Jan. 31st, 2016

sollers: me in morris kit (Default)
Some of you may be aware that I am very pernickety about the distinction between British English and English English. This is largely because I have spent much of my life having to be careful not to use my brand of British English in the presence of English people.

My mother tongue is, I suppose, a sort of creole; the vocabulary is mostly English, with exceptions, but the grammar and syntax is definitely a mixture. Although I can speak and write perfectly grammatical Standard English, I am always aware of it needing something of an effort.

The heart of the problem is that my family was not Welsh speaking, something my mother was also bothered about. She approved of her cousin sending her daughters to a Welsh medium school, partly because of the benefits of bilingualism, and was unhappy that at the time there was no Welsh school in London. She therefore did the next best thing, and sent me to the French school (if you want to see a real sight, stand by when I tell a French person that I learned French as a second-best option). I got the benefits of bilingualism, but that was all.

Fortunately one of the benefits is an ability to pick up the basics of a language easily. Unfortunately that didn't include Welsh. I made a number of efforts, one of which left me able to make sense of a lot of the Mabinogion but unable to ask for a cup of coffee, another leaving me able t6 ask for a cup of coffee but unable to understand what people said to me.

So I took advantage of the move to North Wales to sign up for an intensive course (only one day a week, but 3 1/2 hours). That started in September and I'm startled by the progress I have made. I now also go to a conversation group upstairs in a book shop (which connects into L-space) every Friday morning, and am saying a little but understanding a lot.

The interesting thing is that my perception of myself is changing. When I moved I went from being a non-Welsh speaking Welsh person living in England to being a non-Welsh speaking Welsh person living in Wales but am now beginning to be simply a Welsh person. It's liberating.

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