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Welsh language facts for kids

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Cymraeg, y Gymraeg
Native to Wales and Argentina.
Region Spoken throughout Wales, in border-towns between England and Wales, and in the Chubut province of Argentina.
Native speakers 721,700 total speakers  (2011)
Wales: 562,000 speakers, 19.0% of the population of Wales, with 14.6% of the population (431,000) considering themselves fluent in Welsh
England: 150,000
Chubut Province, Argentina: 5,000
United States: 2,500
Canada: 2,200
Language family
Early forms:
Writing system Latin (Welsh alphabet)
Official status
Official language in  Wales
Regulated by Meri Huws, the Welsh Language Commissioner (since 1 April 2012) and the Welsh Government (Llywodraeth Cymru)
Linguasphere 50-ABA
Percentage of Welsh speakers by principal area

The Welsh language is a Celtic language and the national language of Wales, a country that is part of the United Kingdom. In Welsh, it is known as Cymraeg, or yr iaith Gymraeg, which means "the Welsh language".

Welsh is still spoken throughout the region: around 21% of the people of Wales (about 600,000 people), as well as some people outside Wales, including those in nearby England, can speak Welsh. Many people in Wales say they can understand some form of Welsh, such as spoken, written, or can read Welsh, even if they do not speak it all the time.

Even though almost all Welsh people can understand and use the English language, the Welsh language is still an important part of Welsh culture and so children in all schools in Wales have to study it. There are some schools that have almost all of their classes in Welsh, but most schools teach mainly in English and Welsh is taught as a second language in these schools.

Language mutations

Welsh has mutations. Mutations are when a sound (in speech) or a letter (in writing) changes at the start of a word. An example is the Welsh word "gwneud", which in English means "to do", and "dod", which means "to come" "dewch i mewn" which means "come in". Sometimes the word changes from "gwneud" to "wneud", and from "dod" to "ddod". These sounds (in speech) or letters (in writing) changes also occur within, and at the end, of words, although the simplified classification found in ordinary books does not mention this.

Formal and informal Welsh

In Welsh, there is formal and informal Welsh. Formal Welsh is used when writing, in formal documents, and when speaking to a group (because it also includes the plural), when speaking to someone older than yourself, speaking to someone you have just met, or someone you would like to show respect towards. Formal words and phrases use variations of "chi", meaning "you." Sometimes, people will ask you to call them "chi."

Informal Welsh is used when sending e-mails or sending text messages to your friends or family, and when talking with people you have known for a long time. Informal words and phrases use variations of "ti", meaning "you." Sometimes, people will ask you to call them "ti."

How to say things in Welsh

There are some sounds and letters that exist in Welsh but not in English, such as the letters (and sounds) ch and ll. The first sound is pronounced like the Scottish Loch Ness, and an example Welsh word that uses the 'ch' is "bach", which means "small." Ll is a voiceless 'l,' and is made by placing the tongue on the top of the top gum, and blowing. A Welsh word that uses the 'll' is "llan", which means "church" and appears a lot in place names, including one called Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. Both 'ch' and 'll' are single letters in the Welsh alphabet, along with 'dd,' 'ff,' 'ng,' 'ph,' 'rh,' and 'th.'

Here are some things to say in Welsh. How to say it is in brackets.

  • "Croeso i Gymru" (Kroy-sore ee Gum-ree) - Welcome to Wales
  • "Dewch i mewn" (Dew-ch ee mewn) - Come in (formal Welsh)
  • "Bore da" (Bor-eh dah) - Good morning
  • "Nia ydw i" (Nee-ah uh-doo ee) - I am Nia (i.e.,My name is Nia)
  • "Pwy ydych chi?" (Poi Ud-uch ee) - Who are you?, or What is your name? (formal Welsh)
  • "Sut ydych chi heddiw?" (Sit uhd-ich ee heth-ew) - How are you today? (formal Welsh)
  • "Sut wyt ti heddiw?" (Sit ooee-tea heth-ew) - How are you today? (informal Welsh)
  • "Da iawn diolch" (Dah yoww-n dee-olch) - Very well thank you.

Here are a few other words;

  • "Trwyn" (Troo-in) - Nose
  • "Hapus" (Hap-is) - Happy
  • "Trist" (Tree-st) - Sad
  • "Rwy'n caru ti" (Rooeen carry tea) - I love you (informal Welsh)
  • "Heulog" (Hey-log) - Sunny
  • "Eira" (Ey-ra) - Snow
  • "Ci" (Key) - Dog

The media

Welsh books and newspapers have been printed for hundreds of years. Some of these books have been translated into English, and some books in other languages have been translated into Welsh. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was translated into Welsh, with the translation of "Harri Potter a Maen yr Athronydd", which means the same as the English title.

BBC Radio Cymru is a Welsh-language radio station that is available throughout Wales. Some local radio stations have some Welsh and English programs during the day.

The Welsh television channel, S4C, has been on air since 1982. It broadcasts shows such as the soap opera Pobol y Cwm, and children's programs such as Superted and Sam Tân (known as Fireman Sam in English).

In August 2009, the mobile phone maker Samsung (with provider Orange) unveiled a new Welsh language mobile phone would be available from September 2009. It includes Welsh language predictive text and menus.

The Welsh alphabet

The Welsh alphabet has some extra letters that are not used in English, and does not have some others. Although certain letters do not exist in Welsh, they are used sometimes to make sounds that could not possibly be made otherwise. A good example is the word "garej" (meaning garage). The letter "j" does not exist in the Welsh language, and is a lend-word from English. The traditional word for "garage" in Welsh is modurdy, which means, "motor house". Another lend-word is "toiled," which means "toilet" in English. There are now many lend-words in spoken Welsh. Here is the Welsh alphabet;

A1, B, C, CH2, D, DD2, E1, F2, FF2, G, NG2, H, I1, L, LL2, M, N, O1, P, PH2, R, RH2, S, T, TH2, U1, W1 2, Y1.

1 These letters are vowels. The letter 'W' can be used either as a vowel (when it is said 'oo' like in the Welsh word 'cwm' (coom) meaning 'valley') or as a consonant (when it is said like it is in English, for example in the Welsh word 'gwyn' (gwin) meaning 'white'). This is the same with letter 'I' which can also be used as a consonant (when it is said like an English Y like in 'iogwrt' (yog-oort) meaning yoghurt.
2 Letters that are not in the English alphabet, or have different sounds. CH sounds like the 'KH' in Ayatollah Khoumeini. DD is said like the TH in 'there'. F is said like the English 'V'. FF is said like the English 'F'. NG sounds like it would in English but it is tricky because it comes at the beginnings of words (for example 'fy ngardd' - my garden). One trick is to blend it in with the word before it. LL sounds like a cat hissing. PH sounds like the English 'F' too, but it is only used in mutations. RH sounds like an 'R' said very quickly before a 'H'. TH sounds like the 'TH' in 'THin'. W has been explained in the sentences before about vowels.

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See also

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