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A Quick Welsh Lesson | The Alphabet and Useful Words

Published on 20 Jan 2020 by Gwion Llwyd

The chances are that if you are not familiar with the Welsh language, then reading signposts to find the towns and villages you want to visit can be a bit of a challenge – unless you have some knowledge of the alphabet, then what you hear and what you see don’t necessarily marry up!

Season three of The Crown came onto our screens towards the end of last year, showing us Prince Charles trying to learn the Welsh language in preparation for his role as The Prince Of Wales. As a result It’s caused quite an interest in the language and I have since met a few people who have been inspired to learn it – one was across the pond in Nebraska where I also managed to find some Christmas Baubles with Nadolig Llawen (Happy Christmas) no less!

Whilst the alphabet is different to English, it is phonetic and they say that once you learn it, reading the names of towns and villages is a piece of cake (cacan).

So to help you with your travels around Snowdonia (Eryri) this year, here is a quick welsh lesson | the alphabet and useful words…

ashort, as in ‘hat’, never as in ‘ball’
bas in ‘bag’. Although is there really any other way?
calways hard as in ‘cat’, never an s as in ‘precise’
ch         like the ch in the Scottish word ‘loch’, but with more phlegm
das in ‘dog’, never as in ‘djinn’
dda buzzy ‘th’ sound, as in ‘this’. Think angry bees with a lisp
eshort, as in pen
fv. This is very, very simple, and when you get really used to it, f will play hafock with your spelling
fff. Equally, you can ffind yourselff getting too used to ff as well
galways hard as in ‘get’, never a ‘j’ sound as in the last g in garage
ngas in ‘song’, where the g isn’t hard, like in ‘gig’, but a soft glottal stop made in your throat
has in hat, always sounded and never silent
ias in ‘pin’
la ‘luh’ as in ‘lava’, but never an ‘ul’ sound as in ‘milk’
llnot as hard a sound to make as some would have you think. Raise your tongue to the top of your mouth as if you were going to say ‘el’, then make the ‘ell’ sound by blowing air round the sides of your raised tongue, instead of by using your voice. You should sound like an annoyed cat
mas in ‘mithridatize’. Or as in ‘mum’, if you want to be boring
nas in ‘nanobot’
oshort as in ‘hot’, not round as in ‘hotel’
pcan I have a p please Bob?
phan English f, or Welsh ff sound, as in ‘phase’
rrolled. Some people just can’t get a rolled ‘r’ – their tongues are unable to vibrate in the right way. It’s a genetic thing, apparently,  similar to being able to roll your tongue into a tube, or turn the end upside down. 
rhhr. Make a huffy, breathy sound before your rolled ‘r’
salways soft as in ‘sit’, never a ‘z’ sound as in ‘juxtapose’
tas in ‘top’. Can it get any simpler?
thas in ‘think’, softer and less buzzy than dd
uIf you had stepped in something disgusting and made a kind of ‘eugh’ noise, the vowel ‘eu’ sound would about approximate the  ‘u’.
yok, y breaks the rule that Welsh is phonetic. As a single syllable word, y is like ‘uh’, on the last syllable of a multisyllabic word it’ an ‘u’ or ‘ee’, and anywhere else it’s like the unstressed, indeterminate noise of the final e in ‘garden’ or ‘letter’. Ysbyty (hospital) is  the perfect example.

Useful words and phrases

How are you?Sut mae / Ti’n iawn
Good morningBore da
Good nightNos da
Cheers / Good Health!Iechyd da!
How do you say…. in welsh? Beth ydy….yn Cymraeg?
Thank youDiolch
SnowdonYr Wyddfa
Happy BirthdayPenblwdd Hapus
Big HouseTŷ mawr
Small HouseTŷ bach
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