I heard this poem recited by it’s author Les Barker at Saith Seren on Monday 17 December) and he kindly gave me permission to share it;

I’ve been trying for a while to learn Welsh,
The most difficult language I’ve met;
My friends say the source of my stumblings
Is obvious; that strange alphabet;

Pronunciation, they say, is the problem; Chs, double Ls; they’re unfair;
Not to mention the Us or the Ws orYs
But no; the problem’s elsewhere;

Words mutate; those that ought to start with an M
Will start with an F instead;
B can change to F or M;
It’s a mit of a mugger, as has often meen said.

Ps become MH or PH
Or Bs; don’t know why, but they do;
C can be CH, NGH or just G;
I chan’t gomprehend it; gan you? .

RH sometimes is just R;
T can be TH, NH or D;
G can be NG, or just disappear;
Futation’s a fystery to fe.

Double L becomes one L somehow;
D turns to double D or N;
I have thried and I’ve thried; I’ve thried dime after dime;
In phursuit of pherfection, I’m drying again.

I have dravelled on goach drips to Gardiff.
Gaught fusses to Mangor and Ryl;
I’m gomphletely gonfused in the glassroom;
Futation’s a fystery still.

It’s just a burposeless bastime,
Fore than a fere fortal can fear;
I spend nay after nay nelving neep in the nictionary
The words that I want are all in it, but where?

Wild chonsonants nrift through through the narkness
On churrents unknown to this phoet
And where they fay ddrift, there’s no delling;
It’s spelling, Jim, but not as we know it.


He’s one of my favourite funny poets in any language. I remember making @aran transcribe the one about the polar bear, which Les Barker performs in Welsh, in the Ship in Tresaith, on my very first boot camp so that I could read it, very badly, at the Noson Lawen. And his rendition of Guide Cats for the Blind is also a favourite.


Oh, I needed that! I just shed a tear, I laughed so hard. It’s cool that I have progressed enough in my brief time studying Cymraeg that I get it! THANK YOU! :rofl::rofl::rofl:


NEWBIE THEORY… I have no idea if there is any sense to this! Please feel free to tear it apart, I’ll be strong. :sweat_smile:

When I work through mutations, I am reminded of helping my students learn English - especially if they are from China, because in Chinese you put. a. tiny. space. between. every. word. When trying to help them reach their goal of sounding more American, I try to get them to think of it like water taking the path of least resistance as it flows to the sea… to get the words to flow the way native speakers sound, a lot of corners get rounded off in the flow of speech. Another way to look at it is like Bruce Lee said, “Be water, my friend,” and just be fluid and go with it…

Bruce Lee - Be water, my friend…

When I encounter treigladau, if I think about the original sound, and then sometimes ease up on it, other times, redirect the air flow… and other small changes. It seems to match up a little bit, unless I am imagining things. :sweat_smile: I don’t know if it would be a better predictor than random chance, but I am going to continue looking for it as I learn. Whether or not the reasons for it are the same, it seems to me that they are oftentimes a softening of the original if you think about the anatomical parts being used to make the sound. Some examples where the anatomical position is the same or similar and the sound softens or is redirected:

d/dd - same spot, with a softened and lengthened sound, right?
c/g/ch/ng - same spot at the back of the throat, with differences in how the throat muscles and tongue are used… but still, activating a lot of the same areas.
l/ll - same spot, air redirected and unvoiced.

:flushed::crazy_face::thinking::sweat_smile: Maybe I am completey off here, but if I have this in the back of my mind when mutations come up I seem to have higher accuracy… maybe it’s attaining higher accuracy by being open to change and fluidity? :thinking::exploding_head: This is totally not something I’ve read any scientific research about, so I might be on a wild goose chase, but it seems less random to me and therefore easier to do… more like a little shift in direction, instead of a full change - sort of like when you want to change the course of a river. My mouth is on it’s way to saying the word without mutating it, but at the last second I can make a subtle shift, and voila!

One other note, this time about English pronunciation… I am afraid that we Americans might have gone a little too far with this path of least resistance thing, bud’I’m’na-have-tuh think-uh-bow-dit while I go get a boddle-uh-wahder, :rofl: I love languages.


The other day I got a tip about treigladau by a native speaker.

I had to smile because it reminded me of the times I asked for a recipe to any older Italian lady who learnt it from her mom, and grandma and so on, going like:
“put some flour on the table, then add just enough water until the dough feels right”. :thinking:

For treigladau, she said, basically: “the [wrong ones] sound jumpy, the [right one] just flows”. :grinning:

As a beginner it’s not obvious at all, but observing and listening and practicing, I know at some point it will.
It works for cooking, it must work for treigladau too. :laughing:

So @sasha-lathrop I believe your image of the water and the least resistance (that I loved, by the way) and Bruce Lee’s match this tip just fine, don’t they? :slight_smile:

p.s. OT as for American accent, I have to quote a British expat I know:
“I have stopped asking for water in restaurants. It’s just too confusing, unless I say warder, which I refuse to do. I have to repeat myself five times, accentuating the T”. :rofl:


Wow! Yeah, I think her advice definitely matches what I was thinking, and the wisdom of Mr. Lee, of course! That is so cool.

About British and American accents… I moved to London for a year with my family when I was 13, and I remember talking to my sister about living in a different country and how lucky we were that it was England because they speak English there…

Imagine our surprise when we got to school in West London. I was introduced with, “Oi, you lot! This is Lisa from California!” (Sasha is my birth name, but people often call me Lisa). I understood the second part, understanding the first half came later… and I proceeded to understand almost nothing my classmates said for the next two weeks! I actually carried a special notebook around for my friends to write in because seeing it on paper was the only way it was “English” to me! Of course, I caught on eventually… like the first time I understood what my math teacher (who did almost nothing but dictation all day every day) said when he handed my notebook back and said, “You must be a very stupid girl!” Yeah, buddy, I understood THAT! Hahahahaha

1 Like

In this context, the actor, Gillian Anderson is interesting:

Anderson is bidialectal.[23] With her English accent and background, she was mocked and felt out of place as a teenager in the American Midwest and soon adopted a Midwestern accent. To this day, she easily shifts between her American and English accents.[24][23] In May 2013, during an interview with BlogTalkRadio, Anderson addressed the matter of her national identity: “I’ve been asked whether I feel more like a Brit than an American and I don’t know what the answer to that question is. I know that I feel that London is home and I’m very happy with that as my home. I love London as a city and I feel very comfortable there. In terms of identity, I’m still a bit baffled.”[25]

BTW, “Daphne” from Frasier, who spoke with a Manchester accent in the series, in real life speaks with what sounds like an Essex accent. Strangely, when Daphne’s mother appeared in later episodes, she was played by Millicent Martin speaking in a weird sort of fake Cockney accent.


This is genius. Thank you for posting!

1 Like

Oh I love that polar bear poem, I didn’t know he did it in Welsh too!

1 Like

Thank you! Can’t quite catch it all though!

It’ll come.