Hi from Friesland, with question about attitude towards learners

Hi everyone,

How very nice to have found this site, both the amazingly wonderful level 1 lessons (Thank you, Aran!!!), and this very friendly forum. It’s very stimulating.

I’m Emma, I live in the Netherlands and I’m learning Welsh really because - well - ehm - I like languages, and I like languages that are supposedly unlearnable even more. So after trying my hand at Tibetan I decided it might be more useful to learn a language I might actually use sometime and ended up here; if nothing else, it’ll be a nice trick to show off at birthdays. :wink: I was born and raised in Friesland, a province of the Netherlands not unlike Wales in having its own language and culture, though at 500,000 speakers it’s quite a bit smaller. I live in a village north of Amsterdam now, so the hunt for Welsh speakers is on. For now, I’m having great fun with the challenges and Aran’s encouragement, and am already planning a holiday for next summer. Hurrah!

Bladibla, all this really was an introduction, because what I would like to ask really was this: what are learners’ experiences using Welsh ‘in the wild’? I speak Frisian quite well but do have a Dutch accent; when I try to speak the language, even explaining I want to practise, most of the time people will stick to Dutch. I’ve been told literally several times ‘you have an accent, it’s hopeless, we’ll speak Dutch’. Helpful, really, thanks… So what can I expect in Cymraeg? I assume that by then I’ll have come quite a way, know more than ‘I’m going to say something in Welsh now’, and want to practise. Is there a chance of getting in some nice conversation at the butcher’s, in the park or at the pub (especially that latter one! :smile:)?

So - yes, that was a very long way of saying ‘please reassure me I’m not doing this for nothing’. Could someone come to the rescue, please? :slight_smile:

Thanks a lot for everything. Diolch!


Hi Emma,

Welcome to the forum!

I can share my experiences as a Welsh learner from the Netherlands (athough I live in Australia). There are plenty of opportunities to speak Welsh in Wales. When I visit there, I make a point of always speaking Welsh, not English, with young people, because they have all learnt Welsh in school to varying degrees, and with everybody else, it depends on the circumstances. The situation you describe with dyn Frysk yn Fryslan is I think very similar to Welsh in Wales, many Welsh speakers will speak English with you if they do not feel comfortable speaking Welsh for whatever reason, so it is a matter of persisting and being in bytsje koppich. (as you can see, myn Frysk is tige swak :slight_smile:, I just finished a futurelearn Frisian course).
The best example of the need to persist is when my wife and I were in a pub in Ruthun a few years back, and everybody was speaking English. My wife said loudly “surely there must be a few Welsh speakers here”, and immediately two people standing next to us (turns out they were farmers from the surrounding hills) started chatting with me in Welsh (my wife will learn it one day, she says). They told me they did not feel comfortable speaking Welsh because they did not think it was proper Welsh. It was good enough for me!

I thoroughly recommend a bootcamp in due course, huge fun and incredible boost to speaking!


A very warm welcome to the forum, Emma, and thank you for your very kind words… :slight_smile:

As Louis says, when you make it here, you’ll impress and please people with the fact that you want to speak Welsh - so as long as you press on if you do get any nervous or rude people switching back to English, it’ll all be fine! And, of course, you’ll be able to practise on Skype beforehand, and maybe to meet up with some of our other learners in the Netherlands… :slight_smile:

Croeso! Emma, I will entice @tatjana in here - like so! She is Slovene from Slovenia (You might try her language next! :wink:) She attended a Bootcamp this year and the Eisteddfod, Before that she travelled a bit and saw things like the Folk Museum. She spoke Welsh everywhere until faced with total incomprehension and then suggested SSiW as a cure!! I’ll let her tell you in her own way with a link to the thread covering her journey!
She certainly didn’t find she’d wasted her time.
I am not sure if you have found the Map, click on FAQ to find it. To get on it, find the ‘Please add me to the SSiW map’ thread! Send a message to @Sionned who will place you on it in the location you give her!
Now, I am running a petition to get the UK Government to fund our only Welsh Language TV Channel (only one in the world) properly. I will send you an invitation to sign! Diolch in advance!


I have only ever found that Welsh-speakers were absolutely delighted that I was learning and were very keen to be supportive. And if you’re from a ‘foreign’ country and you’re learning … well, they’re ‘wrth eu boddau’. Success in finding Welsh-speakers in the wild might be dependent on where you are. There are Welsh-speakers everywhere, but higher concentrations in some parts than others. So you might need to make a little bit more of an effort to hunt them down in some areas of the country. But if you do visit, let us know in here where you’re going and there’s bound to be someone who can point you in the right direction to get a chat in Welsh.


Hi Emma a chroeso i’r fforwm.

I’m always intrigued by Friesland, as my wife and I once did a cycle tour of the German part of Friesland (Ostfriesland). I have (imperfectly!) learned a lot of German over the years, and spoke German at every opportunity (and was delighted to be taken for a Dutchman rather than an “Englander” - they knew I wasn’t German, but weren’t expecting many English people there, so guessed I might be from the next country along which was reasonable!).

We didn’t knowingly hear any Frisian, but got plenty of “moyn moyn”'s for “good morning”, which I think is more Platt than Frisian.

We had vaguely hoped we might get as far as the Netherlands and into the Dutch part of Friesland, but we were much too slow, and didn’t get that far. One day, maybe.

I think that if you follow the course regularly, and listen to the lessons carefully and repeat many times, you will gradually acquire an authentic accent. I’ve been lucky enough to go on two SSiW bootcamps, where as you may know, we are not allowed to speak English until it officially ends. After the official end, while we are saying goodbye, most people want to keep speaking Welsh, but if they do speak English, one is usually very surprised to hear their original English accent, because their Welsh hasn’t given it away, even during a whole 7 days.

Felly, dal ati! :slight_smile: (“keep at it” :slight_smile: )
Pob hwyl.

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Hi Emma, I heard Friesian is mutually intelligible with English, is this true?

Is it a big help when learning English?

I know one saying:

Bread, butter and green cheese is good English and good Fries.

I am currently trying to learn Welsh, Spanish and French and find the mutual intelligibility with Italian, which I already speak, to be of huge assistance with Spanish and to some extent with French.

I’m not Emma, and I don’t speak Friesian, but I’ll add my two cents’ worth from a linguistics point of view.

Friesian is English’s closest living relative. That means the two languages split off from each other more recently than their ancestral language split off from the other Germanic languages. That close relationship is particularly noticeable in the vocabulary. You will come across a great many words in both languages that sound very similar and mean the same thing.

But “closely related” is not synonymous with “mutually intelligible”, and no, Friesian is not mutually intelligible with English.

No need to take my word for it. Test it for yourself by searching for YouTube videos in Friesian. If you are an English speaker and don’t have any knowledge of Friesian, nor any Dutch or German that might give you clues, then I challenge you to understand more than a tiny bit of Friesian without reading the subtitles. I certainly couldn’t, and I have at least a nodding acquaintance with a few Germanic languages.

Emma, probably only a native Welsh speaker could tell you whether you’re speaking Welsh with a foreign accent, and I’m not a native speaker (I’m Australian), so I couldn’t judge. But I will say this: the totally aural approach to learning in SSiW, at least in the early stages of the course, means that you have the very best shot possible at acquiring a native-like Welsh accent.

When we adult language learners read words in another language for the first time, our eyes get in the way, especially with the vowels (and what we think of as an “accent” is largely to do with how vowels are pronounced). We look at the letters that represent the vowels, and our brain tells us how those letters are pronounced in our own native language, and that interferes with what we hear. It takes a massive effort not to let it interfere, especially when we’re not even conscious that we’re doing it.

Every other language course I’ve ever done has involved reading from the very start. SSiW is different. “Get rid of your pen and paper” say @aran and @Iestyn in the introduction. That’s excellent advice. It forces us to really listen, and copy what they’re actually saying, not what we assume they’re saying.

So I can’t say whether you’ll come out of this course with an accent good enough to fool a first-language Welsh speaker, but I can say with reasonable confidence that by choosing SSiW, you’ve given yourself the best chance of it.


Thanks Mathilde.

In reference to Emma worrying about speaking with a native accent, I would pose the question as to whether it really matters.

Acquiring a native accent is not synonymous with speaking a language well. It may help, but I don’t believe it should be the goal of a language learner.

As an example, take Arsene Wenger speaking English as a case in point, his English is better than most natives but his accent is still French. Rather than detracting from the quality of his English, it adds more colour to it.

As another example, Jose Mourinho’s English is, though perhaps slightly behind Arsene Wenger’s, excellent. However, it is very easy to tell that he is Portuguese. His Italian is also exceptionally good. In fact, one of the reasons the Italian press hated him so much was because he was able to tie them up in knots as his linguistic skills were often more advanced than those writing about him. It is still, however, reasonably simple to tell he is Lusitanic.

As a teacher of languages myself, I encourage my students to concentrate on pronunciation rather than accent. I also make the point that essentially there is no such thing as a native accent. In English, someone from Liverpool does not speak in the same way as someone from Manchester. In Italian, a Milanese does not sound like a Roman. A slight use of guesswork here, but I’d wager that a Cardiffian doesn’t sound like someone from Caernarfon when speaking Welsh.

I agree with what Mathilde says regarding vowels getting in the way of native accents. That said, vowels are pronounced by different people within the same country in hundreds, maybe thousands, of different ways. I wouldn’t get lost in trying to sound native, rather I would focus on pronunciation.

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Interesting - as a non-professional in languages (but as someone who has been learning them on and off for more years than I’d care to relate), I would not myself have differentiated pronunciation from accent, but now you mention it, I suppose they are different (although I would suggest related) entities.

However, while absolutely agreeing that there is no such thing as a native accent in English (RP is considered a “standard”, but it’s not really a “native accent”), I think with SSiW, you do learn an accent - Pen Llŷn (or something close to it) in the case of the northern flavour. I don’t know how to define the accent on the southern course, but it’s obviously a lot different from the northern one (not just in the small vocabulary differences). Of course, once people start speaking regularly out in the wild (as strongly encouraged by SSiW),. they will gradually adapt their accent to that of the people around them (those that live in Wales, or who otherwise have regular chance to speak Welsh with first language or very experienced speakers, anyway).

I have suffered the penalty for having a good ‘ear’. I tend to develop the accent of those around me. So., I go to France and get taken for a Belgian on the train home! Maybe a Fleming rather than a Walloon, but not a Brit! This can be very embarrassing if people think you are joking when you truly don’t understand! :blush:

Hmmmm …

No, I won’t start to preach about my “success” but I’ll say something different for the start though:

Croeso i’r fforwm @Emma ac @aindriumacdhomhnaill. Yes @aindriumacdhomhnaill also - the latest joined (to my knowledge) member of the forum.

Now further on … @Emma I hope @elkiedeadman is still around here somewhere. She’s from Netherlands too and she’s amazing woman, speaking Cymraeg like true Cymres who I had (among all the others at the time) the honour to meet when I was on Bootcamp in July. Who knows how near/far from each-other you two really live.

I can reasure you, you’re doing just the right thig because:

  1. Nothing is for nothing regarding learning languages at least. The more languages you know/speak/learn, the better
  2. With learning Cymraeg (Welsh) you are helping to keep this beautiful language alive and to be spoken by more and more people. And
  3. We’re just simply glad you’re (both) here and are eager to hear about your progress, helping wherever/whenever we can and help you practice speaking the language when you’re ready for some skyping or live meeting. I believe here’s always someone to meet one way or another (virtual or real-life).

About me … I wouldn’t waste too much words. But yes, I didn’t find any minute spared learning/speaking Cymraeg waste of time. It was and still is something what many times drives me to go on not just with my learning path but my life path in geheral.

I was at the bootcamp as @henddraig mentioned and I was thrilled with the whole thing. Being in position to speak the whole week only Welsh and nothing more is superb Afterwards it might very well happen that you come to London and you still start conversations in Welsh and even when you are allerted you’re in “English zone” now you just can’t stop. :slight_smile: Yup, that happened to me. But, here’s my way of telling you all about it - @henddraig obviously knows me very well. :slight_smile: You can read all about my journey to Wales, Bootcamp and accompaniant stuff here.

Don’t be too worried about the accent. Until you didn’t learn really a lot of language and really well - why not just let people know you’re learning without telling them this all the time and appologizng already in advance about your language knowledge and skills. Having your own accent in speach (as many say here) enriches the language and telling native speakers you’re (maybe) still learning at the same time not putting yourself in awkward position. :slight_smile: Impatient people who are not willing to bare with your “not native” accent wouldn’t get into too much and too long conversation even if you’d speak like a native speaker anyway I believe. Those are usually people who actually hate to get into conversations with strangers in the first place (if the word is not about politics :slight_smile: ).

Felly, dal ati ac paid becso! :slight_smile: (So keep going and don’t worry!)

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That is an excellent point, and one I should have addressed in my earlier post. I quite agree with you. An accent that marks a person out as a non-native speaker is not necessarily a bad thing, and in fact can be part of a person’s charm. I’d argue that the accent only becomes a problem if it prevents people from understanding them, or if for some reason they need to convince people they’re a native speaker - for example, if they’re an actor and their professional career depends on it. Anthony LaPaglia, for instance, couldn’t get work in the USA until he ditched his Australian accent entirely during auditions and fooled casting directors into thinking he was born in New York.

Years ago, when I was doing my linguistics undergraduate degree, a colleague and I were discussing accents. I was musing about one day possibly making a career as a dialect coach or speech therapist. (I never did either in the end, but that’s by the by.) My colleague’s mother tongue was Hungarian. Her English was excellent but heavily accented, the accent acquired by way of the years she had spent living in Hungary, Romania, Germany, Israel, and South Africa (and those are only the countries I can remember!), during which time she had learned Romanian, German, Hebrew, etc., and had become fluent in all those languages. She had a real knack for learning languages. But her English was heavily overlaid with a variety of influencing accents, and, I venture to say, probably her other languages were too.

She asked me whether it was possible to get rid of her “foreign” accent and sound more Australian. My response then was the same as it is now: “Well, maybe, but why would you want to? You speak excellent English. We understand you perfectly. Sure, you have an accent, but there’s nothing bad about that. Your accent is part of what makes you unique.”

They are indeed related, with quite a bit of overlap. Unless you’re a linguist, language teacher, etc., it doesn’t much matter whether you use the two terms synonymously, The average person probably wouldn’t.

If you’re really interested in trying to tease apart the differences, this page has some reasonable attempts at it: https://www.quora.com/How-is-pronunciation-different-from-accent not all of which I agree with, and at least one of which muddies the waters a bit by confusing accent-as-pronunciation-variant with accent-as-emphasis.

If you think “pronunciation” and “accent” are difficult to define in linguistic terms, try “word”. Or “sentence”. Or “syllable”, the hardest of all in my opinion. A syllable is something that everyone recognises when they hear it - e.g. you instantly know whether a word has two syllables or three - but it’s fiendishly difficult to actually define.

Hi emma,

I am so happy to have caught up with this thread as I live in Zaltbommel and have been looking for other welsh language learners in NL since I started learning welsh a couple of years ago. :slight_smile:

If you are interested in contacting me, please let me know and we can phone eachother. I am often in Zwolle which is a little closer to Friesland than Zaltbommel …so maybe we could meet up some time there for a ‘paned’ ( cuppa) ?

Warm wishes,


YAY! I knew I have to give you a note in a way! Da iawn! Dw i’n hapus iawn! :slight_smile:

Though it can be tricky even without resorting to Salish languages or Georgian, just using English – how many syllables are “fire” or “power”, one or two?

Wow, thank you so much everyone for your warm welcomes. I timed that first post ill, didn’t have much time to answer, so I’ll just make one big post of it.

Fascinating to see how the conversation has flown towards discussion of accents and pronunciation in general. Just to make it clear, I have no ambition at all to pass for Welsh. It was the Frisians I met (not a few!) who had the attitude of ‘If you’re no native speaker I don’t care to speak the language with you’, and who made me worry this might be the same in Wales. Very glad to read that this doesn’t seem to be the case. Frisian and Dutch are quite alike, and the former is being strongly influenced by the latter. I imagine the strong nationalists feared my importing too many ‘Dutchisms’ into the language - it was always in the proudest and fiercest area where I got these odd reactions.

@louis, wêr hie dat no tocht, who’d have thought, to find a fellow speaker of Frisian on a Welsh forum. Goeie!/Hi! Do you have any connection with the area, to have been learning it, or was it just out of interest? Frisian on Futurelearn?? That’s great!
Good to hear you got some good practise when you were visiting. I’ll keep that in mind. Maybe make a button, or a hat&jacket saying ‘I would love to speak Welsh with you, even if you mangle it as badly as I do’. :slight_smile:

@henddraig (is that Welsh for Henry?), I’d already signed that, very important to keep that channel alive.

@mikeellwood, did you enjoy your holiday in Ostfriesland? Seems like a terribly windy area to go cycling - but that might be part of the attration? Having Germans take you for Dutch must mean your knowledge of the language may not have been as imperfect, well done. They’re quite alike, it’s relatively easy for us.
Moyn sounds like Frisian as well - I know they write it Moarn here, but I imagine it must more or less sound the same. Generally there’s little difference in speech in the border areas - my relatives on the Dutch side of the border can speak in dialect with people from the other side very easily, but need lessons to read their texts.

@aindriumacdhomhnaill, I refer to Matilda’s excellent post for the answer to your question as to mutual intelligibility (???). They are the closest relatives, but Frisian has remained Germanic while English had a lot of Norman input, of course. But yes, here, your saying would be ‘Butter, brea en griine tsiis is goed ingelsk en goed frysk.’ I’m used to a different second sentence though, meaning ‘Butter, bread and green cheese, whoever can’t say that (properly) is no real Frisian.’ They do sound a bit obsessed with ‘proper Frisianness’, come to think of it. :frowning:

Thanks to everyone who suggested bootcamp, that looks absolutely brilliant. Great excuse for a visit… :wink: Yes, @aran, there are so many ways to practise now, it definitely makes language learning abroad quite a bit easier. I just started challenge 5, so will start looking for someone to practise with soon. It’s going well!

Thanks everyone for the encouragement, you’ve given a boost to my already great enthusiasm.


Yes indeed, Philip. Just when you reckon you’ve got a good working definition of what a syllable is, along come diphthongs and triphthongs to make you tear your hair out and start again.

Personally, my answer to “fire” and “power” would be “it depends”. It depends how much palatalisation the speaker gives to the word “fire”, and how much labialisation they give to the word “power”. Which effectively means you need a speaker. My “it depends” answer means a word can’t be said to have any definite number of syllables at all, independent of someone to say that word.

But that’s just an opinion, and you’ll find plenty of disagreement.


Hen Ddraig = Old Dragon.

The Welsh equivalent of Henry, I think, would be Harri. :slight_smile:

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