Cymraeg



On Thursday, 13 March, our guest speaker (via Skype) will be Mr. Dave Stacey, History & Technology Teacher at Olchfa School, Swansea, Wales. Please use this space as a "scratch pad" for questions or discussion topics you would like to see covered in our discussion.

Message from Mr Stacey

I've spent a bit of time this evening going through and adding some basic answers to some of these questions to give you a chance to shape some of your ideas before we meet on Thursday. Feel free to add follow up questions, and I'll try and check back before we meet again.

Questions/Discussion Topics/Points of Interest



From the handout


  • What makes Welsh culture so distinct, as opposed to Scot, Irish, English, etc.?
    • I guess it's the history. There is a sense of being a 'Celtic' country, with links to Ireland and Scotland in particular, but there are national emblems, national stories and everything that you need to create a national identity. I think, in terms of culture the language does play a part in that.
  • Why did people attempt to get rid of the Welsh language?
    • There's a question and a half! Lots of reasons. In Tudor times the English government had the money, the power and the technology to start centralising power and having a greater say in how the country was run. It was easier to do if everyone spoke the same language, and so the law only recognised one language (English) rather than the several regional languages that still existed at the time. At the same time the rich Welsh nobles had a path to more wealth and power by moving to, or making links with London. To do so they had to learn English, so English became the language of the powerful, while Welsh became the language of the peasants.
      More recently there was an element of Imperialism involved. In the days of the British Empire, the view that English was the pinnacle of civilisation, and that you were doing people a favour by bringing them out of their primitive ways and introducing them to English. The same story can be found in the attitudes to India, Africa, Native America, and closer to home in the treatment of the Welsh and Irish.
  • Why is Wales separate from England (Henry VIII)?
    • The United Kingdom is made up of four separate parts, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, and developed from those four parts. Wales is separate simply because the Saxons never conquered it, and none of the attempts afterwards to make it part of England ever succeeded in completely wiping out it's national identity.
  • Stereotypes between British cultures? - How do the dif countries feel about one another?
    • There are stereotypes within Britain. Typically the Welsh are portrayed as a bit thick, and likely to burst into song at any given moment. But then, even within Wales there are stereotypes, people from the Valleys (in the South) are portrayed as being a bit thick, while people from the west are seen as tight fisted!
      How do they feel about each other? There tends to be a strong anti-English sentiment amongst the Celtic Nations of Britain, although that isn't always known in England. Many English people see themselves as British, rather than English, and seem genuinely confused by the nationalism that exists in Wales, Scotland and Ireland
  • Regional characteristics?
    • see above
  • Predominant religion(s)?
    • Historically, Welsh was strongly Catholic until late on in the reformation, when a range of non-conformist protestant religions took hold. These days, it's much the same as the rest of Britain, multi-cultural with a fair dose of secularism.

Personal Questions


  • Where in England are you from?
    • I was born in Worthing in Sussex, moved to Devon with my parents when I was 10. I moved to Aberystwyth to do my degree in 1997 and then moved to Swansea to do teacher training in 2004. Have a look here to see those places
  • What major differences do you see b/w England & Wales?


    The biggest thing is the strong national identity that exists in Wales. Many English people see themselves as British (I would include myself in that), where as Welsh people, even non-Welsh language Welsh people consider themselves to be Welsh.
  • Is Welsh easier to learn than Gaelic/English/any other languages?
    • Hard to say. I learned French at school, but other than that Welsh is the only other language I've tried to learn as an adult. I'm told it's quite hard, but I don't really have anything to compare it to
  • Do you speak any other languages?
    • Only English and whatever very basic French I can remember from my school days!
  • Was it easy for you to learn?
    • Not particularly, but then I've never been very good at learning languages. The fact that my wife, her family and friends all speak Welsh has helped, as I've had people to practice on, and motivation to keep going (I want to know what they're saying about me!)
  • Why did you move to Wales, and was it hard to adjust/issues with language barrier?
    • To do my degree. Many many people move to Wales and never learn the language, so there isn't a language barrier in that sense, although the ability to speak Welsh is increasingly important in getting jobs.
  • What do you think your greatest reward is from teaching kids? (ashley)
    • It's never dull, you get to see the world in a whole new way, almost every hour, and hopefully you get to make a positive difference to someone's life
  • Is there any country that you have not yet visited that you would like to go see? And why? (ashley)
    • I quite fancy going to Australia one day, but I've never really been all that fussed on traveling, I leave that to my brothers.
  • Do you have a favorite city/region over there? If so, which one? (Cait)
    • I love where I live right now, just on the edge of the Gower, but my favourite place is probably Aberystwyth, which is where I went to do my degree, lived for 7 years and where I met my wife!
  • Just out of curiousity, Have you read the Canterbury Tales? If so, what is your favorite tale? (Elizabeth)
    • We studied them for A Level, although only about four of them. I still love the Miller's Tale!

Language


  • Homonyms in Welsh?
    • Good questions. I'll ask my wife
  • Cognates to English?
    • A few. They share several latin words, and lots of more modern worlds have clear links to their English conterparts
  • Basic rules of Welsh (learning/speaking)
    • Welsh is phonetic, which helps learning it. There are also mutations, which alter the start of some words, depending on their context. This is a common feature of Celtic languages, but makes it a bit of a swine to learn! This page has some examples.
  • Since viewing a few of the words in Welsh, do vowels have any role in the language?
    • Yes, in fact, there are 7 of them! (see below)
  • Welsh alphabet?
    • 28 characters, including some made of double letters (ch, dd, ff, ng, ll, ph, rh. th). No k, q or z.
    • 7 vowels, a, e, i, o u + y & w
    • Historically there was no 'J' in the welsh alphabet, but many modern versions include it.
    • Have a look here for a guide to pronouncing the letters, and here for more background
  • What is the hardest sound to make in the Welsh language?
  • Sentence structure - comparisons to other languages?
    • A lot seems 'backwards' to me as an English speaker, but I know that actually English is backwards compared to a lot of languages. For example, Mum's Dog would be Ci Mam in Welsh (Ci = Dog, Mam = Mum) Good morning is Bore Da (Bore = Morning, Da = Good)
  • Are people who are speking Welsh having a hard time keeping the language alive still today? (ashley)
    • That's a bit of a difficult question. Numbers of Welsh speakers are on the rise and it's now taught in all schools, but there are still concerns about how to keep a small language like Welsh alive and relevant in an increasingly globalised society.
  • Do the majority of people in Wales speak Welsh?
    • No. It varies from place to place. Nationally, the average was 21.7% in 2004, but it will be more than that by now. In the North, over 60% of the people speak Welsh, dropping to around 12% in the South East
  • What language are the movies shown in? Are English movies ever dubbed over in Welsh?
    • There are Welsh language films and TV ( there are two Welsh language TV channels now), but I don't know of English movies being dubbed or subtitled into Welsh, as pretty much everyone can also speak English. But if a foreign language film is shown on S4C (the welsh language channel) then it would be subtitled into Welsh, and lots of Kids TV shows have been redubbed into Welsh. I was watching the Spiderman cartoons in Welsh the other day to see how much I could follow!

Culture


  • Calendar the same?
    • Yes
  • Special holidays unique to Wales?
    • St David's Day (1st March) is the National Day of Wales. It isn't yet a Bank Holiday, but some businesses close, and schools tend to hold their Eisteddfodiau, which are cultural competitions featuring poetry, writing, singing and dancing competitions.
    • There is also St Dwynwen's Day which is the Welsh equivilant of St Valentines Day, but that isn't widely celebrated.
  • What do you serve for Christmas dinner? (alex)
    • I serve Nut Roast! But most people will have Turkey will all the trimmings, roast veg and cranberry sauce.
  • Compare towns & villages in Wales to England - how are they set up - infrastructure?
    • Much the same, although signposts in Wales are bilingual - See here for an example
  • Personal transportation v public transportation - which is more predominant?
    • Depends on the area. In cities there is more public transport available, but in more rural areas then private cars remain the main mode of transport
  • Popular Welsh music?
    • Wales is known as the land of song, and you certainly notice a difference compared to England. On top of the music heard across the UK there is a lot of Welsh language folk music, and an increasing amount of Welsh language hip-hop. Many of the rock bands tend to come from the South and so sing in English.
  • Other popular Welsh personalities/TV shows/movies?
    • Anthony Hopkins, Tom Jones, Catherine Zita Jones, Charlotte Church, Shirley Bassey, Timothy Dalton (don't know how many of those you will have heard of)
    • Doctor Who is now made in Wales and contains more Wales references. Torchwood is set in Cardiff.
    • Twin Town was set in Swansea. The man who went up a hill and came down a mountian was set somewhere in Wales. I'm sure there are others I can't think of right now!
  • American "The Office" vs. British "The Office"??
    • British "The Office". Although the American Mac vs PC ads are much better than the UK ones!
  • Welsh cuisine - unique dishes
    • Welsh cakes which are flat sweet cakes with raisons baked on an open griddle. Bara Brith is a fruit bread. Welsh lamb is supposed to be very good, but I'm a vegetarian so can't comment!
  • Ryan Giggs - like him or love him?
    • Never met the fella, but he seems nice enough and seems pretty good at football, although Wales tends to be more interested in Rugby than in Football
  • Will Gareth Bale be back??
    • No idea. I had to Google him to find out who he was. I suspect Mr Bariexca will have a better idea than I will!
  • Drinking & driving ages (separately, please!)
    • Drinking - 18 in public, although you can have Beer or Cider with a meal in a resturant at 16. No age limit in private residences
    • Driving - currently 17, but will be going up to 18 shortly
  • What are weddings and other celebrations like? Are there any traditions that go along with these events?
    • Much the same as elsewhere, there aren't really any major Welsh traditions that I'm familiar with, other than the giving of carved wooden love spoons to the bride and a lot more singing once the drink kicks in.
  • Is there a difference in dress in Wales then in the United States that makes it unique to your culture? (ashley)
  • How is Wales run politically? Is it different from the rest of the United Kingdom?
    • In 1998 there was a big shake up in how the UK was governed. Power was devolved from the UK Parliament, which had made all the laws until that point to a Parliament in Scotland and an Assembly in Wales. The Scottish Parliament has more power than the Welsh Assembly, although resently the powers of Assembly Members has been increases. The Welsh Assembly has control over Health, Education, Farming, Culture, Sport and a few other areas of policy. The UK government still controls things like foreign policy and defense.
  • How does literature in Wales differ from English literature?
  • What are some of the most well known Welsh literature titles and/or authors?
    • The Mabinogion is a collection of old Welsh myths and stories and is one of the best well known. Wales has a reputation for poets and storytellers, historically the Bards were important in recording oral history. In modern times the best known Welsh poet (although he wrote in English) was probably Dylan Thomas
  • The title of the page on Wales you gave to us reads: Cymraeg. The Language of Heaven. Why is it called this?
    • Welsh is known as the language of heaven. I don't know for sure, but I think it's probably something to do with the following myth:
      • (I'll come back to this when I find it)

  • Is it weird watching movies that you've seen in English that are dubbed over in Welsh? Are the translations always the same?
    • Doesn't really happen, so I don't know!
  • Is it looked down upon to marry someone not of the Welsh background? (no offense!)
    • None taken! There were a few jokes about it, but the fact that I was willing to learn the language and embraced the culture put me in good stead and people do really appreciate when immigrants make that effort.
  • Are there any major differences between the educational systems of Britain & the US? (Cait)
    • Hard for me to say, as I don't know much about the US education system, The UK system breaks down like this
***School starts age 4 and compulsory education finishes as 16.
    • Most people go through two schools, a Primary school from 4-11 and then a secondary school from 11-16. In a few places there are three schools, with a middle school taking care of ages 8-12
    • Students work towards GCSE exams during year 10 and 11 (ages 14-16) and sit their exams in May of year 11. Some subjects are compulsory (English, Welsh, Maths, Science) others are optional.
    • Many students choose to stay in education beyond 16, and study for A Levels from age 16-18. This is done either in a sixth form college attached to a large school (like ours) or at a seperate College
    • A growing number of people then go on to University to study for a three year Bachelors degree
  • as such a small country, is there any produce or manufacture that is prominent to the country or are there many various industries? (Ben)
    • Historically Coal Mining and related heavy industry provided most of Wales jobs, especially in the South. However, most of the mines and factories closed in the early 80's leading to high levels of unemployment. Tourism and the Service Industry has been building in the last few years and now employs large numbers of people, although in some areas of the South Wales Valleys, unemployment remains high.
    • Wales has large rural areas where hill farming, especially sheep farming, continues to provide much of the employment. Since the 1960's large areas have also been used by the forestry commission for growing and felling trees.



Activities

  • What other sports are popular in Wales other than soccer? (ashley)
    • Rugby is the main one that people who don't really like sport (like me) stop to get involved with!
  • Are there any famous artists or cooks of Wales? (ashley)
    • Don't know about artists as in Painting, but Dylan Thomas was from Swansea, and there a quite a few famous Welsh bands
  • What type of after-school activities do teenagers take part in?
    • Probably much the same as are on offer in the States. Sports clubs, music, computer clubs are the ones we offer from school, but many seem content to be msning each other, or hanging out in the local parks!
  • What additional activities do teenagers take part in on the weekend? (devin)
    • Either going into town with their friends, playing sport, or interacting through MSN and Bebo (At least, that's what they tell me. It's a few years now since I was a teenager!)
  • What are teenagers favorite subject in school? (alex)
    • I think that probably depends on the teenager, although I'm sure anything I teach is bound to be popular ;0)//


A couple of other things to be aware of

  • In many respects, when it comes to culture, there are two Wales. One is the welsh speaking Welsh culture, which tends to be quite cultural, proud of it's history, often based in more rural communities, and the other is the non-Welsh speaking culture, which tends to be more 'British' (and quite possibly typical of Western Europe and North American), but with a stronger sense of national identity than exists in England.
  • Welsh is also spoken around the world, but particularly in Patagonia in South America, where there was a Welsh Colony established in the 9th Century
- mrstacey mrstacey