought I could learn this way, but I am glad I decided to at least give it a try. I’m really enjoying the humor and “if you got this right, then top of the class” sections of the lessons, which I find encouraging. I will definitely be purchasing access to the second and third courses and I appreciate the opportunity to connect with my heritage from the other side of the planet.
I’m hoping to visit Cymru in the next three years, but if you happen to find yourself in Johannesburg before such time, Dwi yn mynd i brynu cwrw i chi.