Welsh is an older language than English
Welsh proverbs and the beauty of the language
Welsh has long been declared dead. The end of this seemingly archaic language was foretold by a certain William Richards in 1682. He used the term "Ausenglischt" (englished out).
And yet until the beginning of the 20th century there were still places where no resident would have been able to speak English. By the 1930s there were about 100,000 Welsh who predominated exclusively Welsh.
It still doesn't look as if this language will soon give up its spoon. Welsh people are proud of their homeland and the language of their ancestors, and more and more people in Wales are sending their children to schools that teach in Welsh.
Welsh belongs to the British subfamily of Celtic languages, related by blood to Breton and Cornish (a language revived in Cornwall). There are around 750,000 people who speak Welsh living in Wales and England. This tongue thus has the most native speakers of all Celtic languages. The second largest group to speak Welsh are Argentines, 25,000 people. More specifically, live in the Río Chubut (Welsh Afon Camwy), Descendants of Welsh settlers who founded several localities in Patagonia. Today, the Welsh language and Welsh teahouses are typical of several towns in the region.
We on the European mainland easily get past this language - when do we get anything to do with it? Even the British outside Wales have little contact with it. And yet, Welsh is the most vivid of the Celtic languages we have today.
Perhaps the best way to understand a foreign language is through singing and, correctly, proverbs.
Let's start with the proverbs
Loosely based on Aristotle: Proverbs are remnants of old world wisdom that condense the thinking and experience of ancestors into sayings. A proverb, sometimes more, sometimes less, is related to poetry.
We have put together 15 proverbs that give us an impression of the language and culture. Remember that Welsh sounds much softer and rounder than the written word leads us to believe. Let place names like this set you record-breaking Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch and don't be frightened of its 58 letter. The letter pairs ff, dd, ll, ch, th, ph and rh are de facto each a letter for which there are no separate characters. The place name actually only consists of 51 letters. We are also comforted by the fact that most consonants in Welsh are pronounced like vowels.
15 Welsh Proverbs and Their Meanings
Mae’r euog yn ffoi heb neb yn ei erlid.
Literal translation: the culprit flees without anyone chasing him.
This saying exists in English as “Me thinks the lady doth protest too much.” In German: “The lady, as I think, praises too much.” - from Shakespeare's Hamlet.
Intentional meaning: Someone protests so strongly that the opposite of what he claims has to be the case.
Dyfal donc a dyr y garreg.
Literal translation: indispensable knocking breaks the stone.
In English one says "Little strokes fell big oaks." In the German language known as "Steter drip wears away the stone."
Intentional meaning: Perseverance leads to the goal more often than a single attempt.
Cartref yw cartref er tloted y bo.
Literal translation: Home is home, no matter how poor it is.
Meaning: It's most beautiful at home.
Gŵr heb bwyll llong heb angor.
A man without reason is a ship without an anchor.
Meaning: Reason is a virtue. Use your mind.
Bwrw hen wragedd â ffyn.
Literal translation: It's raining old women and walking sticks.
English equivalent: "It's raining cats and dogs." In the German language known as "Es raining twine."
Yr hen a ŵyr a’r ieuanc a dybia.
Literal translation: the old man knows, the boy thinks he knows.
Meaning: Wisdom comes with age.
Deuparth gwaith yw ei ddechrau.
Literal translation: "The beginning of the work is two-thirds of it."
English equivalent: "Sooner started, sooner finished". Known in German as "All beginnings are difficult" or "The first step is always the hardest."
Intentional meaning: It takes effort and effort to start something new, but once you start it becomes easier.
Mae chwarae’n troi’n chwerw wrth chwarae hefo tân.
Literal translation: Things get sour when you play with fire.
In German, the phrase "to play with fire" is well known. This means something like "deliberately exposing yourself to a risk". The Welsh variant is a proverb - as opposed to the term idiom - which says: You don't play with fire, it would end badly.
Gwyn y gwel y fran ei chyw.
Literal translation: The crow sees its chicks in white / pure.
Intentional meaning: For parents, their own children are always perfect.
Benthyg dros amser byr yw popeth a geir yn y byd hwn.
Literal translation: Everything you have in this world is only borrowed for a short time.
Intentional meaning: All possessions are left behind after death. You cannot take anything with you into the hereafter.
Cenedl heb iaith cenedl heb galon.
Literal translation: A nation without a language is a nation without a heart.
Meaning: A people defines itself through its language. When a people loses its own language, it loses its identity.
Y mae dafad ddu ym mhob praidd.
Literal translation: In every flock there is a black sheep.
In German there is also the phrase “someone is the black sheep of the family”.
Meaning: outsider. Someone who stands out uncomfortably in a social group.
Gall pechod mawr ddyfod trwy ddrws bychan.
Literal translation: A great sin can enter through a small door.
Intentional meaning: A big mistake can result from a small mistake.
Dywed yn dda am dy gyfaill am dy elyn dywed dim.
Literal translation: say good things about your friend, say nothing about your enemy.
Meaning: Don't blaspheme. Speak good or keep silent.
Mewn pob daioni y mae gwobr.
Literal translation: Reward lies in every goodness.
Meaning: Do good. Be good.
Diwedd y gân yw’r geiniog.
Literal translation: At the end of the song comes the payment.
Intentional meaning: In the end, what counts is the money. Or to put it with a German proverb: money rules the world.
How does Welsh sound?
With us, in the end, the payment doesn't come, the singing comes. We want to hear what Welsh sounds like. Let's watch the short films of our two favorite musicians from Wales. First, Gwenno Mererid Saunders, in short Gwennosinging in Welsh and Cornish languages. Feel the warmth of the Celtic language.
Gruff Rhys, front man for Super Furry Animals, a British indie rock band, also sometimes sings in Welsh. Here is an interview with him speaking Welsh.
In this sense: Diolch a hwyl fawr! - Thank you and goodbye!
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