This is a common misconception that is often heard amongst learners, and could’nt be any further from the truth.
The truth is that there are many different “accents” across the whole of Wales. Welsh speakers in Ceredigion sound quite different to those from Cardiff even though both are considered as being “south Walian”. Likewise Welsh speakers from Caernarfon tend to sound quite different to those from Machynlleth, even though both are considered to be “north Walian”.
This is very much the same in England with English. Take the word “Bread Roll” for example. In the home counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and the other one I always forget the name of, you will struggle to find anyone who calls it anything other than a “bread roll”. But if you drive 60 miles up the road to the Midlands, you’ll start hearing people refer to it as a “Barmcake”, go further north and you may start hearing the word “Bap”. In Lancashire they call it a “Oven bottom”, in Liverpool it is called a “Nudger”.
The thing is, that despite all of these different names for the same thing – everyone understands each others “word” for the same thing, even though they don’t use that word themselves.
In reality, there aren’t that many words in the Welsh language that are much different between the “two dialects” I can think of maybe 100 words or so, and as you learn the language you will also learn “the other” word for everything.
I won’t lie, accents can be challenging – but this is exactly the same with English. If you’ve grown up in Caernarfon, only speaking with people from Caernarfon – you will naturally find it difficult to understand someone from Newport for instance, but with practice this will be fine.
This is another misconception that has unfortunately spread a bit further than it needed to have done. Language learning, like the learning of anything is all subjective.
I learned the language as an adult and I considered myself fluent in Welsh after about six months or so, yes I still had some polishing up to do, but generally I could get by with my life through the medium of Welsh and had no need to fall back to English.
Within six months I was doing interviews on S4C (Welsh language television channel) and within about a year I actually felt more comfortable using Welsh on a day to day basis than English.
It really depends on the amount of time spent learning the language and your opportunities to use the language on a daily basis, but I certainly believe that anyone, regardless of how bad you may feel you are with languages, can go from a total beginner to being conversationally fluent within one year.
Worrying about mutations is something I hear a lot of a learners, or potential learners, worry about – and there really is no need to worry. We have mutations in English!!
You don’t believe me do you? Let me show you!
Speak as slowly as you can, and say the following phrases out loud…but very, very slowly. Say them slowly but without stopping for the spaces.
I WAS IN BIRMINGHAM
I WENT TO CARDIFF
MY MOTHER WAS IN COVENTRY
When you said “I was in Birmingham” if you said it slow enough, you may have noticed that what you actually said was something more like “I WAS ING MBIRMINGHAM”. Don’t believe me? Try it again and really try and listen out, you don’t actually really sound the “B” sound like you probably think you are!
Now try the second and the third phrases? Did the “C” in Cardiff sound explosive? Or did it come out sounding more like a sort of “G” sound? Did you actually make the “C”sound for Coventry, or did the invisible “G” on the end of “in” carry it over?
You see, these mutations exist in English – it’s just that in English we don’t write them down. In Welsh they exist, but the only difference is that we write them down.
The important thing is that while mutations really do matter, you will still be understood if you don’t mutate. For example, with mutations, a phrase like “I am going to Cardiff” should be said in Welsh as “Dw i’n mynd i Gaerdydd” the “i” changes the C to a G…
..but if you were to say “Dw i’n mynd i Caerdydd” you would still be totally understood!
Some people like to learn the mutations in the same way one would learn the periodic table whilst others like to just get a feel for “what works” by ear. It really is down to the individual, but I wouldn’t worry about mutations in any way, shape or form.
There are no right ways or wrong ways to learn Welsh! Well perhaps there are lots of wrong ways, you’d probably not learn a lot of Welsh from sitting on a mountain alone for a few years…
With the increasing amount of technology available to us nowadays, there have never been more ways available to learn Welsh. I go into more detail on the Learn Welsh/Dysgu Cymraeg page, but as a concise guide there are a handful of ways to learn Welsh these days: