Speaking from experience, if you’re Welsh and you attend an English University, a question that you’re highly likely to be asked on a regular basis, by ever new person you meet, will be “Are you Welsh?”. Most of you Welshies will sound very ‘Welshy’ despite the fact that you think you speak with the same accent as the Queen. It’s highly unlikely that you do. People will notice you sound different and you’re going to be told you sound ‘funny’ or ‘weird’. But having a Welsh accent is not a bad thing, and in many cases it will be a conversation starter. It will allow you to educate all of your fellow non-Welsh friends about the wonderful country you come from and what it means to be Welsh.
In other words, you’re going to have to repeat words maybe three or four times, or at a much slower pace as your listener just won’t understand what you’re saying. It’s going to take your non-Welsh friends weeks to distinguish the difference between you saying ‘ear’ and ‘year’. To us Welsh, these words sound exactly the same, and no matter how many times people laugh at us for it, they will always sound the same. Another word that a non-Welsh person will tilt their head at is how we pronounce ‘Primark’. We pronounce it as ‘Preemark’. To us, this is the correct way of saying it. Like the non-Welsh simply cannot understand why we say it ‘wrong’, us Welsh are adamant that our way is the right way. The discussions I’m sure you’ll have had many times about how the word ‘scone’ is pronounced, how you ‘know’ the way you say it is THE only correct way. This is the exact same argument you will have, just with a different word. Whether you walk past Primark in the street, or the shop just comes up in random conversation, this discussion, or shall I say strongly argued debate, will not be far behind.
To some people, you’re going to sound as if you speak a completely different language and this is because some words that you use don’t quite mean the same thing in England. But use them, be proud of them, and teach your fellow non-Welsh friends how to use them just as if they were Welsh themselves. For example, the word ‘buzzing’ is normally described as being the noise that a bee makes. I have found that to many others, it means a person is excited for something. To us Welsh, of course, we have a completely different meaning for the word ‘buzzing’ which is that something is not very nice. Another word you could use for this description could be ‘anging/hanging/rank’. For the non-Welsh, welcome to the world of Welsh slang. Embrace it, because as long as you have Welsh friends, the Welsh slang will always be nearby. Another word I found to have two very different ideas behind it is ‘a poly pocket’ or a ‘Poly Pocket’. It could be said that the difference is easier to distinguish when written, but when speaking, this is not the case. I bet you’re thinking, a poly pocket/Poly Pocket, I know what that is, but if you’re speaking to someone Welsh you could be speaking about something completely different to what they are. To us Welsh, we could either be referring to the little doll with plastic clothes (which is what the non-Welsh people are most likely to be thinking), or, more often than not, we are referring to a plastic holder or a plastic wallet that holds paper. So if you’re a not Welsh and you hear a word, but it doesn’t seem to make sense in the sentence of the Welsh speaker, you should probably ask for the definition of the word as it is quite likely to be quite different from your definition. This will save a lot of further confusion as you get deeper into conversation, otherwise you may both be having two completely separate conversations.
Even though not all Welsh people (including myself) speak Welsh, we will often use Welsh words and simple phrases that we learnt in primary school and teach our fellow peers. The words and phrases are definitely not complex (because many of us don’t know anything complex) but what we do know, we know well. Non-Welsh people may hear the word ‘diolch’ which means thank you and ‘bore da’ which means good morning. The Welsh will often drop these words into conversation to show they know, and I say know loosely, some words from the Welsh language. A phrase that lots of Welsh people respond with when asked “Do you know any Welsh?” is “Dw i’n hoffi coffi”. It makes a Welsh person sound like they are a fluent Welsh speaker when in fact all they are saying is ‘I like coffee’, a sentence which will have been learned from a very young age. This sentence is catchy and very easy to remember, so why not use it? Like I said, for the Welsh who aren’t fluent Welsh speakers, simple words and phrases are used, but they sound impressive and it often makes us look like we are bilingual. A piece of advice to a non-Welsh person, if you learn to use these words and cheekily drop them into sentences when speaking to a Welsh person, you will become their favourite person, no doubt about it.
One thing that is most definitely going to happen is that your non-Welsh friends will tell you about anyone or anything they know about Wales. If they have a Welsh classmate, they will tell you. If they have ever been, or passed through Wales or know somebody who has, they will tell you. If they have watched an episode of Gavin and Stacey, they will without question tell you. If the Welsh rugby team lose to anyone, especially England, you will definitely know about it. Your non-Welsh friends will care about you so much that if they hear anything about Wales on the news, good or bad, you will get a text straight away telling you all of the information that they will have just heard. It will make you smile that your friends are interested in the place you come from and that they will make an effort to link themselves to Wales in any way possible.
All of these little things, whether it be that you use lots of Welsh slang, or whether your friend asks you what a poly pocket is, will allow you to answer proudly that yes, I am Welsh.
Photographed by Tyler Zupic