Harddwch of Wenglish

Nessa-Stacey-3-gavin-and-stacey-29885254-2102-1402.jpgFfion Masson

‘Wenglish’ is not an official portmanteau for speech that combines Welsh and English. However, the Urban Dictionary provides rough but useful definitions:

  1. Wenglish is a mixture of Welsh language and the English. This is used in an informal situation usually, with friends or family, who speak fluent Welsh. It’s basically a lazy form of Welsh.
  2. A dialect used in most of Wales (UK). It is mainly used in South Wales, popularised by the ‘Valley folk’. The common trends are to use terms which double up and sound stupid (but to us it is perfectly normal).

The first definition is exclusive to about 20% of the country, the Welsh speakers.

Having attended a Welsh-speaking school up until sixth-form, I am incredibly familiar with the first version of Wenglish.  Not being allowed to speak English outside of English lessons, Wenglish was the perfect defence: “O’n ni’n siarad Wenglish miss, onest!” Integrating Welsh and English into my speech happened yn naturiol as everyone o amgylch me spoke both languages with equal confidence. Being completely fluent in both languages,it was easier to amalgamate both languages rather than use them both in isolation. There was something naturally beautiful in using two neighbouring languages fluidly in speech.

Moving away from a Welsh speaking environment exposed me to the second version of Wenglish, the one accessible to everyone. You don’t have to litter your English with Welsh words to speak Wenglish – using the English of Wales is enough. Although the Wenglish dialect was popularised by the TV show Gavin and Stacey, it is not until you enter the depth of a Welsh valley and become fully immersed in the dulcet tones of the Welsh accent that you can fully appreciate the beauty of Wenglish.

Whilst certain English words may hold different meanings across the border – for example “buzzing” is used to profess both excitement and disgust – it is the syntax and idioms of Wenglish which are the most recognisable characteristics of this dialect. Wenglish consists of additional verbs at the beginning of a sentence, an excess of auxiliaries, strange emphatic repetitions and using unlikely parts of verbs.

For example:

“Whose coat is that jacket?”
Someone is trying to decipher whose item of clothing that is. It does not matter if it is a coat or a jacket.

“I’ll be there now in a minute.”
Ignore the additional adverb and the time specified. This means you’ll be there some time soon. Not necessarily right now or necessarily in a minute, but soon.

“Alright or wha?”
This is just an informal greeting. The person is not interested in your well-being.

“Where to she now?”
What is the location of this person now.

Although all the words used are English, when thought about literally, they don’t make sense. That is why when listening to this version of Wenglish you shouldn’t think too much about it. Just accept it and move on. These few examples show how the linguistic nightmare that is Wenglish can also be a thing of beauty.

 

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