Blogtober 2021 – Day
Or should that be, My Welsh and I?
One of the suggestions that came up when I asked for blog post ideas in our FB group (The Soap Mine Community) was to talk about my relationship with the Welsh language:
My parents met in north Wales, in the area in which I now live. My mum is Welsh through and through – both her parents were first language Welsh speakers and both were FAR more comfortable speaking Welsh than English. Dad was English, from Newcastle, and they met when he came to the area to work. They got married, moved away to England, and then six months after I was born we all move back to Wales.
I have absolutely no idea how much Welsh I heard during the first six months of my life. I do know for certain that if any of mum’s relatives were around they would all have been speaking Welsh, but it’s unlikely I heard it much day to day. That all changed when we moved back to Wales and by the time I was uttering my first words I was surrounded by Welsh speaking family. My Nain (grandmother) and Taid (grandfather) would never speak English unless it was absolutely necessary (or if it would have been rude not to), and the rest of my family, although much more confident speaking English, would probably not choose to unless there was a non-Welsh speaker around.
So I guess I never ‘learnt’ Welsh, I was simply brought up bilingually. I spoke English with Dad, and Welsh with mum, I watched mostly English language TV programmes, and spoke Welsh with some school friends and English with others. My primary schooling was all done through the medium of Welsh (other than specific English lessons), as is still the case for the majority of primary schools in Gwynedd. However I did most of my secondary schooling through the medium of English. It’s probably fair to say that although I was still speaking Welsh with family and friends on a daily basis, by the time I was 15/16 I was far more confident writing and reading in English.
At 18 I left Wales and, bar a few short periods of living at home here and there, it would be 26 years before I moved back here permanently. By that time I’d got married, had two children and didn’t know what the heck we were going to do about schools for them. None of the local schools in the area we lived in in Manchester were particularly appealing, and despite my neglecting my Welsh for so many years, both Dean and I really wanted the children to have some knowledge of their Welsh heritage and the language.
One thing that surprised me while living in Manchester (and actually really wound me up) was the lack of knowledge amongst friends and aquaintances about the Welsh language. People genuinely had no idea, and had trouble accepting, that Welsh is very much a living language, in daily use. I know many people who are more comfortable speaking Welsh, who only listen to Welsh radio, and prefer to watch Welsh language TV. I’m not going to get on my soap box here, but that common gripe about people only starting to speak Welsh when a visitor comes along is utter tripe 😉 A tripe gripe.
So that’s me and my Welsh. I speak both English and Welsh every single day and if I had to quantify it I’m sure it’s almost always more Welsh than English. And to answer the original questions – Yes, I learnt as a young child and I was very much raised in a Welsh speaking community, as are my own children today.
Thanks for reading, back tomorrow!