Switchio Cymraegau -- Can I switch Welsh accent? Do I have to?

Hey hey, s’mae a sh’mae!

I’ve been learning Welsh since late 2015, am somewhere in the Canolradd levels, and started off learning Gogledd. I’m a blogger/podcaster so I report on my language progress quite regularly and recently I fell into a bit of a trap. Here’s a quote from the blog to tell you what my problem was…

Cymraeg Gogledd neu Cymraeg De?
One thing that slowed me down was my belief that I should switch from the Northern Welsh accent (which I’d studied for 2+ years) to the Southern Welsh accent. Why? Because I moved from North to South in England.

This turns out to be a silly idea. When people tell me “everyone will understand you no matter what accent”, they are right. When they say “only a few words are different”, they aren’t right. Even though it’s possible to understand both types of Welsh, learning to speak them both is harder than I thought. Just look at these two sentences:

  1. North Welsh: Dw i eisiau gorffen cyn yfory.
  1. South Welsh: Dw i’n moyn cwpla cyn yfory.

As far as I know, these are supposed to mean the same thing, but all native Welsh speakers will understand both.

My tutor at the Welsh class I attended told me “no mixing your accents”, which has made the idea of switching what I’ve studied next to impossible. My italki tutor is a lot more chilled, saying it doesn’t really matter as long as I’m not taking formal tests.

Conclusion: Welsh accents are confusing. I think I’ll declare Project Southern Welsh something I don’t want to continue. I stopped making progress because I felt trapped in this whole accent confusion, when it’s not that relevant. For now, I’ll speak how I speak and let life go on.

My question: Am I on the right path thinking this is actually no big deal? I almost fell over when I switched SSiW (am on level 2, lesson 15) from gogledd to de, it was like “WTF is moyn”. Is it worth persisting, or should I trust that this will sort itself out?

(PS being a language teacher myself, I know what advice I would give to learners, and still I’m thinking it’s worth double checking.)
(PSS: Just because it’s my job: Please do read my blog if you like to know more about the other languages I learn: www.fluentlanguage.co.uk/blog)

Accents and dialects switch all of the time, especially in Wales as we all sort of move about a lot in this country. I read @aran’s book and lost track of the number of places he’d lived - all of the places probably having an impact on how he ended up sounding.

Likewise, I started learning in the Rhondda in deep south Wales, learning from a course voiced by @Iestyn a man from the Rhymney Valleys in even deeper south Wales who has lived most of his recent life in Llandysul in West/Mid Wales, but then I moved up to mid Wales about 18 months ago and my accent has changed again.

Anyone who tells you that changing accents is bad or not reccomended is either plain wrong, or just perhaps foolish.

We’ve all had a friend who has moved to London and come back home sounding different, this is the same :smiley:


I run SSiW hangouts with people following the northern and southern courses and I can switch back and forth as I need to. I learnt Welsh with the SSiW southern course, but I’ve had a run through the northern one and I don’t have any problems using it.
The differences aren’t actually huge. It’s just that they happen in some of the most common words and expressions, but once you have those under your belt, you’re fine. I find it all really fascinating!


One of the things to remember is that you don’t need to consciously change accent. Just speak the way you’re used to, and your accent and dialect will shift without you realising to be more consistent with what you’re hearing most often.

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I started learning in the South then moved to the North (then the middle, then the North again!) and whilst I now speak mainly Northern forms I know there are the odd Southern words that pop out. The company I work for has Welsh speakers from all parts of Wales, so at any group conversation in work you can hear North, South and a mix of the two! Mixing Northern and Southern forms certainly doesn’t bother anyone here on a day-to-day ‘real life’ basis.
Where it would be frowned upon (i.e. for an individual to mix N and S when speaking) would be things like presenters speaking TV and radio, or in formal writing (including school/university essays for instance).

So, no, in everyday reality it really isn’t a big deal. It’s good to recognise the different forms but there is no need to switch back and forth on purpose (if it happens naturally, well hey, that’s a bonus!) - just use the forms you are comfortable with, and the more you hear people who use the other forms or indeed do a course in the other forms, the less of a deal it will become :slight_smile:


They are, though - it’s just that those words are kind of front-loaded towards common usage - so they seem like a lot at first, but then you get past them and you realise it really wasn’t all that many.

So moyn/isio, sa i’n/dwi ddim, llefrith/llaeth, cwpla/bennu/gorffen, gen i/gyda fi and a few more like that and you’re already in a position to follow a ‘different dialect’ speaker about as well as you follow a ‘same-ish dialect’ speaker… :slight_smile:


Nothing is hard and fast. My kids’ school in S Wales is a complete melting pot. There are teachers from all over Wales, with varying ascents, and the kids adapt to whatever are the main influences that particular year. I recently heard the teacher from Ynys Môn saying ‘Sa i’n mynd i wneud…’ and nobody batted an eyelid. Just think of all the interesting words that pop up in English from all over the world. As you become more familiar with spoken Welsh in different contexts you’ll soon get a feel for what’s appropriate.


It does make sense - they seem like 30% of all the words to me right know because they’re probably a higher percentage of the words I know.

Or the Welsh are all liars. One of these is true. :wink:

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Thanks for all your replies! Am feeling more encouraged to trust my gut on this one and just speak the way I speak. I did benefit a little bit from making myself think in gyda structures and stuff, but overall it felt like a big stumbling block.

sa i’n was totally alien to me before I visited Cardiff recently and chatted to @faithless78, moyn the same until I watched some of @Nicky’s videos. So thanks to you lot! I understand this would be easier if I lived in Wales, and I’ll just take in whatever comes at me and continue to speak pretty Northern.

In case you’ve never tried switching your SSiW to the other dialect: it’s LOTS of fun, as long as you don’t go all “crisis of confidence” like I did.


Maybe what broke my head a little bit was how little guidance there was, because the accents are so separated in learning materials like the Cwrs books. You end up feeling as if there’s this big difference, especially as a learner who lives outside Wales. It’s been my point of insecurity from the start.

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Language is fluid and regional, and this is what makes it so beautiful and entrancing really.

Picking up words from everywhere is part of what makes it so fun. I love the idea of “Gogs” watching Pobol-Y-Cwm and picking up new words - and vice versa I love the idea of “Hwntws” watching “Rownd a Rownd” and going for a panad! (disgled to Southerners!)

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Sorry @Nicky, but I’ve never been for a disgled in my life, and you can’t get much further south than Barry! :slight_smile:


Likewise, one time I asked for “Llâth” in Cardiff I’ve had a quite firm "Do you mean “Llaeth” back!!!

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I pick the bits of each dialect that I like. Sometimes I’m not even sure which word is from where. I never really considered that it mattered. I’m learning South Welsh, but I prefer gorffen to cwpla, so that’s what I use. I have llâth in my paned o de, a boy is a bachgen and I’ll switch between moyn and eisiau depending on what comes to me first. If you asked me a question involving “wedi”, I’ll probably answer “do” or “naddo”, rather than “ydw” or “nac ydw”. Sometimes I say cymrâg, sometimes cymraeg.

But then my English is like that too. I’ll reply in the affirmative with “aye”, thanks to my year spent in Scotland and I’ll ask “do we need owt from the shop?” because of my Nottinghamshire grandparents, despite being born and mostly raised in Somerset. Tourists are grockels, and in the evening it gets dimpsy. A dress is a frock. I’m not sure where that one comes from.

I suppose what I’m getting at is: does it matter as long as you’re understood? I’ll always stand out as a tourist when speaking any foreign language and, with my French at least, I discovered my language skills actually improved when I stopped worrying about sounding like a native and just concentrating on being understood!


I feel exactly the same Stephen, I use what comes into my head (I’m grateful of anything sometimes as a new speaker), or what I like. I live in mid Wales so its a bit of a jumble anyway and I just want to have a conversation so will find a way to do that and not worry about where it comes from and as you say just try to make myself understood.

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I’m certainly not an expert, but I’ve been around these forums long enough to have some idea what the experts might say.

I think a lot depends on whether you live in Wales or not (or plan to live in Wales in the long term).

And if not, if you tend to travel to / in Wales a lot, and if so, in which parts.

We are also talking about two different things here: Should you/we be able to speak “both” major dialects, or simply only be able to understand “both”.

(I’ve put “both” in inverted commas, because it is shorthand for a gross oversimplification).

As far as SSiW is concerned, and actual speaking, once you have found a dialect (i.e. north or south) that you enjoy speaking, then you should probably stick to speaking that unless you have a good reason to change (e.g. moving to a different part of Wales, or travelling to a different part of Wales for a significant period).

But as for learning what the “other” dialect sounds like, then repeating the “opposite” SSiW course is fine, but (unless accent mimicry is a hobby or a special interest), I wouldn’t concentrate on the speaking part, but only worry about the listening and understanding part. However, it’s not the SSiW thing to stay silent, so what you could do would be to reply with what you think the correct reply would be in “your” dialect (i.e. the one you started with), regardless of what the speakers say in the “opposite” version.

It could possibly do your head in, but that too is all part of the SSiW method…:slight_smile:
(I am sure that Aran has said almost those exact words on several occasions… :wink: ).

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Just to inject a little serious light-heartedness from the other side of the Pond… Take ‘sut’ which to my ear sounds either like something my neighbour keeps saying to her puppy in ever-rising cadences and volume (presumably to no effect), or more like ‘shoot’—the polite Canadian pronunciation of something else used quite frequently by well-spoken ladies in tennis shoes smashing balls into nets at the local courts.

Being a SW-born Canadian so having followed the SW courses, naturally I am very polite, but when I did my uni Welsh oral recently, although it was supposedly in S-Walian, ‘sit’ was used, and a few other words I used like ‘moyn’ and ‘joio’ were exchanged by my tutor (who lives in M Wales) for the NW versions. It felt like we were ‘all over the map’, but I rejoice at that and mourn the demise of regional accents in the likes of English.

Look on the good side—when I worked in Papua NG there were still over 700 different languages being spoken, having reduced to that from 1200 during a couple of generations. Sad eh.

Note to self—must try listening to the NW SSiW.


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I’m starting to be all over the place - I’ve done the Southern course, but listening to music, watching S4C (especially Rownd a Rownd) and listening to Radio Cymru podcasts has got me mixing things up. I surprised myself by saying gorffen instead of cwpla while doing an SSiW lesson yesterday . I tend much more toward panad than dishgled now, although those always contain llaeth. I never know if I’m going to say dweud or gweud, or sa i’n or dw i ddim yn until they come out of my mouth. However, I’m firmly in the moyn/mae gyda fi camp! Since I live in the US, I can’t just use what the people around me use - there aren’t any! But since I’m never going to be a radio/television presenter I just don’t worry about it! As long as it’s Welsh, it’s all good to me :slight_smile:


Yes, I’m much looser over vocabulary than accent. I try to maintain a constant (northern ) accent, but use the words that the people I’m speaking to seem to use.


I just do the best I can with the accent. I’m afraid it’s more American than Southern Welsh :blush: :wink: