Have you ever thought you didn’t have it in you to learn a foreign language? Well, with today’s access to the internet, you can learn just about anything, including the language of your forefathers! If you have Welsh ancestry, even learning Welsh pronunciation and a bit about the Welsh language can be of great help to you as you begin to search for your ancestors.
The National Languages of Wales
Wales is a bilingual country. Though most records are written in English, Welsh is an equally important language in the country. In fact, Wales recently launched a strategy to have 1 million Welsh speakers by the year 2050. Children up to the age of 16 are being taught the language alongside English in the schools, street signs are found in both English and Welsh, and there is even a radio station in the Welsh language!
Ifor ap Glyn, a writer and broadcaster, said, “We have a saying in Welsh, ‘Cenedl heb iaith, cenedl heb galon’ [which means] ‘A nation without a language is a nation without a heart’—and the Welsh language is still very much at the heart of our national culture.”
The History of the Welsh Language
The Welsh language has been around for at least 1,500 years, though some sources claim the language is 4,000 years old. It includes influences from Latin, Irish, Norse, Norman French, and of course, English, but its roots are Celtic.
Welsh (natively called Cymraeg or y Gymraeg) is a Brittonic language and has been spoken in Wales, some parts of England, and Y Wladfa (a Welsh colony in Chubut Province, Argentina) for centuries. The name Welsh is believed to have originated from the Anglo-Saxons word for “foreign speech.”
Welsh uses a Latin letter alphabet and contains 29 letters: a, b, c, ch, d, dd, e, f, ff, g, ng, h, i, j, l, ll, m, n, o,p, ph, r, rh, s, t, th, u, w, y.
Even though the alphabet looks much like English, the sounds and inflections are different.
As you study your Welsh heritage, you may wonder what your ancestors sounded like. You can watch all sorts of videos online at YouTube or even enjoy some TV programs via a Welsh broadcasting station called S4C.
This Welsh pronunciation guide will help you learn how to pronounce Welsh words and may even teach you how to say your ancestors’ names! A printable version is included below.
Need a little extra help in your Welsh pronunciation technique? You can go to Google Translate and type in the word you wish to be translated. Then click or tap the audio button to hear the word spoken.
Now that you have a new understanding of the language of your ancestors, try looking through these Welsh records to see what clues and hints you can find for your family tree!