Introduction


This course is intended for advanced learners who feel confident speaking Welsh and now wish to increase their use of written Welsh.  This may be, for example, to correspond with clients at work, or to write articles for a Welsh medium magazine or newsletter. 

The course is divided into twenty-six sessions, with the intention that one session is completed each week over a period of six months. The sessions have the twin objectives of developing correct use of grammar and increasing vocabulary in Welsh.

Teaching of modern languages has improved enormously over recent decades. In Welsh classes, the emphasis is rightly on the spoken language so that learners can take part in conversations and meetings through the medium of Welsh, and listen to radio and television programmes which are often on topics of importance to Wales and not available in English. However, this emphasis on the spoken language can lead to a lack of confidence in writing in Welsh.

It is not unusual for Welsh learners, and even first language Welsh speakers, to be reluctant to write letters or complete official forms in Welsh, preferring to use English. This is often due to a fear of making grammatical errors and being harshly judged by the 'language police'.  However, the only way to improve your written Welsh is simply to go ahead and give it your best shot.  Treat criticism as a learning opportunity.  Ask for your mistakes to be fully explained, and the correct grammatical patterns demonstrated.  In this way, both you and your critics will be making a valuable contribution to the increased everyday use of the Welsh language. 








Structure of the course

The course is organised as a series of sessions which can be accessed by links from the list alongside. 

You are welcome to make use of the material in whatever ways are helpful and no registration is required.  However, if you wish to register we will create an account to store your written work so that it may be accessed later or downloaded.  There is no charge for this service. Please note that any account not used for six months will be automatically deleted. 

Each session is displayed as a single page divided into the series of activities described below: 

Language notes

It is perfectly possible to become a fluent Welsh speaker with no formal knowledge of grammar, as amply demonstrated by children brought up in Welsh speaking families or attending Welsh medium schools. However, familiarity with the rules of grammar can be a great help when writing in Welsh.  Grammatical rules are simply statements of the accepted patterns for use of the language.  Exceptions to the rules are found, and can often be remembered as quirky special cases.  Each session begins with an outline of a particular aspect of  grammar, such as details of a particular verb tense.

Mutations (Treigladau)

A particular difficulty when writing grammatically correct Welsh is the system of mutations or treigladau.  This is an important feature of Welsh and other Celtic languages.  Treigladau in Welsh can change the initial letters of many words, including nouns, adjectives and verbs, under a variety of circumstances according to grammatical rules.  In this section, we provide notes on the use of treigladau.

Idioms

In each session we present a small selection of commonly used phrases which cannot be translated directly between English and Welsh.  

Sentences

You are invited to translate a series of sentences from English into Welsh. Click a button to check your answer, then move on to the next sentence. The examples will generally focus on the topic introduced in the language notes. 

Article text

A short article on an aspect of Wales or Welsh life is given in English. You are invited to translate this into Welsh. A button allows you to check your work after each sentence, or on completion. The text will extend beyond the grammatical topic introduced earlier to include additional sentence patterns, and will be an opportunity to develop new vocabulary.

Story

This section is based on the 'Story Cubes' concept, developed to help students improve their literacy and creative writing skills.  A set of special dice are thrown, with each face depicting an icon. The student must then compose a story incorporating each of the icons.  In our version, a set of icons is generated randomly by the computer program, for example: 



Icons may be interpreted in any reasonable way.  For example, the elephant may represent an actual elephant (seen in a zoo) or may represent a quality such as huge size and weight (possessed by an object), or long memory (possessed by a character). A story has been written for you using the icons, and you are invited to translate this from English into Welsh.

There is also an option to randomly select a set of icons.  You then have the challenge of using these, in any order, to construct your own story in Welsh.

Use of Welsh

This section contains a variety of realistic everyday applications of Welsh language, such as:
     Posters
     Information and instruction leaflets
     Forms and questionnaires
     Articles for a newsletter, magazine or web page.
The context of the application will be explained, and you will be given the English content.  You are then invited to produce a Welsh language version.   

Description

The next section provides an opportunity for a small amount of free writing.  You will be shown a photograph and are asked to write about 4 sentences describing the picture.  This might be, for example, a place, an object, or a person carrying out some activity.
Press a button to read suggestions for describing the picture.

Understanding Welsh

Finally, we provide a written article in Welsh.  You are invited to write sentences in Welsh to answer a series of questions based on the article.

Entering your answers...

Most of the sections require you to enter text in Welsh.
If necessary, the size of the input box can be easily increased by dragging the bottom right hand corner of the box:



Gender of nouns

Applying a correct treiglad often depends on knowing whether a noun has masculine or feminine gender.
The allocation of gender to nouns in Welsh does not generally follow any logical rules, so gender can only be decided from memory or by referring to a dictionary.
To help in completing the exercises, a list of the feminine nouns used in the course can be displayed by clicking a button at the start of the exercise.  Nouns not appearing in the list may be assumed to be masculine.
Nouns referring to people, where gender is obvious, have been omitted from the list.  Examples are: merch (girl), athrawes (female teacher), and myfyrwraig (female student).  




Further Information



Variations of Welsh language


There can be large variations between the Welsh language used in different situations.  This may be due to geographical differences between the north and south of the country, or the degree of formality, from casual to highly formal communication.

Dialects of Welsh have developed in the north and south using different vocabulary in some cases. Familiar examples are:
                  arian (S)         pres (N)        money
                  nawr (S)         rwan (N)       now
                  gyda (S)         efo (N)          with
Where alternative words are in use, either word is generally acceptable. 

Present day written Welsh has developed from Medieval Welsh by simplifying and shortening many of the words and sentence patterns. At the present time, there are few absolute rules characterising written Welsh, allowing flexibility to vary the word and sentence patterns according to the degree of formality chosen by the writer.  For very formal texts, older and less condensed forms are used, for example:
     Nid ydwyf fi ddim yn gwybod      I do not know
For less formal writing, this may be abbreviated to:
     Dydw i ddim yn gwybod                   
For writing which is intended to represent spoken language, such as a post on social media, this may be contracted even further to:
      Dw i ddim yn gwybod
All of these forms would be acceptable in the appropriate context. 



This course generally follows a middle ground between the formal Welsh found in official and legal documents, and informal Welsh representing spoken language. We have based the exercises on the type of writing found, for example, on the BBC Cymru website and in the national magazine Golwg.  




Due to the many language variations possible, the solutions to written exercises in this course are presented as 'suggested answers', rather than 'correct answers'. Please do not worry about differences if you are confident that your solution is valid.

Computer applications


A number of computer applications can help with writing Welsh:

Google translate is often a first choice, and has improved greatly in accuracy in recent years. The web site provides a quick and easy way to obtain a first draft of a translation. 

In many cases, Google Translate produces Welsh text which is very accurate.  However, a word of caution is needed when using either this program or a simple dictionary. The road sign below: 



has translated 'coach' i.e. a vehicle carrying people, as 'hyfforddwr' - a person who trains a sports team. 
In another example, a political website translated 'food plants' i.e. factories producing food, as 'llysiau' - vegetables, which are a different type of food plant!

Errors with the context of an unfamiliar word can be avoided by checking in a more comprehensive dictionary, such as the program 'Cysgeir' which can be downloaded from the Bangor University website.



Cysgeir has features similar to a thesaurus, often giving multiple translations for a word.  Notes and examples help in checking that the correct context has been selected for a translation.




Also produced by Bangor University is the grammar checking program 'Cysill'.  This software goes beyond simply correcting mistakes by providing helpful explanations of the errors found and alterations made.  Particularly useful are the facilities for checking treigladau and the patterns for different tenses of verbs. 

Another excellent software application is the program 'To Bach' which can be downloaded free of charge from the developers, Interceptor Solutions.  This application makes it easy to add a 'to bach' accent (as in the word tān) to any vowel by simply holding down the AltGr key whilst typing the letter on the keyboard. Easy key sequences are provided for other accents which occasionally occur in Welsh, such as in the words sgļo and caniatįu.

Translanguaging


Welsh and English are very different.  An obvious case is the typical sentence structure, which in English is subject-verb-object:
     John read the story
but in Welsh becomes verb-subject-object:
     darllenodd John y stori
Many other differences are found between grammatical patterns in the two languages, as we will see during this course.

Many phrases in English and in Welsh are idioms which cannot be directly translated between languages.  For example: the English phrase 
              time is running out 
sounds wrong if directly translated into Welsh as:
              mae amser yn rhedeg allan
A more correct translation is:
              mae amser yn dod i ben 
meaning:
             time is coming to an end.

A more subtle difference is in vocabulary.  English generally has more words available than Welsh, so a word in Welsh could be translated in a variety of ways in English.  An example is the Welsh word 'dal', which in different contexts can mean:
     catch         e.g. dal y bws         catch the bus 
     hold           e.g. dal y drws       hold the door
     still            e.g. dal yma            still here

However, the reverse is sometimes true. For example, in different contexts the English word 'spend' can be translated as:
     gwario        spend money 
     treulio         spend time  



Some delightful commonly used Welsh words describe very specific geographical features and have no direct English equivalent, such as:
    torlan         a river bank undercut by erosion
    rhaeadr      a wide waterfall across a broad rock face
    pistyll         a waterfall with a single narrow stream 

The consequences of these variations are that a literal word-by-word translation from English to Welsh may lead to errors in meaning, or may be simply impossible.

A practical approach for translating more complex texts from English into Welsh is to use the technique of translanguaging, introduced by Dr Cen Williams at Bangor University:

The objective of translanguaging is to obtain the overall meaning from the original English text, which may then be noted as a series of bullet points or as elements of a mind-map diagram.  The original text is then put to one side, and a new Welsh text is constructed from the collection of key points.  This allows more natural Welsh language patterns to be used.

The original purpose of translanguaging was to provide a methodology for translating cumbersome and complex official documents in English into clear and easily understandable Welsh.

In this course, suggested Welsh translations are provided as solutions to the exercises.  However, it would be perfectly acceptable to use translanguaging to create alternative solutions, provided that the content and meaning of the original English text has been retained.

Reference books


Two excellent and detailed grammar reference books are:   
 
    King, Gareth (1993)  
    Modern Welsh: A Comprehensive Grammar  
    Routledge               (written in English)

    Thomas, Gwyn (2012)  
    Ymarfer Ysgrifennu Cymraeg  
    Y Lolfa                    (written in Welsh)

Both contain a sequence of chapters addressing different aspects of grammar such as: verbs, pronouns, or prepositions, and provide many examples of sentence translation from English to Welsh.

A very detailed summary of the key aspects of Welsh grammar, presented in a series of helpful tables, can be found in:

    Ellis, Tony (2015)  
    Y Cyfeiriadur: A reference book for Welsh learners
    Lulu                        (written in English)




Valuable advice on writing Welsh in a clear and accessible style is given by:

       Williams, Cen (1999)  Cymraeg Clir  
       Bangor University             (written in Welsh)

Two useful books address the problem of idioms, which differ between English and Welsh and cannot be directly translated:

       Davies, Cennard (1987)  Y Geiriau Bach 
       Gomer 

       Cownie, Alun Rhys (2001)
       A dictionary of Welsh and English Idiomatic 
       Phrases.    
       University of Wales Press.

Grammatical terms


A problem when learning Welsh grammar is that many technical terms are introduced which may be unfamiliar.  The most basic of these are the names for the different parts of speech.  Important examples are: 

berfenw: verb noun, the name of an activity, such as: 
   chwarae (play), darllen (read), sefyll (stand)     

berf: verb, usually specifying an activity, the person or persons involved, and the time when the activity occurs. For example:     
    chwaraeaf (I play - present time) 
    darllenodd (He read - in the past)

enw: noun, the name for a thing, person or place, such as:
     drws (door), afon (river), myfyriwr (student), CaerdyddMari

rhagenw:  pronoun, takes the place of a noun to avoid repetition.  
For example, the pronoun hi (she) in:
     Mae Jane yn agor y drws ffrynt. Mae hi'n cerdded i mewn i'r tŷ.
     Jane opens the front door.  She walks into the house.



ansoddair: adjective, describes a thing, person or place.  Examples are:
     mawr   large        llyfr fawr     large book
     glas     blue          llyn glas      blue lake

adferf: adverb, describes how an activity takes place, for example: 
     cyflym   fast       rhedodd yn gyflym    he ran fast
     llonydd   still      eisteddodd yn llonydd    he sat still

arddodiad: preposition, describes a relationship between things, persons or places, such as:
     ar  on      mae'r llyfr ar y bwrdd    the book is on the table
     yn  in      mae Huw yn y gegin      Huw is in the kitchen  

cysylltair:  conjunction, links words or phrases together, for example:
      a  and         drws a ffenestr    door and window
      ond   but     hapus ond blinedig    happy but tired




About us


This website is produced by Graham and Margaret Hall.  

Originally from England, Graham from Yorkshire and Margaret from Lancashire, we met as students at Aberystwyth University then settled in North Wales. We learned Welsh as adults and were fortunate in receiving guidance from a number of enthusiastic and knowledgeable Welsh tutors, to whom we are extremely grateful. 

We have recently retired after long careers as lecturers in Further and Higher Education, working in a bilingual environment where hearing Welsh spoken every day was quite natural.  We are delighted that our children received a bilingual education, and continue to live in Wales.

We now have time for various educational projects.  Margaret is producing a YouTube channel for Welsh learners, Explore Wales in Welsh:
                                 www.youtube.com/c/MargaretHall
in which she visits and discusses interesting places in Wales.
Graham has an educational website on various topics, including the physical geography of North Wales:
                                  www.grahamhall.org



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