Alright, I regret to say I’m not a Welsh speaker. Despite the flags strewn along the shopping streets of Cardiff (or properly, ‘Caerdydd’- ‘fort of the Taff’) this part of the country is home to far fewer Welsh first-language speakers than its western and northern regions. I have to go quite far back into the annals of my south-east Wales family history to find Welsh speakers, while I have living relations in the north who are only the most recent of a long line of people for whom Welsh is the language of the home (and the pub).
Questions and discussions relating to the Welsh language frequently crop up in my English lessons, especially from those students who were unaware of the existence of the language until their arrival here. Wishing it to be viewed as more than a source for confusion, I often recount a very simplified (such as my knowledge allows) version of the history of Welsh, from it’s Brythonic beginnings through the middle-ages to the modern era. It provides, amongst other things, an opportunity for an exercise in which the students compete to jott down the narrative tenses I use as I ramble on. After the story has ended, I invite suggestions as well as recollections of the actual sentences the tenses formed part of so that we can put them up on the board for analysis. The students can then prepare a similar talk of their own as a mini-presentation, perhaps on an unrelated topic, employing the same narrative tenses.
Occasionally, a student might ask what this or that is in Welsh and even more occasionally I might actually be able to answer them. The topic can lead to interesting discussions about the language(s) of the students’ own countries, particularly when there are those in the group who speak ‘first’ a language which is either ‘second’ or ‘not spoken’ among the general populace. With a map, one can draw the students’ attention to ‘pre-English’ words that are seen in Welsh but in place names outside of Wales with questions such as “what’s the connection between Aberdeen and Abertawe, or Statford-Upon-Avon and Aberavon?” and draw out speculative language through their suggestions.
Well, there are only a few hours left of St. David’s Day (St. David was incidentally the only indigenous British patron-saint… another post!), so I wish you Dydd Gwyl Dewi Sant Hapus, Happy St. David’s Day, and hope the weeks and months ahead are filled for you and your students with happiness and learning.
Director of Studies
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