Fun fact: excessive consonants is a lie! Here is the Welsh alphabet:
a b c ch d dd e f ff g ng h i j l ll m n o p ph r rh s t th u w y
Out of those 29 letters, there are 7 vowels (a, e, i, o, u, w, y) meaning that there’s around 4 consonants to each vowel, whereas in English the ratio is closer to 5:1. So, Welsh technically has more vowels. The more you know!
The reason that the excessive consonants myth arose was probably due to those funny double letters, which are actually individual consonants in their own right. This, coupled with the fact that Welsh has vowels which are considered to be consonants / half vowels in English, means that some Welsh words look like they’re full of consonants when they’re actually not.
Let’s take the word ‘llyfr’, for example, meaning ‘book’. To someone using the English alphabet, there’s 5 consonants here (l, l, y, f, r) and no vowels. However, when you read it with the Welsh alphabet, there’s 3 consonants (ll, f, r) and a vowel (y).
As for Welsh sentence structure, I can’t give a comprehensive lesson, as there’s so many grammatical rules! However, basic things to know are:
- whereas in English we would generally place the adjective before the noun (eg red hat), in Welsh the syntax is inverted, so red hat becomes hat red - het goch.
- the past perfect tense generally formed by putting the verb before the subject. In English, we’d say ‘I went’. In Welsh, we’d say ‘Es i’ - ‘es’ is the past perfect form of ‘mynd’, an irregular verb which means ‘to go’, and ‘i’ is the first person conjugation of that verb. (You went = est ti, he went = aeth e, she went = aeth hi, they went = aethon nhw, we went = aethon ni, you went (pl.) = aethoch chi).
- this is slightly different in the future / conditional tenses - ‘I will go’ is ‘bydda i’n mynd’, and ‘I would go’ is ‘baswn i’n mynd’. ‘I was going’ (past imperfect tense) is ‘roeddwn i’n mynd’.
- mutations exist. I hate them. Let’s not dwell on them, but sometimes a preposition changes the first letter of a noun. For example, ‘Cardiff’ is ‘Caerdydd’, but ‘in Cardiff’ is ‘yng Nghaerdydd’, and ‘to Cardiff’ is ‘i Gaerdydd’. This makes me want to be sick, so honestly, just go here. I loathe the buggers.
- not sentence structure related, but did you know that Welsh is entirely phonetic? Once you’ve learnt the alphabet, you can read any word. It’s all completely sounded as it’s written. Even Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. So yes, I can say that word. I will not, however. Dignity, and all.
Also, random fun fact: the letter f in Welsh (eg. ‘afal’ - ‘apple’) is pronounced the same as v in English, whereas the letter ff (eg. ‘ffeil’ - ‘file’) is pronounced like an f in English. Madness.
And yes. Yes, ‘microwave’ in colloquial Welsh really is ‘popty ping’. It means ‘ping oven’ or ‘oven which goes ping’. The official word is ‘meicrodon’ (pronounced like that small man, Micro Don). Most people just say ‘microwave’ in a Welsh accent, though.