Cymraeg, or Welsh as it’s known in English, is one of Europe’s oldest and most fascinating languages. However, n the centuries since English sovereignty over Wales, the language has sadly fallen into great decline. Today less than one million people speak Welsh with UNESCO deeming it as ‘vulnerable’. Fortunately, there’s been a recent push for a revival and preservation of the language in recent years. Whether you plan to visit Wales or just curious about one of the most interesting languages in the Celtic branch, here are seven fascinating facts about Welsh.
Seven Fascinating Facts About Welsh
1. It’s Somewhere Around 4,000 Years Old
Welsh originates from the Celtic language spoken in ancient Britons. Arriving in Britain around 600BC, one version of the Celtic tongue evolved into Brythonic which formed the basis of Welsh, Cornish and Breton. Thanks to this, Welsh is one of the oldest living languages in Europe.
2. Ie, Wyt, Ydw, Ydym, and Na.
Welsh includes 20 (yes two-zero) ways to say yes. Depending on the context, you have twenty ways to express approval for something. The response varies on the type of question being asked, who it’s being asked to and if you’re answering in future, present or past tense. Strangely enough, there is only one word for no, and it’s “na.”
3. It’s extremely Difficult to Learn
In addition to learning resources being very limited compared to other languages, Welsh itself is quite difficult. One thing new learners often struggle with is the variations of words in their plural form. Instead of adding an ‘s’ at the end of a word to make it plural, Welsh has independent suffixes to make certain words plural. In short, various plurals that have to be learned and often change the word completely.
Another hard spot is that Welsh words are mutated. This means depending on the context, the first letters of words will often change. Essentially words are based on what precedes them and can change as you form a sentence.
4. There’s a Welsh Speaking Provence in Patagonia
One of the most interesting facts about Welsh is that it’s spoken in a surprising place more than 11,000km from Wales. Argentina’s Chubut Province in Patagonia still carries the language of its Welsh settlers. Welsh settled the region in the late 1800s when Patagonia was growing in popularity as a new frontier. Over the centuries the influence of Spanish language washed over that of the Welsh language. However, there are still as many as 5,000 people within Chubut who use Welsh as their first language.
5. Welsh Poetry is Very Special
Medieval Welsh Poetry and Literature is completely in a league of its own.
Most famous are The Gododdin poems. This series of poems pays tribute to the heroic warriors of the Gododdin tribe who died in battle in ‘Catraeth.’ Catraeth is believed to be modern-day Catterick in North Yorkshire. Written by bard Aneirin in the seventh century, it’s the oldest surviving Welsh poem and truly a gem of Welsh language and culture. In the days of Wales’ best poets, it was a form of rebellion; a way to fight bight and regain their dignity while fighting with conquerors.
6. Wales is Home to the Longest Place Name in Europe
Curious about the longest town name in Europe? Pop on over to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch in Wales. This Welsh village in Anglesey holds the title for the longest town name in Europe and second longest in the world. Who holds the title for first? New Zealand’s Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu.
7. The Welsh Word for Microwave is Popty Ping
Okay, *technically the word is ‘meicrodon’, but that’s not as fun. The more common word for microwave is popty ping which translates to ‘oven that goes ping.’ Welsh is actually full of quirky phrases like this. Curious about them? Head here.