Friday, January 25, 2008

Thoughts on Learning Welsh

Fionnchú left some interesting questions on yesterday's post. I answered him there, but I thought I'd put some of that commentary on top, too, and expand a bit on it.

Practice essays: He comments: "Since I try similar practice essays in my bumbling Irish, I wonder how you find such exercises? It's hard to 'make' myself attempt to compose as if thinking for a phrase or two (at best) in broken Irish rather than writing the English down and translating backwards, but it's the only way to wrap one's mind into the other language's 'tracks.'"

My comments: I am currently trying to do more of these pieces. I think it's valuable as an additional step beyond starting to think in the language, in that writing it down lets you try to get all the details (mutations etc) right in what you were just thinking. Writing in English first somewhat defeats the purpose. The trick, I think, is to write about something your active vocabulary almost covers, so you can manage that first coherent thinking step. I mostly mentally "wrote" this one on my way to work that morning (fortunately the traffic was light!) then wrote it down and improved it. The difficulty of course is getting your vocabulary up to that level in the first place; particularly for someone living in North America, this requires continual work and revision to reach and stay at that level.

On learning Welsh for the Gaelic speaker, he comments: "I wonder if you could recommend for a learner of Irish which dialect of Welsh might be easier to grasp. I have not found any advice for what may be admittedly a very limited demographic of students! My hunch based on history leans southward."

My comments: That's an interesting question. I think it partly depends on what you plan to do with the Welsh. For reading purposes there are not a lot of differences between North and South Wales other than the varied forms of the verb "to be", the affirmative marker mi/fe, masculine third person (f)o/(f)e, and a few matters of vocabulary. So if you want to read the news on BBC Cymru, for example, the Hugo book or equivalent should cover the ground for you. Once you start talking, of course, it's more complicated. That's when you find out the North and South are broad generalizations, with local variations in each.

On a broader note, I was interested to find both how similar and how different Welsh and Gaelic are. The "bones" of the languages - the way they deal with a variety of constructions - clearly show their close relationship, but the basic vocabulary is more different than I expected, even for very simple things like "mother" and "father", or numbers from one to ten. A fascinating comparison.

If you want a taste of Welsh, and a chance to ask language questions of some excellent teachers, a good resource is the Cymdeithas Madog one-week intensive course, held every summer in July somewhere in North America. This year's course is in Indianola, Iowa, just south of Des Moines, on July 13-20. I highly recommend it!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Tracks in the snow

The beginning of this week was very cold, with a little fresh snow on top of the scattered masses of old snow still remaining from Christmas week. An inch or two like this makes a good medium for wildlife tracks, and there were plenty - mostly from squirrels, pigeons, and my cats, but occasionally others. The following piece is a practice essay I wrote yesterday on that subject in Welsh, followed by an English translation...

Fe ddaeth e’n ôl.

Bore ddoe, cyn y wawr, fe weles i’r olion ei draed yn yr eira newydd unnos. Traed mwy na thraed gath, leia na thraed ci, a gan ewinedd clir. Ci bach, efallai – ond does dim ci a neidioedd dros ffensys yn y nos fel gath. Fe ddilynes i ei olion. Fe neidioedd e’n gyntaf ar ben y “recycle bin” porffor ger y clwyd gefn, ac wedyn, yn ysgafn, i’r daear. Trwy’r ardd rewllyd aeth e, ac wedyn dros y ffens dde, ac i ffordd.

Ond y bore ‘ma, roedd mwy olion yn yr eira. Ym mherfedd y nos, heb ei weld ac heb ofn, ddaeth yr hên llwynog yn ôl.

He came back.

Yesterday morning, before dawn, I saw the marks of his feet in the new snow of one night. Feet larger than a cat's feet, smaller than a dog's feet, and with clear nails. A small dog, perhaps - but there is no dog that leaps over fences in the night like a cat. I followed his tracks. He jumped first to the top of the purple recycle bin by the back gate, and then lightly to the ground. Through the frosty yard he went, and then over the south fence, and away.

But this morning, there were more tracks in the snow. In the middle of the night, without being seen and without fear, the old fox came back.


Sunday, January 20, 2008

New Things

Getting behind again with my posts -- well, that's January. I passed the 200 copy mark for Storyteller around 12th Night, which is good sales for the amount of publicity I do (scant), and am working on the next book as time permits.

A couple of new things on the sidebar: first, two new links for other blogs I like: Blogtrotter and The Expvlsion of the Blatant Beast (really!). These two are Celtic language/history related as opposed to the book review blogs I've listed before. I ran across a link to Blogtrotter on Amazon, and he mentioned EBB.

Secondly, I'm adding a sidebar box below the two book cover panels to display my progress on the next book in my series, The Ash Spear (approximately 20% completion so far).

Back to work...


Wednesday, January 2, 2008


I've done some site updates over the last few days, the most visible of which is to change the font color for some of the titles. The Blog Archive feature has moved to the bottom of the second sidebar, just above Labels. In its place I've added a set of Reading List links. These link to my Amazon Listomania lists, showing books I've used in my research -- or at least those still available through Amazon! (Specialized technical books sometimes have short print runs, and once they go out of print their prices may skyrocket. Moral: if you see something you may want and can afford it, buy it now. You'll be glad you did.)

Currently I'm writing again after taking a break around Christmas. I'm also researching 6th century Ireland and the Irish...

But that's a story for another day.


Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A New Review

Yesterday brought a new review of Storyteller, by an on-line reviewer -- Odyssey Reviews -- who will also be reviewing Flight of the Hawk soon. Unlike some other bloggers who have reviewed the book, she also posted her review to Storyteller's Amazon page -- a nice extra!