Nearly a month ago by now, I had the idea for a weekly feature on my blog. On my former blog, I had an ‘Italian word of the week’ feature; where I would introduce an Italian word, connected to something that had happened to me, or something I’d seen over the past week. My idea for this blog was to a similar thing, but with my first language – Welsh.
Not everyone will know that I’m a native Welsh speaker. I grew up in the Welsh heartland of rural Carmarthenshire, in a Welsh-speaking family, and went to a Welsh-medium secondary school. When I was 18 I left Wales to study at an English university, and at 22 left the UK completely to start a new life in Italy. Because I’ve lived away from Wales for so many years my Welsh has become somewhat… Rusty. Well, no, rusty isn’t the right word for it. Not as accurate? A lack of confidence and fluidity? People who have lived abroad for a long time will understand where I’m coming from. In my case, it means too much dialect, anglicisms and borrowed English words. I lived in a country for many years where the general population didn’t understand that the country I was born and grew up in existed, never mind that I was brought up bilingual, and that switching from one language to another was one of the most natural things in the world for me. All that has contributed to a lack of confidence in what should be my mother tongue. I’m scared of tweeting in Welsh, because language policing is a real thing within the Welsh-speaking community online.
But I’ve decided to battle this lack of confidence. So onto my Welsh word of the week – Gair yr wythnos!
Gwyrdd – green
One thing that’s really struck me recently is just how gwyrdd the area I grew up in is. I hadn’t been in Wales in late May/June for 10 years, and I’d never realised how beautiful the countryside I’d lived in throughout my childhood was. It’s a kind of green I didn’t see in Italy. A lush, vivid green, a kind of green you only get in a country where it rains a lot. All it takes it stepping out of my hometown, and I’m surrounded by green fields, trees, and hedges. Out in the wilds in the north of the county, along tiny back roads, the hedges are overgrown and full of ferns, bluebells and wildflowers. For someone who lived in a city for nearly 8 years, it’s a beautiful sight.
Gwyrdd is the masculine version of the adjective. Welsh has genders, masculine and feminine; and the feminine version of the word is gwerdd. The word for white, gwyn, also follows the same pattern, becoming gwen in the feminine. Well, that’s before we get into mutations… As the word for tree, coeden, is feminine, in the photo you see a coeden werdd. Notice how the ‘g’ has been dropped at the beginning of gwerdd? I was never good with mutations, treigliadau, even as a native speaker…