In Wales all the road signs are in both English and Welsh, my driving license is in both languages, and when I lived in Cardiff my cheque book was also in both languages. In Wales there are television programmes in Welsh and you will occasionally hear people speaking Welsh. The language is more predominant in certain areas of Wales, so for example in the North you are more likely to hear it being spoken than in the South, however, the number of speakers is growing in Cardiff. I went home last year for a holiday and stayed in Cardiff for just over a week and I heard people speaking Welsh on one or two occasions.
Hopefully the language will continue to survive, because it’s language, food, traditions and cultural diversity in general which make places different from each other and thus interesting to visit. If everywhere you travel the people speak English, there’s a McDonalds on every corner and everybody dresses the same it would be very boring.
You can read about the history of the Welsh language here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Welsh_language
You can read about Celtic Britain here:
You can see how Welsh looks in writing here on the BBC;
And you can listen to Welsh here:
One singer that came to Cardiff on various occasions was Alan Stivell, a French musician who played Celtic music. I saw him on two or three occasions and I remember once during the last song he jumped off the stage, walked up the aisle, out of the concert hall and into the street, still playing. The audience followed close behind him as he skipped and danced along the city centre streets. I can’t remember how far we went around the streets of Cardiff, or if he took us back to the concert hall, but it was an emotional and unique end to the concert. The Pied Piper of Cardiff! The album of his I like the most is Chemins de Terre or From Celtic Roots as it was translated into English. Here are five tracks from that album you can listen to. Enjoy them.
Oidhche Mhaith – Traditional Scottish song - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCfrmcfU36I
Maro Ma Mestrez – The Death of my Beloved, Traditional Mountain song –
Metig – Dance – Variation of the gavotte of mountain areas.- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mPiKOnmtny4
Kimiad – Departure of the Conscript - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oRNZ40T4wyY
My Spanish isn’t perfect, but it’s certainly not that bad either, I don’t have any problems having and following conversations, I can watch and understand television in Spanish and can follow a film in Spanish without subtitles, I don’t understand everything, but I get the context. I also do translation work from Spanish to English, but I couldn’t do it from English to Spanish.
Having said that I have had some misunderstandings with my Spanish in the past, once in the centre I went to grab a bite to eat, and had the following conversation, which I have translated into English.
I went into a small cafe and asked for two empanadas (A form of pasty which is fried rather than baked in an oven)
Me: “Could I have two empanadas please.”
Man: With a quizzical look on his face, “What?”
Me: “Could I have two empanadas please.”
He looked at me again as if I were from another planet, turned around, went to the refrigerator, took out a bottle of 7-up, took the lid off, and placed it on the counter in front of me. I was thirsty so I didn’t say anything.
Man: “Do you want anything to eat?”
Me: “Yes, Could I have two empanadas please.”
Man: With the same quizzical look on his face, “What?”
Me: Starting to get frustrated, but still feeling hungry, “Two empanadas, please.”
Man: “Oh, empanadas, how many?”
Me: The frustration now showing, “TWO!”
Luckily I haven’t had any situations like that for a long time, though occasionally if I meet someone for the first time that has an accent different to that which I am accustomed, or who doesn’t vocalise words properly I can struggle initially until I get used to the way the person speaks.
Here in Colombia, more and more people are learning English which for me as a private English teacher is great. However, one thing that is happening is that some English words are creeping into conversations when there is a Spanish equivalent that could, and I feel should be used. This is especially common in business, for example; marketing instead of mercadeo, I call it Spanglish, and personally I think it should be avoided whenever possible.
In Welsh you sometimes hear English words, but usually when it’s a word that doesn’t exist in Welsh, such as Heavy Metal or Disco. Personally as someone who adores the countryside, nature and solitude I would be happy if Discos still didn’t exist! English, as it has developed into the language it is today, has borrowed words from many other sources. Reservoir for example has a decidedly French feel to it and does come from French as do Café and Hotel.
I once wrote an article about the development of the English language which you can read here:
Hopefully the Welsh language will continue to thrive for many centuries to come, native speakers of other languages will try to avoid using English equivalents of words that already exist in their own language, and Colombians will continue to feel the need to learn English so that I don’t starve.
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