Someone kick me

I was standing in a graveyard in Gloucestershire this weekend (as you do), perusing the many floral tributes left to a Gypsy King called Billy. A lady standing near me began to tell me what she had heard about this chap and his family and that there were about 2000 people at the funeral.
All I could think about was the delightful Welsh accent that I was hearing.
A rather pertinent voice in my head said ‘Go on, ask her! Ask her if she speaks Welsh. Ask her IN WELSH if she speaks Welsh, GO ON!!’ The sheer thought made my innards thump about.
'Then this other voice (a rather embarrassed and slightly prim voice) said 'NOOOO! You can’t go round English graveyards accosting lovely sounding ladies in other languages (even if, to be fair, there might be a chance that she could speak it).
Off she went. And I felt a bit rotten, like I had a moment and missed it and it might be that I’m just far too reticent to strike up conversations with people in Welsh in graveyards. :pensive:
On a better note, my six year old daughter just stuck her head out of bed and said ‘You’re da iawn at this job Mum.’ :slight_smile:
I’m presuming she meant motherhood. Who cares - she stuck a Welsh phrase in and made my day!


Bend over then :laughing:
Thank you for the lovely story. :smile:


I didn’t specify where you had to kick me @hewrop! :laughing::laughing:


I think this does bring up a great question… Does anybody have any advice on how to broach the subject of speaking Welsh with a stranger? Ask in English if they speak Welsh? Ask in Welsh? Just start speaking Welsh and see what happens?


Although it’s usually over the telephone, I often have to do this as part of my job. I ask in Welsh. Sometimes they’ll say yes, sometimes they’ll say no, but sometimes I get a “no but I’m learning” or “no, but I wish I did” in which case (having dealt with the business in hand) they get SSiWed before the call is over! :wink:


Yes! I was quite unprepared for the quandry! I felt as though us all speaking English in an English village somewhat stacked the odds against me. That and my utter lack of bravery! Is there an etiqutte, I wonder, to bringing these things up? It seems such a shame to waste an opportunity, but I’d feel odd marching up to random strangers and engaging them in what might or might not be their language. I think I might feel foolish, which you’d have thought I’d got used to by now!
@siaronjames - it would save me a great deal of dithering (which is a skill, I tell you) if I needed to ask as part of my job! Please feel free to ring me up and ask me whenever you are at a loose end!:laughing:
Actually, I had never thought that she might be someone who might not speak but would like to learn. Next time I might be more forthcoming with that in mind - thank you! :slight_smile:

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Perhaps you could try something like “That’s a lovely Welsh accent you have… wyt ti’n siarad Cymraeg?”
That way, you have broached the subject in both languages and with a compliment. I wouldn’t think you could go far wrong with that! :slight_smile:


Yes - perfect! Next time I will do just that! Diolch yn fawr iawn :smile:

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Beautiful, Siaron!
To @cat-1, there was a time when anyone in England, hearing a Welsh accent asked, “Can you speak Welsh?” seemingly in the hope that the answer would be. “No!”, so that they could continue to declare that S4C was unnecessary and that Welsh was a dead, or virtually dead language! The answer, “Ydw! Dwi’n siarad Cymraeg!” caused a rapid departure! (Just my experience, mind!). I have been asked in Scotland in a very friendly way and I say that I have forgotten so much that I am trying to relearn it!

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At least Welsh learners are less likely to come across what learners of most other languages meet. The equally desperate desire to practise English.


Oh, I told before on the Forum of a friend who learned Norwegian and, on going there, found if he spoke it, folk were insulted by the implication that they spoke no English and, thus, were uneducated!

Aww, I’ve always wanted to learn Norwegian. In fact, I started once. Didn’t got that far though, as I was trying to learn several other languages at the time and one took priority because of my immediate needs.
Seems I wouldn’t have been welcomed for the effort if your friend’s experience is standard.

This works a treat! Even if they don’t speak Welsh, in my experience they know what the question means. I always imagine that if a stranger is making the effort to chat to me then they are probably not bothered in the least about the topic, & talking about a language is better than talking about the weather.

If I’m not in Wales & I hear a Welsh accent I say “your accent reminds me of home, wyt ti’n siarad Cymraeg”. Which if Wales isn’t your home, can be adapted to “your accent reminds me of a great holiday in Wales” or “your accent reminds me of a lovely friend from Wales” (meaning of course any one of the very lovely SSiW team).


That was just one example. The Norwegians I have met have been too lovely to reject someone trying to learn their language.

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I came across a lady recently, not with a Welsh accent, but with a very Welsh name (something Ap something). Eventually I plucked up the courage to ask if she spoke any Welsh, but sadly, although her Dad had been Welsh, she herself seemed to have no interest in the language whatsoever. In that case, I did not pursue the subject. I might in other cases, if I thought there was a glimmer of hope.

I would say any of the above would be ok, perhaps after an initial greeting or pleasantry, in English or Welsh, if needed. A number of first-language Welsh speakers have asked me “d’you speak Welsh/'siarad Cymraeg?” even after finding out that I’m not Welsh. So I can’t really see why a similar question in the opposite direction would cause offence.


If it’s any help, my (first-language Welsh) partner would do this regularly when we lived in England and she met anyone with the sort of accent that suggested they might speak Welsh. It’s usually very well received by Welsh speakers in England (who are often delighted to find other Welsh-speakers in England).


Last year I was on holiday in North Wales and on a bus from Bangor to Caernarfon.

The bus was quite full, and I was seated next to a friendly middle-aged chap who initiated a conversation. (He had a sort of “neutral” accent, so I couldn’t tell whether he was Welsh or not). He was one of those type of people who tell you their life history, and in no time I knew that he was originally from SE London/Kent borders, had lived in Bangor for just under 20 years, and was now on his way to Caernarfon for a doctor’s appointment.

Said I (in English) “Wow, 20 years in Wales!” And then, “Wyt ti’n siarad Cymraeg?”. “No, I’m afraid not”, he replied. “That was very impressive”. “What was?” I asked. “Speaking to me in Welsh”, he said. “Thank you”, I replied. “But I used less than half a dozen words”. “Well”, he said, “That’s half a dozen more than I can speak”.

I found it quite incredible that someone who had lived in Wales for this long could still be totally monolingual! I mean, if he’d been living in a highly Anglicised area like, say, Monmouthshire, his monolingualism might have been understandable (if not excusable). But BANGOR…!! - do people like this go around with their ears and minds shut?


Unfortunately it happens. I’ve spoken to (a small amount of) people who’ve moved into Welsh speaking areas and despite living there for even 40 years still can’t correctly pronounce the name of their own village (and see nothing offensive in that at all). It is sad.
Having said that, some of these long-resident non-Welsh-speakers often understand a fair bit - they just can’t/won’t/don’t speak it for a variety of reasons.


It was interesting to me that the whole episode made me feel at odds - I didn’t want to make this lady feel uncomfortable by asking - and isn’t that a strange reaction? Why should it? Actually it was me that felt uncomfortable.
The first time that I learnt Welsh was at university, and the Welsh was geared to all the things that seem to be common to classroom learning - translation, grammar, literature, history, melting brains. We were encouraged to speak in certain circumstances, but I remember it feeling like a very different language to the one I would hear out in the town (why didn’t I ever point that out to my tutors and ask why???). I felt that even though I had done backflips to get there and study the language I loved, I still wouldn’t be able to speak it to real people. It was just beyond me. When I think of how ashamed I felt, and how I wanted to belong there, but clearly felt I didn’t (although the people who lived there were kind and welcoming, whatever language you used).
I’m wondering if all those feelings bubbled up to the surface in that one split second when I considered asking if someone spoke Welsh.
I consider SSIW my second go at learning Welsh. This time I will happily be a learner, and happily make mistakes. I will admit to it all IN WELSH too! And next time I meet an acen hyfryd in a graveyard, I will comment on it and ask if its owner does indeed siarad Cymraeg. :relieved: