How do Welsh speakers find each other?
As a Welsh learner who doesn't live in Wales, or have Welsh-speaking friends, but visits fairly regularly, I find it quite hard to practice when there. Last week's exchange in a cafe near Llanrwst was typical:
Me: Bore da!
Waitress: Bore da (laughing slightly nervously)
Me: Baned o de, os gwelwch chi'n dda
Waitress: Sorry luv, I don't speak Welsh
It strikes me that this must be even more soul-destroying for native speakers, if you're constantly failing to do basic business in your own language in your own country. How do you cope? Do you just press on regardless and have conversations like the above quite a lot, or are there subtle signs you pick up as to whether it's worth trying to speak Welsh to someone?
(I've noticed that some places have "Cymraeg" signs, but I've also noticed that these signs aren't always as prominent as they could be, the presence of them doesn't imply everyone employed there speaks Welsh, and absence of them doesn't imply nobody does...)
Just keep going with the excellent habit of starting (and ending!) every conversation in Welsh. Even in mainly English-speaking areas in the east if Wales you might expect a minimum hit rate of 10% in continuing in Welsh, more with younger people. In some western and central areas you might expect 90%.
Just keep going!
If you can travel to Wales regularly, it might be worth a shot trying to connect with speakers and other learners in Wales or nearby through social media and see if you can set up a time to met up at a cafe and someplace for an hour while you're there. I'm not on Facebook but I know there are Welsh learner groups on there, and you can just ask on Twitter using #Cymreag. There are actually quite a lot of Welsh speakers on Twitter.
Yes, it's a problem with Welsh being a minority language in most of the country. There is also this strange 'fear of Welsh', as your waitress perhaps suffered with. Basic business with strangers is usually conducted in English, though there is encouragement to start every conversation in Welsh. Most people classify people as Welsh or non-Welsh speakers, so always speak Welsh to those they know speak Welsh too. When you have been known as an English speaker and you meet again and start speaking Welsh you can see the confusion in people's faces. Stick at it, and people you meet will classify you as a Welsh speaker, even as a learner, just don't slip into English when you hit problems. If you stay in Welsh and gesture like mad, people will understand and you are often surprised by how much Welsh people who claim to have no Welsh have.
Thanks for this suggestion, will check these out when next there! Good to see there are learner communities in both Machynlleth and Conwy where I've visited recently. Even an eye opener that there are meetups in both Shrewsbury, near my family, and Oxford, near my wife's! Would never have occurred to me to look for Welsh learners there. (Live in Sweden so regular practice at home probably isn't happening...)
...and I go to one in Leeds / just turn up and chat! Who’d have thought it !
I don’t know if you noticed but there is also an online get together capability - lots of people from around the world and the UK use it.
It’s free. The site tells you how to hook up.
A teacher of Welsh was also bothered by that exact situation. Her students would try to speak Welsh when out or when visiting the country and would get fairly much the response you did. So, she created a T-shirt to advertise yourself as a Welsh speaker/learner.
By clearly pointing that out, it's a conversation starter for other Welsh speakers and keeps the English speakers away. :-)
Helo. Yes, as y_ddreig_las says," it's a problem with Welsh being a minority language in most of the country". But as a Breton, whose language is now dead in its native expression, I consider that Welsh learners are rather lucky : of course you'll find in Wales people not interested in speaking Welsh, others feeling shame or trouble or strait in speaking a tongue they suffered with (a Welsh-Not souvenir, as our "symbole" here in Brittany) but you also may meet a lot of native speakers, which is now no possible anymore with Breton. For my part, the reason why I love Welsh is that the grammar, vocabulary, mutations..., are very close to Breton, and, givent that Welsh is still spoken, it gives me the feeling that Breton is still a bit alive, somewhere accros the Channel Now, of course, let's no be blind : celtic tongues are on the way to death. What we can do is, by learning them, care at them as we would take care of someone whose death will come sooner than in normal conditions...
Welsh is definitely not 'on the way to death'.
It is spoken as a first language in many communities, taught and used as a first language in many schools and colleges. It is taught to adults and children who are not yet fluent. All government and other official information is provided in Welsh and English. There are Welsh-language magazines, books, local newspapers, TV, and local and national radio.
It is a modern, living language.
I have yet to meet anybody who feels shamed by using the language, but I have met more than a few who feel ashamed that they cannot.
Yes, I think there is every reason to see the state of Welsh today as a success story despite all the odds.
In 100 years time I am confident it will still be a living community language. I fear, though, from what I have read that it may well be the world's only living Celtic language by then.
:-) As someone said : "I had a dream..." Just have a look on Irish Gaelic, oficial tongue and despite of fhis, loosing more and more native speakers each year. Look at Breton, look at Scotland Gaelic, look at Cornish, look at Manx Gaelic... Well, if Welsh is the miraculously surviving tongue of the family, I'm up to faith in a lot of incredible things But who knows, really ?... :-)
Welsh is certainly at an interesting turning point. More people are in Welsh medium schools, more adults are learning it (many of them here on Duolingo), more people are having conversations in Cymraeg. But at the same time, it is still losing Welsh speaking communities, communities which are dipping below the 70% speaking rate where it's losing it's community language status. While total numbers are growing, areas where it was concentrated are becoming diluted. Where it now goes will be interesting. I met a Breton / Llydaweg singer at Tafwyl in Cardiff and was surprised to learn that Breton isn't used as a community language at all. This is so sad. Things are looking good for Welsh at the moment, but we mustn't rest on our laurels, there are still huge risks.
MCBrittany , your post is depressing ! "Breton, whose language is now dead in its native expression" humm what ? Where does it come from ? You think every speakers learned the language at school ? When I was on holiday in Brittany I walked by two women speaking Breton, probably a mother in her 60's and her daughter; I'm wondering why they wouldn't speak a native Breton ? If by this you mean, people don't speak the way they used to one century ago, well ... who does ?
I just stumble upon a video of parisans in 1912 with their own vocabulary and accent, we don't speak like that anymore either. Languages change, it doesn't mean they die. I'm a bit depressed by your pessimistic point of view, sorry.
Oooops (returning from holidays in Catalonia - here are people who kept their tongue alive, despite of much more hostility than ours, from the central politics ! ). I'm sorry, I did not want to be depressing :l iving in Brittany from 60 years, I just notice what happens, that's all. But one thing I did not want to mean is what you understood by "native". No, by "native expression" I just mean what the words say : "a way you speak a tongue you're born in, you have been saved with, by your parents" (versus o tongue you learned). There are language treasures (way of saying, idiiomatic expressions, stress on words...) that, even if you get a rather good level in the tongue you learn, are going to disappear, because they are part of, let's say a "physiologica"l (not the right word, sorry) practice of the tongue, and this "physiologicall feeling, very rare are people who get it. Now; concerning the evolution of tongues, of course tongues are not the same a hundred years later that they were a hundred year before : I'm not in a pastime vision of the tongue. If I listen to old French broadcasts, it's sure that the vocabulary is not the same (as for wirtten : the grammar changed concerning some points) BUT the most important, the STRESS ON WORDS, is still the same. Respecting the stress on words is the least thing that makes a tongue feeling alive (ask an Italian the difference between caSIno and casiNO : they laugh when we put the stress in the bad place :-)) When I hear breton new speakers, oh yes they speak breton with the right words, no problem, I'm not shoked by neologisms, I agree with the words evolution, but they speak "in the french way" (as well in the order of words in the sentence, which is not at all the same in Breton, and above all in the stress on words). You have to admit that not everybody has a "musical ear", abble to reproduce the "tongue music" (especially French people, known as very bad foreign language speakers ! :-) ). Making a tongue alive is not only a question of having a big list of vocabulary : you have to get the "spirit" of the tongue, whichi is not at all a question of "old times regrets". Going back to Catalan : its grammar is very close to Castillan ("Spanish") so when Franco tried to kill the tongue by inviting a lot of Andaluces (Castiollan speakers) to come and work to Catalonia, the contrary occured : those people's children finally spole Catalan ! Unfortunately, the step to speak our celtic tongues, coming from English or French, is much more tremendous (and not to mention a "richness" you cannot compare with Catalonia's ). Another problem for our tongues, but important as well... Well : I don't know if I made it clearer now, Cleanthe 3 ? Anyway there was no hostilitly from my part towards new Breton speakers, just a comment on the tongue they speak.