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Wales and the Welsh


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Wales and the Welsh

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Last time I taught a class on “Wales and the Welsh” one student admitted he’d signed up thinking it was about marine mammals. And just the other day, I read a blog about someone who’d met “The Prince of Whales” - a relative of Neptune, perhaps?

Whether this says more about the state of American spelling than the visibility of Wales I don’t know, but for sure, Wales does seem the least well known of all the countries in the UK, at least in the USA.

So, what a pleasure it is, to put Wales on the map!

Why WALES? The word "Wales" is AngloSaxon, from "Wealas" meaning foreigners. The Saxons used the word for the ancient Celts who were already in Britain when they arrived. The Welsh, on the other hand, called themselves "Cymry" meaning "comrades". The country is called "Cymru" (pronounced "cumree." The letter 'c' is pronounced like a 'k'.)  
How OLD is Wales? The Celts migrated from Europe (probably South France) 2,800 years ago (Bronze/ Iron Age).) The Welsh identity firmed up around 1 AD as they rallied to resist Roman and other invaders from the continent.  
WELSH language The Welsh language became an entity around the 6th century. Today, it has the remarkable distinction of being one of very few languages to successfully revive. Statistics show it’s a growing language in Wales, holding equal status with English.
  • Welsh alphabet:– a b c ch d dd e f ff g ng h i l ll m n o p ph r rh s t th u w y
  • Some sounds – such as ‘ch’ ( like clearing your throat) and ‘ll’ ( like whistling through your back teeth) are not easy to make if you’re not Welsh.
  • Welsh words mutate, meaning they change depending on what words they are next to. Very often, the first letter changes which makes it hard to look up words in a dictionary!
Other Welsh facts

RED DRAGON. The oldest emblem ( 9th century) and on the Welsh flag.

LEEK and DAFFODIL: Emblems of Wales. They are the same word in Welsh.

COSTUME: Tall black hat, woolen shawl and long skirt, mainly in red and black.

EISTEDDFOD: Arts festival and competition rolled into one. The word means “ to be seated” referring the ancient tradition of chairing the winning poet or bard. Welsh poetry has its origins in the 6th century.

RUGBY: Known as a "second religion" in Wales. The home ground is Cardiff Arms Park.

ST DAVID is the patron saint of Wales. St David’s Day is March 1st.








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