People always ask me why I study Welsh. What real world application does this cool, but strange, and almost useless language have? I mean, not event the Welsh speak Welsh all the time. They all know English.
Well, I’m a historian.
To me, it’s fun rediscovering an endangered language. When I went on the Welsh Study Abroad in Summer 2010, we visited Tintagel in Cornwall. We spoke to a few of the shop keepers, trying to see if they knew any Cornish, which is a closely related language to Welsh. They didn’t–Cornish has gone extinct. By learning the language, I am helping to preserve it from becoming another dead language.
Welsh is a gorgeous language. To the beginner and non-speaker, it sounds like guttural, Germanic elvish. Which, it pretty much is.
Welsh is a Celtic language. The Celts originated from the Rhineland, then migrated to the British Isles. There is a lot of “ch” (guttural hhkkkhhhh sounds–think Hanukkah), there is a weird LL sound (saying “th” and lah at the same time).
But, it is also “elvish.” Not only is it one of the numerous languages that Tolkein used to create his Middle Earth languages, but it is also an old language, the language of the druids, the language of the bards. Both of these were high revered social positions. They were the entertainers, the praisers, the heralds, the propagandizing politicians, the seers, the prophets.
The Welsh language, spoken correctly, and by natives, is a beautiful language. It is known for its poems. Ever since medieval times, there has been a national festival every year celebrating the culture and language of Wales. It is called the Eisteddfod. This is a major celebration, and I went to it in 2010. Poets from all over Wales come to compete in Welsh poetry–which is FAAAAAAAAAAAR too complicated to explain! (You thought English poetry was hard, try writing good, publishable Welsh poetry.) The highest honor is to be in the Gorsedd of the Bards–meaning you are as good as the Medieval bards.
I love to listen to Welsh singers–their songs are astoundingly beautiful. You might recognize this song: