By Various authors

01 March 2019 - 08:15

Welsh countryside with rain approaching
'A Welsh speaker might also say mae’n bwrw cyllell a ffyrc, or 'it’s raining knives and forks'. Photo ©

JordanStimpson used under licence and adapted from the original

For St David's Day, we asked our colleagues in Wales to tell us their favourite Welsh language words and phrases. They also shared facts about pronunciation, spelling and grammar.

Two Welsh language phrases to describe a rainy day 

When it rains heavily in Wales, you might hear someone say Mae hi'n bwrw hen wragedd a ffyn. The literal translation is ‘it’s raining elderly ladies and sticks’ but really means it’s raining heavily.

When describing the meteorological realities of Wales or other rainy places, a Welsh speaker might also say mae’n bwrw cyllell a ffyrc, or 'it’s raining knives and forks'. To pronounce the double-LLs in cyllell, put the tip of your tongue on your palate, then breathe out through your mouth. 

One way to say that you miss someone or something 

The word hiraeth loosely translates as 'nostalgic longing', or a sadness for a time that is lost. For example, if you've been living and working in Cardiff for many years, but feel nostalgic for your memories of the town where you grew up in the northwest, you might say Mae hiraeth arna i am Wrecsam, which means 'I have a longing for Wrexham'. 

A phrase to describe an early morning 

If you have a dog or occasionally look after one, and it needs a long walk before work, you might have to codi cyn cŵn Caer. That literally means 'get up before the dogs of Chester', or wake very early.

Pronunciation in Welsh is easier than it looks

Welsh may seem a complex language when you see it written. The language has consonant combinations like ‘ff’, ‘ll’, ‘rh’ and ‘ch’, and ‘y’ and ‘w’ are vowels. but it is a phonetic language, so when you learn the sound of every letter, you can be understood by a Welsh speaker.

Possession in Welsh language is complex

They way to express that you ‘have’ or ‘own’ something in Welsh is the expression mae... gyda fi, mae... hefo fi, or mae gen i...

They mean that something is ‘with you’, perhaps showing that possession can be a transient reality.

Welsh language mutations

Mutations are a phenomenon in Welsh, which causes the first letter in certain words to change in certain contexts.

For instance the word Caerdydd (Cardiff, the capital city of Wales) changes to yng Nghaerdydd after the preposition yn (which means ‘in’), and then to i Gaerdydd which means ‘to Cardiff’ (after the preposition i) and finally a Chaerdydd after a = and (and Cardiff).

There are precise rules for mutating, and these take time to learn well. But once you get the knack of it, they become second nature. This difficulty should not discourage learners. Native speakers do not use them all the time, especially not during informal conversations.

Find our current opportunities in Wales here.

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