This week, Rhodri Hughes discusses Shwmae Day, what it means, and how to get started with a little Welsh.
Shwmae (pronounced ‘shuh-my’) means ‘Hi there’ in Welsh (Su’mae means the same thing and is used more in North Wales). Since 2013, October 15th has become Shwmae Day, with the idea being to greet people in Welsh and promote having more conversations in Welsh. Whether you’re fluent in Welsh, learning Welsh, or a non-speaker curious about the language, it’s the perfect chance to practice what you know and learn something new! Although, understandably, this is mainly an event celebrated in Wales, it’s also a chance for those elsewhere in Britain to learn a little about a language that’s an important part of our heritage and widely-spoken in many parts of Wales.
I’ve written before about how being a Welsh-speaker has affected my understanding of the English language and British history as a whole, so I won’t tread the same ground here. I love Shwmae Day, though, because it encourages Welsh usage in a fun and relaxed way. Also, Britain has a stereotype (unfortunately, not one that’s come from nowhere) for being a nation of monoglots who lag behind their other European counterparts when it comes to foreign languages. Learning foreign languages is good for the brain and experiencing other cultures, whether it’s Welsh or whatever other language takes your fancy.
Why learn Welsh?
Not everyone can learn Welsh, of course, and trying to learn any foreign language is a great thing to do. Whether you’re in it for the cognitive benefits, career options, making the most of your holidays abroad, or just want a new hobby, I’d always recommend going for it if there’s a language you’d like to learn even a little of.
Welsh has to deal with stiff competition from other foreign languages, I know. Partly because it seems difficult and partly because there’s rarely a ‘need’ to speak it as almost all Welsh-speakers are fluent in English. However, Welsh is a part of Britain’s history and heritage; by learning some of it you’re joining a very deliberate effort to keep this part of our culture alive. It’s also never going to be a bad thing to know a foreign language and may be a big help if you ever consider working or living in Wales. Finally, if you’re a historical literature fan, Welsh has a wealth of works to enjoy.
Getting started with Welsh
Welsh has a reputation for looking intimidating. Long words and a lot of letters that would just be consonants in English mean it’s not necessarily intuitive to spell, much less pronounce. Rest assured, once you get started, it’s not so bad! Here’s a list of eleven simple Welsh phrases to give you a taste of written Welsh, or teach your students to give them a bit of extra knowledge about one of the UK’s languages:
Hi, how are you? – ‘Helo, sut wyt ti?’
I’m well/good – ‘Rydw i'n dda’
What’s your name? – ‘Beth yw dy enw?’
My name is _______ – ‘Fy enw i yw _______’
Where are you from? – ‘O ble rwyt ti’n dod?’
I am from ________ – ‘Rydw i'n dod o ______’
Excuse me – ‘Esgusodwch fi’
I’m sorry, I don’t speak Welsh – ‘Rwy’n flin, dydw i ddim yn siarad Cymraeg’
Please – ‘Os gwelwch yn dda’
Thank-you – ‘Diolch’
Goodbye – ‘Hwyl fawr’
Whether you have Welsh heritage, live in Wales, want the securest passwords, or just took a bit of a shine to the language, apps like Duolingo are a great way to make a start on learning it for real. It’s even free! You can find plenty of other online communities dedicated to language-learning to keep you motivated and help you practice.
About the author
Rhodri Hughes is a native Welsh speaker and Product Development Executive at CLA.