April 30, 2009

Hey, Look what the internet can do!


This lovely tree diagramming a sentence that means "Elizabeth read a lot in Welsh." is brought you by these lovely people. I won't tell you the embarrassing story that involves someone telling me about the site, I'll just sum it up in the sentence: I just did a lot of stupid things all in the same PDF file.

April 12, 2009

Pasg Hapus!

So, I'm sitting in my friend's fiance's Grandmother's house in Clinton, New York, reading my weekly installment of Yr Wythnos (The Week), the BBC's cylchlythyr cymraeg (Welsh Newsletter) written for a myfyrwyr (student) such as myself. The first article was about guidelines for farmers, more or less, and by its title, the second article is about the railway. I won't get to read it until later because I have to go get ready for church.

All I can think is, this is an interesting turn my life has taken.

February 28, 2009

My New Favorite Welsh Idioms

I have, thanks to the lovely BBC and their insistence that they help me on my quest to be a better Welsh speaker (and not just me, but also everyone else who uses their website as a Welsh-learning resource) two new favorite Welsh idioms. The first is hel straeon which literally means "to collect stories". One could say, Dw i wedi hel straeon. and one would idiomatically mean, "I have been gossiping." Not that one would ever have a reason to say such a thing.

My second new favorite idiom is: fel melin bupur which literally means "like a pepper mill". One could say Mae hi'n siarad fel melin bupur. And, one would be saying, in effect, that "She talks non-stop." Again, not that one would ever find occasion to do so.

Given my love of both idiom and Welsh, I expect that this newfound discovery of an online archive of Idiomatic expressions in Welsh will both be a source of inspiration and a way for me to pester my Welsh-speaking friends.

November 06, 2007


Last night whilst at work, a small child came through my department and played in the swivel chairs. He said to his Mom: "Mum, Glas chair!" I smiled a little to myself and thought, "That chair isn't made of glass, silly." He then said to his Mom: "Coch chair."

Oops. Apparently the little boy was learning colors in Welsh. Sometimes, I'm the silly.

May 28, 2007


Languages may be a skill set that you can be taught in a classroom. They may have phonological systems and phonetic sets and grammar. They may contain a series of tenses that have endings that you have to memorize.

But, that's not what they are.

I took myself for a walk this afternoon, and while I did it I was thinking about languages. About how they are joint efforts. They are community experiences. They are tools that we use to express our thoughts and feelings. Things we use to ask for stuff. They are a way that we express ourselves, how we identify with others or how we alienate others. And, all this takes place in contexts created by the language and by the situations and by us as individuals. We create communities. I was thinking about being little and how then communitites were provided for you. There were the kids in the neighborhood and school. There was church and choir and bible study and Girl Scouts and dance class. I think its amazing (considering how many people don't like church or school) that when we grow up we make an effort to create communities of our own. How cool is that? Sometimes, we even create communities so that we can speak something that we're not even sure how to speak.

I think the interview went well. I sat down and the Professor said that it was going to get hot in the room and I said, "Guess I'm literally in the hot seat then." and everyone laughed and we talked for about half an hour about all kinds of things. Of course, since then, I've had a lot of time to think about how I could have answered things better but I'm trying not to dwell on it and make myself more nervous. I really hope I get this; I think it would be incredibly rewarding to have an opportunity to study how people build and work together on things.

May 15, 2007


I have an interview next week for a scholarship I have applied for at Cardiff University.


Also, sorry for the lack of blogging. My computer has malfunctioned. I will hopefully fix it shortly.

April 19, 2007

Efrog Newydd

So, place names aren't always translated in Welsh. I don't know, I think they figure with places you don't talk about very often you don't need a name for. Or, maybe its that they figure the places were already named once, why bother with a second name. The obvious examples of this are places like Iowa. I know what you're thinking, what sort of Welsh speaker would being talking about Iowa? Well, an American Welsh speaker. Duh. However, this is not true of New York whose name is actually just translated into Welsh: Efrog Newydd. I like this. But, I like it not because New York actually has its own name, but rather because New York is named after (old) York which is the seat of the County York, or as we'd say it Yorkshire. Why is this interesting? Well, I will tell you. Its interesting because the Welsh have a word for "shire", sir. And, in most cases when you talk about a "shire", you use sir. Except for Yorkshire, in which case you use swydd. Which means "office". I do go on, but I only point this out because I think it is interesting.

I am here in the States. I made it here safely. I have eaten a sandwich that, all kidding aside, I think involved three quarters of a cow in the form of corned beef. Amazing. ( I didn't ask for a sandwich made of nearly a whole cow, I just asked for a sandwich. The prices seemed a little extortionate, but after they handed me a sandwich, I knew why.) Hopefully, my Mother, Sister and Aunts will also make it here safely and we will have a wondeful time frolicking through Efrog Newydd and the surrounding areas.


March 29, 2007

Happy End of March!

Tomorrow is my last Welsh class. Fory mae e'n dosbarth cymraeg olaf. I'm a little sad about it. But, if you've been following (and recently, missing) my Welsh updates, have no fear. My arholiad cymraeg is on May 11th and due to spotty attendance the last month or so, I have a lot of reviewing (Welsh English speakers read: revising) to do to prepare for the exam. So, This Week in Welsh will probably be even better, if not more frequent than before.


I have also just booked tickets to spend a fortnight in the States. Since I've not been home in something like seven months, I'm ridiculously excited about it. Ridiculously. Now, I hate to be that arrogant person that seems all high and mighty and act like "just everyone wants to see me!" but, if you read this, and you want to hang out if you could email me and let me know when you will be free from April 22nd until May 2nd so that I can come up with a tentative plan. A fortnight goes awful fast and I don't want to miss anyone.

February 08, 2007

This Week In Welsh:Stuff I should have learned ages ago

Wow, its been awhile since I've done one of these things. And, that is a shame because Welsh really is a fun language. I could go into all the different things that we've learned recently: the future, how the say things in the passive, commands, or even the conditional. But, I'm not going to. Instead, I'm going to harken back something I found while flipping through my notes while preparing a list for some new flash cards.

Rhestri Defnyddiol.

That means "Useful Lists" and it was a hand out that I received on September 20th. Its full of things that I should have learned way back then but somehow haven't. Important things, like the months of the year and slightly less important things like the names of the colors.

Dyddiau'r Wythnos
Days of the Week.

Now, the days in Welsh are, surprisingly enough named after planets. This is pretty typical. But, atypically, the Welsh divide the word "day" from the planet name which allows them to replace it with the word "night" should that be the time period they wish to describe. This is rather handy because there really is no need to say "Sunday night" except that the words "sun" and "day" have become fused in the lexicon and both required to refer to Sunday at all. (I'll save the long digression on formulaicity for another post.)

Without further ado, the Days (and Nights) of the Week:

Dydd Sul said: "Deeth Seal": Sunday
Nos Sul said: "Nohs Seal": Sunday Night
Dydd Llun said: "Deeth Llean": Monday
Nos Lun said: "Nohs Lean": Monday Night
Dydd Mawrth said: "Deeth Maorth": Tuesday
Nos Fawrth: said "Nohs Faorth": Tuesday Night
Dydd Mercher: said: "Deeth Mehrchehr": Wednesday
Nos Fercher: said: "Nohs Fehrchehr": Wednesday Night
Dydd Iau: said: "Deeth Eey-eye": Thursday
Nos Iau: said: "Nohs Iau": Thursday Night
Dydd Gwener: said "Deeth Gwen-air": Friday
Nos Wener: said "Nohs When-air": Friday Night.

It should be noted that the second and/or unstressed syllables are not reduced, even though your English-speaking mouth will want to.

They are used, just like we'd use them in English. They are days of the week, after all. So, Monday Night Football would be Pel-droed Nos Lun, although, it would mean something completely different to most Welsh speakers.

On to our next Rhestri Defnyddiol, Misoedd or "Months of the Year":

Like the days of the week, it is common to say Mis (said: "Mees", which rhymes with the English word "Piece".) This may be because some of the months are also named after planets and it helps make a distinction. But, it might not.

Mis Ionawr: January
Mis Chwefror: February
Mis Mawrth: March
Mis Ebrill: April
Mis Mai: May
Mis Mehefin: June
Mis Gorffennaf: July (Gorffennaf literally means "End of Summer", in case you were curious)
Mis Awst: August
Mis Medi: September
Mis Hydref: October (Hydref is also used to mean "The Autumn", as we will see.)
Mis Tachwedd: November
Mis Rhagfyr: December

Which leads up to the next list (one of which we've already seen), Y Tymhorau or "The Seasons":

Y Gwanwyn: The Spring
Yr Haf: The Summer
Yr Hydref: The Autumn
Y Gaeaf: The Winter

So, now that you've seen Yr Haf and Gorffennaf, I'm sure you've rightly deduced that the verb "to finish, or to end" is "Gorffen". You really are quite clever, you know.

Our last list is my favorite, for no reason other than I think colors are fun. So, I give you Lliwiau:

Coch: said :"Kohch": Red
Glas: said: "glass": Blue
Gwyrdd: said "gerrth": Green
Oren: said like you'd think its said: Orange
du:said: "Dee": Black
gwyn: White
pinc: Pink
proffor: Purple
brown: Brown
llwyd: Grey

And there you have it, Rhestri Defnyddiol.

December 07, 2006

Sut Mae'r tywydd?

I think I may have mispelled Tywydd.

How's the weather? One might say. And, one might answer: dreadful. Its pissing down and have you seen those gale force winds? Not to mention the thunder. When do we ever hear thunder? Its mad, I tell you. I got up at 6:30 this morning and I listened to the wind and I listened to the rain and I thought, " I am feeling so much better than I did yesterday. I bet if I tried to speak my voice would be well on the mend. I don't have near the amount of sinus pressure as I did before. I don't feel feverish. I'm feeling quite good, actually." Then, came the thunder. And, a gust of wind. Which was followed by another and then another and the another for the next hour and I found myself thinking, "I have to wakl to school. I have to walk to school and then if it is raining I will have to sit in my class soaking wet and probably shivering until the end of class at which point I will have to walk home. Will that be good for me?"

I do not doubt that the walking would be good for me. Instead I am concerned by the hour and a half of sitting in wet clothing shivering. And, while thinking of the shivering, I suddenly lose my will to get up and move about out in the world. I want to stay where it is warm and dry.

So, I do. And, for the first time in a long time I do not feel a tinge of guilt for my decision not to leave the house. Of course, I will probably leave the house at some point today. There is a video that needs to be taken back into the video shop and I was thinking about making a pie. Of course, I have been thinking about making a pie for ages now, so that probably won't happen tonight. What will probably happen is that I will sit down and begin to read something and then I will be distracted by something else and on and on this will go until the evening is over and it is time to go to bed.

But, for now, I will sit here and listen to the wind and work on cleaning the apartment and tutor and maybe make lunch after I am done tutoring. We shall see.

November 28, 2006

This week in Welsh: have!

I'm going to take a break out my recap of what I've been learning to say that we've arrived to the point in our learning that we can now play games that involve us saying things like Wyt ti'n ei yfed e. "You drink it." in order to get people to guess what it is you are thinking of, in this case you could say cwrw or "beer" . Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I have gotten to the point in my Welsh learning that I'm ready to take a road trip with a small child.

I know will take you back to your regularly scheduled This Week in Welsh.

I teased you almost a fortnight ago with the prospect of more aspect. If you've been following my Welsh adventure, you are already well versed in the verbal expression of temporal flow, and so you will be ready to dive straight into present perfect. Now, if you haven't been following the adventure (WHY NOT?) or you would like a little refresher course in grammar, I will now give a little digest of what in heaven's name the present perfect actually is.

The Present Perfect, to quote Wikipedia is, "The present perfect tense is a perfect tense used to express action that has been completed with respect to the present." In English we express with by using the words "have" or "has" with the past participle of the verb. (It is important at this point to remember that this "have" does not connote possession nor does it refer to any activity that "must" take place.) The present perfect refers to things that are right now, in this moment, finished. And, in Welsh you let people know this being using a construction with the word wedi.

In the present tense if you want to say:" I read the book", in Cymraegyou'd say Dw i'n darllen. The 'n here is a contraction of the word yn. In the present perfect, you toss out the yn and replace it with wedi. So, to say: "I have read the book." you say,Dw i wedi darllen.. See, easy as a lion. And, there you have it, folks.

Thank you for tuning into this week in Welsh. Next week will delve into the important topics of accusative/dative pronouns and the "must" construction.

Hwyl Fawr!

November 16, 2006

This Week in Welsh

I am taking a break this week from discussing my new Welsh knowledge (which, by the way, is considerable. We learned a new aspect) to dispell a myth. There is a pernicious rumor out there that when the English conquered the whole island their first order of business was the plunder the Welsh language and steal its vowels. This is a misunderstanding that comes from words such as nhw, which means "they" and cynnwys which I believe means "include" and bwyd which I know means "food".

I speculate that this rumor is actually borne of a misunderstanding that native English speakers have of our own language. This is where I will begin. We represent our vowels with five graphemes, that is, five letters, that is A, E, I, O, U. However, we have more vowels. So many more vowels. The letter O can be said in "on" or like "hone". It can be reduced to an almost I like sound as in "Thorough". If you're reading this, you get it, because its something every literate learner has had to deal with. South English Standard Pronunciation, or RP (what English people speak), has 19 vowels in it. The dialect I speak has about 14 vowels. Yes, I admit, "merry", "Mary" and "marry" all sound the same coming out of my mouth.

Cymraeg uses the letters A, E, I, O, U and they do represent vowel sounds. It also uses W,Y to represent vowels. In addition to this, long and short vowels can form what are known as "minimal pairs". This means that the difference between two words can come down to vowel length. This is cool if your a nerd like me. Its irritating if you're a language learner. What you should get from this is Welsh is a vowel-rific language.

October 31, 2006

This Week in Welsh: Half Term Day 2

Today we are going to start slowly, after the (more than likely subpar) description of mutations yesterday.

We are going to talk about the possessive, but just I and you. It is important that we covered the mutations first because they feature pretty prominantly into the "genitive".

fy (treiglad trwynol +word) i
dy (treiglad meddal+word) di
eich (word) chi

So, to say "My sweetie" you say, fy nghariad i. To say "your dog", you say dy gi di. To say, "your (y'all) fear" you say, eich ofn chi.

October 30, 2006

This Week in Welsh: Half Term Day 1

Welsh has what are called "mutations" and what could best be described as institutionalized phonological changes. As a speaker of any language, I'm sure you will have had occasion to notice when things have changed slightly in speech, particularly when things are sped up. For example, if you are an American English speaker, you may have noticed that you don't say the "t" in "bottle". (There is a good chance that if you speak a variety of British English that you don't say that "t" either.) Well, Welsh has taken that and run with it by making the sounds that you would probably make anyway mandatory.

There are three kinds of mutations, a nasal mutation, an aspirate mutation and a soft mutation. Of these mutations, it would seem that the soft is the most important. At the very least, it seems to be the one that I have used the most often in the past month or so.

The nasal mutation (called treiglad trwynol)goes like this:

g- ng
c- ngh
d- n
t- nh
b- m
p- mh

So, when you say, "I live in Cardiff" in Welsh you would need to mutate Cardiff Dwi i'n byw yn Nghaerdydd. This is not such a problem. There are further uses of this mutation, as I will discuss tomorrow.

The soft mutation (called treiglad meddal) goes like this:

c- g
g- { }
d- dd
t- d
m- f
b- f
p- b

This mutation is used, as I mentioned above quite frequently. Feminine things tend to mutate; and three of the first four numbers take a soft mutation in reference to feminine things. What I like about this one is that one of the teachers taught us a device to remember them. However, I can never remember the whole device. This defeats the purpose of it.

The aspirate mutation (called treiglad llaes) is the easiest to learn thus far, but only because so few things mutate. Here it is:

c- ch
p- ph
t- th

So far it has only been applied to certain cases in the past tense.

This has been today's Welsh update. Hywl!

October 29, 2006

Last Week in Welsh: That is what you are touching, What are you feeling?

Learning Welsh is fraught with peril. Brave knight, you will be confronted with such troubling quandries as whether to say, Mae hi'n pump munud wedi chwaer or Mae hi'n pump munud wedi chwech (The first being "It's five past sister." and the second being, "Its five past six." Its an easy mistake to make, as one of my classmates found out earlier this week.) But, you will overcome them. Oh, yes, you will.

Remember when I went on and on about aspect? Well, today is where we get into why its important. Many languages, like Welsh, make the distinction between single actions that are completed in the past ("done and dusted" to use a bit of Welsh colloquial English) and continuous actions and states. It makes sense to have such a distinction, some things that once occurred but are no longer occurring provide background for other things. But, no need to stress about this. The "Na Na Na" past tense (or the Imperfect) is just like the present tense (dw i, wyt ti, mae e/hi, dych chi, dyn ni, and dyn nhw), only its past!

So, in spoken Welsh we have:

Ro'n i, ro't ti, roedd e/hi, ro'n ni, ro'ch chi, ro'n nhw (I was, you were sing./informal, he/she was, we were, y'all/formal were, they were). Got it? Now, you just construct sentences. For example:

Ro'n i'n mynd adre. I went home. Roedd e'n y dafarn. He was in the pub. Or, rRo'n i'n y dafarn pyrd welais i Bob. I was at the pub when I saw Bob. Simple.

Now, where this is particularly important has to do with this business of "states". You can't use the simple past tense to talk about things like "feelings" and "fears". What further complicates the situation is that in order to talk about things like "fears" and "illness" you have to use a passive construction in which you say that something is "on" you instead of "you are..." something. This is similar to have, as in possession. Unfortunately, this is not where the complications end because the word for "on" declines. We will start with the declension:

I: arno i
you (sing./informal): arnot ti
he: arno fe
she: arni hi
we: arnon ni
you (pl./formal):arnoch chi
they: arnyn nhw

Are you still with me? Good. From there, its really simple because it patterns just like "have, possession". To say "I have a cold" you say Mae annwyd arno i. To say "they are afraid of the dark" you say: Mae tywyllwch arnyn nhw. Not so bad. If you want to say "He had a cough", you simply use the "Na Na Na" past tense: Roedd peswch arno fe. It should be noted that the roedd corresponds with peswch and not with fe. You would still say roedd if you were the one with the cough.

This week is half term in Welsh class, so in order to keep up with the language while I don't have class I am making it a goal to post a bit about Welsh every day this week. So, until tomorrow, Hwyl!

October 25, 2006

Last Week in Welsh: Amser

There are two ways of counting in Welsh. The newer system is based on ten and an older system that is based on twenty. You know, when you are singing an English translation of a Catalan Christmas Carol and you sing, "On December five and twenty" Or you're doing a bit of research on American history and read, "It was four score and seven years ago." Its that sort of thing. And, while the older system is on its way out in most daily actitivies, such as counting above twenty-nine, it is still very much entrenched in something all of us do at least once a day: tell the time.

So, to begin with, one needs to be able to count to twelve, which is simple enough: un (een), dau (dai), tri (tree), pedwar (pedwahr), pump (pimp), chewch (ch*ech), saith, wyth (oith), naw (now), deg (deig), un ar ddeg (een ahr dd**eig), deuddeg (deiddeg).

How cool is that, being able to count to twelve in Welsh?

Continuing on, for "after" or "past" you say "wedi" (wehdee). To say "to", you say "i" (ee).

"chawrter" (chahrter) means "quarter" and "hanner" (hahner) means half. So, to say quarter past 2 you say, "chawrter wedi dau". If you want to say half past eleven, you say, "hanner wedi un ar ddeg." (or, "hanner awr wedi un ar ddeg." in which "awr" which sounds like "hour" means, surprisingly "hour."). All of this is the cake walk. Its when you want to say twenty after, or twenty-five to, or what have you that things get hairy.

You see, in the ten system, you'd just say dau ddeg for twenty. Simple, two tens. In the old system, you say, ugain (eegain). Got it? un ar hugain, dau ar hugain, tri ar hugain...and up and onwards. Except when you are telling time. Then, before you said, "ar" (I know, your inner pirate is dying to tell time now) you say, "munud" (minid).

So, if someone asks you, "Faint o'r gloch ydy hi? (vaint or gloch yhdee hee?) And your watch is telling you 2:40, you would answer, "Mae hi'n hugain munud i tri" (my heen heegain minid ee tree). Its twenty minutes to three. Or, if it was 4:21 you would say, "Mae hi'n un munud ar hugain wedi bedwar."

Okay, so maybe time isn't all that bad.

Oh, one more thing, in the older system, everything up to 15 follows the pattern of "un ar ddeg" (except deuddeg). After fifteen, pymtheg, you add pymtheg instead of deg, so seventeen is "dau ar pymtheg". Think of it as roman numerals.

Well, then. You're set and ready to go with time.

October 15, 2006

Last Week in Welsh: Month 1!

So, now that we've got some vocab and we're gliding on to regular verbs in the past tense. As far as recipes go, this one is pretty easy. There are just a few simple steps and only two ingridients! You can't really beat that!

Simple Past Tense Regular Verbs

Verb Stem

To find the verb stem:
if it ends in a consonant: use the whole word as the stem
unless: it ends it "-ed" or "-eg",
then: drop the "-ed/-eg"
if it ends in a vowel: drop off the last vowel

Add ending to stem
I: -ais i
you: -aist ti
she: -odd hi
he: -odd e
we: -on ni
you formal/plural: -och chi
they: -on nhw.

So, "I spoke to John" is siaradais i â John. "He walked to work" is Cerrddodd e i'r gwaith. We ate sushi would be bwyton ni sushi. Rockinginly easy. So easy that I think I can give a short description of the mutations now.

The mutations are sound changes at the beginning of words. They are systematic and only apply to stops and a few of the nasal sounds in Welsh. They apply after a subset of grammatical words such as two of the question words (beth meaning "what" and pwy meaning who) and the preposition words, at the beginning of feminine singular words in certain environments and at the beginning of questions and negative statements. At least, this is what I have learned so far. It is quite possible that in the future, this will change as I learn more. Obviously, I will keep you updated.

October 13, 2006

Last Week in Welsh: Words, maybe?

It has occurred to me that even though I have gone over the past tense and talked about how to say, "I like", that I haven't really talked a lot about vocabulary. Well, today I'm going to remedy that!

Vocabulary learning has always been the hardest part of learning any language that I've tried to learn for me. Grammatical items and structure are all very good and important to creating an effective message and being understood. However, the bulk of that message comes from the content items, the lexical items of the language. Given that any language you are learning you are going to be semi-literate in to start, you have few opportunities to pick up vocabulary from reading. I don't know about you, but much of my vocabulary in my first language I've gleaned through years of literacy. In a new language, you rely less on context to put the pieces together because you're still working out what things mean and how they work together. You have to look things up frequently. And, going to the dictionary every other word is hardly what you do in your first language, so when you have to in a new language it is very easy to get very frustrated very quickly. Now, dear reader, I wouldn't want you to get frustrated with your limited expressive powers, so here is a list of words you may find of you (and, that I've recently put on flashcards in order to facilitate committing to memory.)
In the following you will find "ll" to represent the sound described here and "dd" to represent the sound described here. and "ch" to represent what is in IPA /x/. This sound is also discussed here..

llysiau (said: llusheeai): vegetables
Gwyliau (said: gwileeai): holidays (vacation)
ddoe: (said: ddoi) yesterday
creision: (said: crayshun) crisps (American: chips)
ardderchog (said: arrdderchog) Excellent
echnos: (said: echnohs) the night before last
dechrau: (said: dechrai) to start
brechdan: (said: brehchdahn) sandwich
dŵr: (said: doo or) water
cwrw: (said: cooroo) beer
sudd: (said: seedd) juice
cinio: (saidL ceeneeoh) dinner*
oren: (said: o rehn) orange
afal: (said: avahl) apple
Cael: (said kail) to have as in get or obtain or consume
tŷ: (said: tee) house.

So, Now you can say "I like apple juice" dw i'n hoffi sudd afal. Or, I'm having a sandwich. Dw i'n cael y frechdan**. If you are ever caught in the Welsh mystery story and someone asks you where you were the night before last, you can say, Bues i yn y tŷ echnos, "I was in the house the night before last." But, as is always true in stories (and, frequently in life as well) you will have been home alone with no one to verify your alibi and Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Mark Sloane or Matlock will have to prove your innocence after you're arrested wrongly. Or, you can say Dw i ddim yn hoffi llysiau, if you don't like vegetables.

* dinner is frequently used to describe the midday meal on the island. So, "cinio" can be used for either lunch or dinner.
** Welsh has what are known as "mutations" that effect certain sounds when preceded by vowels and certain grammatical words. They have, if you will, an instutionalized way of describing the phonological processes of speech like Sanskrit's samdhi rules. "Brechdan" is a feminine word and is effected by the change.

October 07, 2006

Another slow day on the hacienda

So, we got up around 8:30 this morning. Which is sleeping in for us. I read a little, John watched the extras on the X-men 3 DVD. John went back to bed. I read some more. I think I fell asleep again. I'm getting up the energy to go out and take some pictures. John has gone to the pub because Wales is playing Slovakia today in the Euro 2008 qualifiers. Before he left he tried to talk me into taking the disposable camera instead of my real camera out and then the last thing he said to me on the way out of the door was, "Don't get mugged." I think he was a little upset that I wouldn't take his advice. However, I did not spend all that money on a digital camera to use a disposable camera. (Which I have just to take to bars.)

It feels like a Sunday and not like a Saturday. I have Welsh vocabulary to learn. Among the words I have on flash cards are such exciting things as "porridge" and the color "black". "Black" as a word in Welsh amuses me because its spelled "du" which is said "dee". Its great. The whole language is great. Thumbs up to Welsh.

I've been having a lot of really weird and very vivid dreams about such things as the Peace Corps, spiders, and castles filled with books. Its been a very tense week because the dreams have been effecting how I've been sleeping which has made me bitchy.

Coming up (hopefully) this weekend, I will post a This Week in Welsh and a music review of Mewithoutyou's new CD. So, stay tuned and such.

October 03, 2006

Last Week in Welsh: Mad Cow and Ice.

While it would seem that language, like life, is very simply divided up into past, present and future anyone that has taken a language class will tell you that it is not that simple. If you studied Spanish you remember being bogged down with whether or not to use the pretérito or the imperfecto in the past or if you were an Italian student whether to use the passato prossimo or the passato remoto. Many hours have been spent looking at and memorizing whether things are perfect or imperfect or progressive. And, it can be confusing. Very, very confusing. Theses differences are known as aspect, which is a linguistic concept that specifies how time is related to an event being discussed. Wikipedia says that aspect, "defines the temporal flow (or lack thereof) in the described event or state." Aspect is typically considered to be part of the verb.

Why did you need to know that? Well, you didn't really. But, this M.A. isn't doing anything else for me right now, so it might as well bore you with not necessarily useful information about language.

Welsh, not surprisingly, has different past tenses that mark "temporal flow". We have started to learn the past, starting with the tense that marks completed actions in the past. This was once described to me (by Señora Kaalberg back when I was studying Spanish) as the "boom" tense. It happened. Boom! It is now over and done. And, in teaching us this, our teachers have started with two verbs. (Arguably, the two most useful verbs in any language.) "Be" and "Go".

To say "I was (over. done with. finished) in the class" you say, "Bues i yn y dosbarth." And, "bues i" is pronounced as if you were talking about Bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE. So, "BSE un uh dosbarth." And, it goes on like. Buest ti yn y dosbarth (you were in the class), Buodd hi yn y dosbarth (she was in the class), Buodd e yn y dosbarth (he was in the class), buoch chi yn y dosbarth (You (formal)/y'all were in the class), Buon ni yn y dosbarth (we were in the class) and Buon nhw yn y dosbarth (they were in the class). or the shop (siop), or in the library (llfrygell). Wicked, eh?

To say "went" is similar and pretty easy. "I" and "You" follow the same pattern, "Es i'r siop" and "Est ti'r swyddfa (said: soyddvuh. means: office). And, for the rest you have "aeth" (or aethon or aethoch) which is said like "ice" if you had a lisp. So, "We went to the restaurant," is "Aethon ni yn y dy bwyd" (said: aethon nee un uh dee boid).

This week in Welsh has been brought to you by the linguistic concept of Aspect (which, if you would like to read more my former Professors Paula Kempchinsky and Roumyana Slabakova have published a book on it. I've not read it, but I learned a lot from taking classes from both of them so I feel its only fair that I recommend something of theirs.) Hwyl Fawr!

September 30, 2006


The Welsh word for wine is "Gwin" (said: gween). As we have learned in week 1, if you like wine, and would like to tell people this, you'd say, "Dw i'n hoffi gwin coch." ("coch" is said, like "Kahch", with that nice German "ch "sound at the end.) You'll want to remember that later.

In 2004, when I was in Europe with Beth and E we played a game. The rules of the game were thus: When you mishear someone, you give them a puzzled look and then repeat what you think you heard them say. For example, while we were in Barcelona, I said, "I think this side street connects to our alley way." But, E heard, "Does this kid's salad contemplate the literati?" You can see why it is an amusing game. I still like to play it. Earlier today John said to me, "I think I have collected some more bugs." At least, that is what I thought he said. What had actually come out of his mouth was, "Could you hand me the cotton wool buds."

The first week of Welsh class, we spent a lot of time telling each other the two or three things we knew how to say in Welsh that we liked. One of my classmates didn't come to class on Thursday. We turned up at the Humanities building at the same time and I waited for her while she chained up her bike. As we walked into the building together she said, "What did I miss yesterday? I just couldn't manage getting up yesterday morning. I went out with some friends on Wednesday night and just had too much green cock." A puzzled look crossed my face. My first thought was, "Wow. That is really open of her." It was immediately followed by the thought, "This is too early in the morning to be talking about sex toys with a stranger." Then she stopped walking and said, "No. That can't be right. Greeno cock? Gwin coch?" Realization dawned on me.

"Ah," I said. "That's competely understandable. Gwin has that way of creeping up on you." I was very grateful that I hadn't decided, in that moment, to play the game.

September 24, 2006

Last Week in Welsh: Week 2

One of the sounds that occurs in Welsh but does not occur in English is represented by "LL". This sound is a laterally released voiceless fricative. That makes it seem complicated, I know. But, in isolation it is really not that hard to make. You just make like you want to say "L", and then blow out like you were going to say "F". It becomes a little more complicated when it is in a string of sounds, but I argue that this is just because you have to think about it. I'm hoping that the more I practice, the closer to second nature that it will become.

In some Indo-European languages, there is no verb "to have". Hindi, for example. Well, that's not entirely true. In some Indo-European languages there is no verb "to have" that indicates possession. I know what you are thinking, "Welsh is considered to be part of that family." And, you'd be right. Its not. But, like these other languages it has no verb that is "to have" that indicates possession. One of our teachers, a man named Cen (said: Ken. There is no "K" in Welsh) explained that when the Cymraeg landed on the fair shores of the island they met the islanders who spoke some ancient Indo-European tongue. So, when they went to trade with the natives, who didn't have a word for "have", they didn't use their word for "have" because they didn't get it. Instead they had to say, "I have with me this thing." Over the years, that became the standard and whatever was used before fell out of use and out of the language.

As this is language history, it is all speculation, but its not a bad theory.

We learned how to say "to have" last week. As in "I have a car." or, "I don't have a car." We also learned a new way to say "yes" and "no", because there are many ways to say "yes" and "no" in Welsh. So, are you ready for this?

To say that you have something you say:

Mae (insert thing) gyda fi. (said: My (whatever thing) guhduh vee.)
So, Mae car gyda fi is I have a car. Mae paned o goffi gyda fi is I have a cup of coffee.

Now, to say you don't have something is a little more complicated (but not too complicated.)

To say you don't have something, you say:

does dim (insert thing) gyda fi. (said: dois dim (whatever thing) guhduh vee.)
So, does dim car gyda fi. Does dim paned o goffi gyda fi.

Yes to the question, "do you have a cup of coffee." is "Oes" (said: ois). And, no is "Nac oes" (said: nahk ois.)

Wasn't that fun? Get ready for next week because the past tense (the one we don't have in English) is coming!

September 22, 2006


I have recently learned a new word. Although it looks like two words, we're going to pretend that it is only one. We're going to think of it as a string or a compound because both of these words work together to describe one single entity out in the world. There is much evidence to suggest that the basis of language is actually phraseological and not based on single words. I may have already told you that. I may be off on a tangent now. Oops.

The word is : Unol Daleithiau. I know what you're thinking, "But that isn't in English." I know, its Welsh. But, this will hopefully all make sense in a minute. If you wanted to say something like, "I'm from the States," this is a good word to know. You say: "Dw i'n dod o yr Unol Daleithiau." This is something I never would have said before I moved here. And, not just because it is in Welsh.

I'm sure this a rant I've been on before, but its one that I think is powerful and interesting. It is interesting how people describe themselves because it is indicative of how they see themselves. It is also indicative about how people in the immediate vicinity see them. Its not all internal; its not immutable. And, that to me is what makes it interesting.

I would have never identified myself as being, "from the States" before moving here for a number of reasons. First off, I've lived most of my life in the States. So, saying you're from there while you're still there is a bit redundant. Yes, honey. We know. Which state? Often more importantly, What city or township do you call home? Also, how often do you hear anyone say that when there are other ways to say it that are, I don't know, less phraseological and more succint like "I'm from America." or even, "I'm American."? Well, this might have to do with the cringe factor of being called "American". And, that just makes things so much more interesting.

I suppose at this point I should say something about how there is nothing wrong with being American. The United States is a lovely country full of helpful, charming people. Its an exciting democratic republic where occasionally portions of the population turn up at polls and allegedly elect the leadership and help to set and drive policy. I love my homeland. And, I miss it. But, these things aren't the point at the moment.

I personally shy away from the term "American" because it references the continent. I am not the citizen of a continent, but of a country on a continent. While this is a pointless distinction, it is one that I make nonetheless. I also shy away from the term "American" because in the past five years, at least inside the U.S., it has come to be used with much frequency by a certain subsection of the population and to describe that subsection. You know, "True Americans" . The people who are "real patriots". The ones that support the government 100% and had bumper stickers on the vehicles that said things like, "First Iraq, then Chirac." The ones thar are willing to give up a little bit of freedom and are okay with legislation like the Patriot Act that was voted on without reports from the House or Senate and with very little debate. (Which, by the way, is Congress not doing its job. We elect to pass effective legislation, which they aren't doing if they are hastily voting on things without conference reports or debate.) The ones that inspire music like Green Day's American Idiot. When I think about what home means to me and when I think that for most people, my home is America, I shudder to think that I am classed with these people.

Outside of the States, "American" doesn't necessarily have the political connontations that it may have at home. People who don't live in the States don't necessarily know about the bumper stickers or individual pieces of legislation. Although, they do know about our elections, which seem to get crazier and less verifiable every time they occur. My point is, that the further from the States you get, the more "American" seems to be a geographical marker first, and a political marker second. And, that is sometimes hard to reconcile with the notions built in your head from life inside the nation. And, that's where language as a marker of identity and language as a tool of communication don't gel. Do I say what will me the most accessible to my audience or do I say what I feel is more descriptive and truer representation of what I am? And, there isn't a one-size-fits-all answer. It depends on the situation. It depends how well you're planning on getting to know the other speakers. It depends on your mood. It depends on a bunch of hard to pin down, non-linguistic factors. And, it goes both ways. In Welsh, I say I'm from the states, mostly because it is hard to say I will master it! But, in English I'm from the States. Or, I'm from Iowa City, Iowa. Or, even just Iowa. Sometimes, I'm even just from a city about three hours west of Chicago.

September 19, 2006

Last Week in Welsh

In Welsh, or Cymraeg (said: Kum-Raig) "w" is a vowel roughly equivalent to "oo" and "dd" is a consonant that sounds like "th" in the word "these" (in the IPA it would represented as eth, if that means anything to you.)

I have learned enough Welsh this week to say, with feeling, that I don't like ironing.

I also have learned the Welsh for "I'm tired." So, when my teachers ask me, at 8 in the fucking morning, how I'm feeling, I can answer, "I'm tired, thank you. How are you?"

Would you like to learn these sentences? Oh, I knew that you would!

I don't like ironing: dw i ddim yn hoffi smwddio. (Said: dwee thim in hoffey smoothio.)

I'm tired, thank you. How are you?: dw i'n wedi blino, diolch. Sut dych chi? (Said: dween wehdee bleeno, deeoch (said like German "ch"). Shut (rhymes with "put") deech chee?)

Also, one of the teachers taught in Indianola for a spell. I'm not sure if he taught at Simpson or not, but I do believe he taught Welsh wherever he was.

This Week in Welsh was brought to you by the letters "W" and "DD". Thank you for reading This Week in Welsh. Nos Da!