Memory aid for mutations

It’s the interesting follow-on to what Dee said - there is a formal set of mutation rules, and then there’s the reality-based set of ‘actual usage’ mutation rules - which are pretty significantly different.

So if your perfectionism is driving you towards wanting to have a technically correct command of mutations at the cost of sounding like a little like someone speaking classical Greek instead of modern Greek, then it’s all good - full speed ahead with the lists! - but if your perfectionism is driving you towards wanting to sound as natural as possible, then Dee’s approach is pretty much the only way… :slight_smile:

But yes, either way, words are just endlessly fascinating, aren’t they? :heart:

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I want to hear that story.


I knew someone Italian at university who could speak absolutely perfect English, but couldn’t think in it: he would think in Italian, and then slowly translate, with pauses of up to a couple of seconds between words. It was like pulling teeth - you were forever wanting to finish his sentences for him. But the thing was, apart from that being a bit rude, he was actually terribly bright, and might well have something to say that you couldn’t predict, so you kind of just had to wait. Sometimes I felt like asking him to just write it down…


Hmmm, I find this difficult to resolve. There is one set of teachers saying it doesn’t matter, and another set to whom it does matter. It matters to people writing course books, and marking exams, and teaching classes. But it doesn’t matter to teachers like yourself. And it doesn’t matter to many Real Welsh Speakers, who don’t even seem to know their own language as thoroughly as learners are expected to know it by the people teaching exam courses. Why is a higher standard expected of learners than that which RWS’s set for themselves? I suppose its the same for people learning any second language, really. The learners have to choose which standard they adopt. But would it not be better if the exam markers were less pedantic? It is they, after all, who write the lists, make the rules which learners are expected to adopt. It is they who cause learners the confusion. If they did not make such a big deal of mutations, neither would the learners.
Kind of separately, Aran, I enjoy being a perfectionist. I like the challenge of getting to grips with something tricky and beating it to the ground, teaching it who’s boss. But that’s because basically I have confidence in my ability to do so. Others who are less confident will just give up and walk away. Which is a shame for the Welsh language, in my humble opinion.

Maybe actually he would have preferred to write it down than to speak. I feel like that. I’m not a talker. I’m introverted. I wonder if your friend was.

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I’d just moved to Porthmadog, after my first intensive month of Wlpan in Aberystwyth - and was slogging away at a twice a week Pellach course - and getting to know new people in my usual way: spending my time playing pool.

I was in the pub one night when a guy I’d played a few times came in.

‘Hei, ti’n iawn?’ he said. ‘Sut mae’r dysgu Cymraeg yn mynd?’ [How’s the learning Welsh going?]

Not too bad, I said, apart from the bloody mutations.

‘The what now?’ he said.

I paused suspiciously.

You know you change the beginning of a word, right? It’s ei char hi if it’s a girl, but ei gar o if it’s a lad, that sort of stuff?

‘Oh, yeah, I suppose.’

Well, that’s a mutation.

'Wel, wel. Difyr iawn. Dysgu rhywbeth newydd bob dydd, ‘de!’ [Very interesting. Learn something new every day, eh!]

I tried not to scream.

As I walked home that night, I decided it was over for me. There was no bloody way I was going to worry about them any more if there were first language Welsh speakers who didn’t even know they bloody EXISTED:wink: :smiley:


I don’t think it is, though - there’s nothing more complicated about ‘technically correct’ mutations than about ‘natural usage’ mutations - in fact, you could argue that it takes a higher level of linguistic competence to be able to adapt to adapting patterns in the way in which regular speakers of any language do - with all the freight of social markers that all languages carry.

Yup, I agree. And that’s precisely why we bang on so often and so passionately about them not being important… :slight_smile:


Its like this with a lot of languages though.

If you’re like me, you probably spent 5/6 years learning French in school, learning that they say things like “je NE parle pas francais” or “je NE regrette rien”, and then the first time you go to France you realise that you’ll struggle to find a native speaker who actually uses NE. They will just say “Je parle pas…” or even just “Chuis pas… (Je suis pas)”

Likewise, in school it is drilled into you that NOUS is we, so you go to France thinking you’re sorted - and then you realise that no-one under 60 uses NOUS, and they all use ON instead.

Mutations are very much the same and native/first language speakers just don’t seem to have the same worries that learners have about mutations.

As a good example, I’ve got a thank you card from a good friend downstairs on the noticeboard, she gave it us when she left Aber earlier this year. She has a Bachelors in Welsh, a Masters in Welsh writing and is about to finish a PHd in Welsh. She does professional translation work and has written millions of words for all types of companies and people…

…her card to us is written literally as she speaks… i.e with a Gogledd accent, there are malmutations everwhere… :smiley:


Bloody hell!! That must have been a real WTF moment!! As Kenneth Williams would say ‘Oh, what’s the bloody POINT!!!’

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It became a hugely liberating shift in mindset for me - and is probably a large part of why I don’t sound all that much like a learner any more… :slight_smile:

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I get what you’re saying there about competence Aran. That makes sense.

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Mmmm yes I get that. I’m feeling it. But I’m still on an exam course. I want to be on that course. So I’m going to have to tolerate the exam board’s nit picking. Maybe the trick is not to surrender to them by actually sitting the exam. I don’t have to sit the exam. Maybe it’s a waste of time.


How reassuring!

Unfortunately with written exams and stuff, the requirement to be totally correct all of the time is likely to be there.

However, in real life speech - no-one will even notice mis-mutations, trust me! First language speakers really do not care… the same way despite being a first language English speaker, if someone asked me what a definitive article was I’d probably laugh in their faces before asking them if it was a trick question… as I wouldn’t have a clue!

Unless you’re like me, and you will get 1 or 2 people who will go out of their way to remind you every single time you mis-mutate something on Twitter!


Like people who have just discovered that they’ve been speaking prose all their life. :slight_smile:

Not mutations exactly, but related, really:

I think we’ve discussed it on the forum before, but I quite often hear characters on Rownd a Rownd using the (supposedly) non-existent verb “gaddo” (promise), instead of its official version “addo”. The theory being (I think) that people assume “addo” must be a mutation of “gaddo”.
(Not sure if this theory holds water really, since isn’t SM quite often used in conversational verbs anyway, so you’d expect “addo” wouldn’t you?)

Anyway, I heard it on the most recent episode, used by more than one character, including Leisa Gwenllian, subject of one of Beca Browns recent interviews for SSiW. (The Welsh subtitle “corrected” it to “addo”! :slight_smile: ).

And just looking in GPC, there are usages of “gaddo” going back to at least the 18th century.
(Meanwhile, claims that “gaddo” is incorrect).

(I think Welsh must be a language sent down by the Angels from Heaven specifically to punish prescriptivists. :slight_smile: ).


Yeah, that’s pretty much the picture there, I’m afraid. Exam boards will be picky - not least because they’d come under attack for ‘undermining standards’ if they didn’t…

But the good news is that they won’t pay all that much attention to mutations in any oral components, and in the written stuff, working from a memorised list isn’t the same kind of problem as it is in speech… :slight_smile:


That’s interesting Aran, and thank you. I must say that although I enjoy the discipline of exam preparation, and classes provide a scaffolding on which to hang study, I am seriously going off the idea of actually putting myself through an exam, as a qualification doesn’t add anything to my proficiency - which is of course obvious.


It sounds as though you’ve got a pretty clear handle on which are the motivating factors for you, and which aren’t - you certainly shouldn’t feel that there’s anything wrong in choosing to skip the exam… :slight_smile:

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I realise qualifications can be important for certain jobs etc, but I got O-level French and Welsh at school (both second language) and I couldn’t speak either.

It wasn’t wasted time, just an inefficient way of language learning and I’ve realised from this method that language learning is better done without a pen and paper. I would personally complete this course and then, maybe if you want, brush up on a little grammar etc and then do the exam - because even without ever looking at a book the oral part will be so much better than I ever did when I did my exam and I think the grammar as well will become a lot more intuitive.


Thanks Toffidil, yes the oral component is worth doing. I’m definitely going to complete Sylfaen, whether or not I sit the exam. I’m under no pressure to sit an exam. I want to progress through to Canolradd, and further. Classes are essential for me. Without them I’d lose interest. This conversation has really caused a shift in my attitude towards what I learn and how much attention I want to pay to things Real Welsh Speakers don’t even attend to themselves. Diolch yn fawr pawb.