Category Archives: Learning Welsh

On being a Dysgwr Cymraeg

‘Dysgwr Cymraeg’ means Welsh Learner.

I’ve been plodding along, on and off, for about 8 years, ever since the husband decided he’d like the kids to go to Welsh medium school – which means that they receive all their education through the medium of Welsh, and become effectively bilingual. Choosing Welsh medium education for our children, when we are both first language English speakers, brings a whole set of challenges and worries, which at some point I’m sure I’ll post about in the future. In the meantime,  because it’s all about me, yeah, I’m just going to bore you with the trials and tribulations of being a Dysgwr Cymraeg.

And here’s number one – did you notice there that it was the husband’s idea to choose Welsh medium? Of course we researched it and looked into the pros and cons together before deciding, but it remains his idea. SO WHY AM I THE ONLY ONE LEARNING?

Number two – my brain is broken. I used to be able to pick stuff up so quickly when I was in school. I mean, I worked hard (not much else to do when you’re a bit of a misfit) but it was never a struggle to get reasonable marks. Now, it’s a different story. Literally nothing sticks.

Number three – everyone tells me to practise on my kids. Which would be great, if they could understand my efforts. And even when I do manage to make myself clear, with much effort and signing and brain squeezing, the responses I get range from pitying looks to mild hilarity. From a five year old and a seven year old. Thanks a million. Now I feel REALLY good about it all. And it’s only a matter of time before the three year old joins them.

Number four – the language is changing quicker than I can learn it. When I started learning, I was taught to say ‘Rydw’i eisiau’ (I want). A few years on, and that’s only taught for written Welsh and I should now say Dw’i eisiau. And my kids all say (including the three year old) ‘Fi eisiau’. STOP! It’s hard enough being forty one and having to learn this stuff, without it bloody EVOLVING around me.

Number five – mutations, those effing, blinding mutations. If you have studied Welsh, even briefly, you’ll know what I mean, If you haven’t, you just need to know that you change the first letters of certain words, after certain other words, in certain situations and weather conditions. And there’s not just one mutation, there’s three different types, each for three or six or nine letters, and about one hundred and seventy six reasons why you might use one, two or more mutations in any given 10 word sentence. FFS!!

Number six – ‘one day it’ll just click’. That’s what everyone says. Everyone. Well, if that one day could just come quite soon please, I’d be eternally grateful!

Number seven – yes. oui. ja. da. si. ano. sim. There’s seven thousand different words for ‘yes’ in the world – one for each language. Well, if you include the Welsh yeses, there are seven thousand, three hundred and sixty three ways of saying ‘yes’. I’M NOT JOKING. And they are NOT interchangeable. Kill me now.

It’s not all bad, by the way. It’s a lovely language, and I’ve met some great people through my lessons. I know from experience that when I’m getting a reasonable amount of practice, my spoken Welsh improves dramatically – when I had time to go to class twice a week, I even managed a couple of interviews in Welsh. I can’t imagine being that confident – or having enough vocab in my crumbling brain – to do that now. I keep setting myself little tasks – ‘learn 10 words a day!’ ‘listen to Radio Cymru!’ ‘only look at the Welsh road signs!’ ‘tweet in Welsh!’ but the reality is that I have so much going on at the moment that it is a struggle even to get to class once a week. To be honest I’m feeling quite close to putting the fiddle in the roof (that’s Welsh for throwing in the towel).  Though if I did that it’d be just one more thing to feel guilty about, given we’re sending the kids to Welsh school. And on balance, given the choice between more parental guilt and more Welsh lessons, I’ll take the Welsh. Oh well, dal ati as they keep telling me!