Saturday, March 21, 2015

Why learn Welsh?

Hello everyone! This is a blog, probably a short blog, about my experience in learning Welsh. I cannot say that I won't give up, because I may. I may get so frustrated that I'll just throw my books into the burn barrel one day. Kidding! .... sort of.

Probably the first thing to discuss is 'why Welsh?' Well the simple answer to that is, why not Welsh? The thing is that though I love English and its evolution, I've never branched out into multi-languages. Decisions, decisions! It's not like I've not wanted to, but then the question becomes which one? French is beautiful, Spanish is somewhat necessary in certain parts of the US (only certain parts, despite what some say), Italian is fun, German is helpful as is a variety of other so-called Indo-European languages. The problem is that they're all so common.

Again, in certain parts of the country you are surrounded my Mexicans that don't speak English (there is nothing wrong with calling them Mexican, because they are; I'm an American and they are Mexicans living in America), when you get into large cities such as New York, you run into a global swath of languages but still, you'll hear the same one again and again, like German or Japanese.

The point is that there are some languages that you run across often. There are a lot of Chinese and Japanese, some Korean, lots of any of the European countries, the South American languages of Spanish and Portuguese and so on. Yet how many times standing in front of the Empire State Building, do you hear Welsh, Manx, Cornish or Gaelic (yes, I know there are more than a single dialect, but English has a TON of dialects and yet we call it English as a whole)? Probably few if ever.

I wanted something that was tied to my roots, in a sense. So far, as a genealogist who has traced her family back to the 1500s, those are actually three languages. My mother's maiden name is German, though our German ancestor goes back to 1730 in America and his son (also my ancestor) was a patriot (yes, he was old when he had him). The other two are, one from England and a group from Scotland. That's it. So that left me with Scottish Gaelic, German and English.

I will admit that the Gaelic was very enticing. I likely would have gone with it, except try finding Scottish language books in America. They're nearly impossible to find. Oh sure, you can find stacks of Irish but not Scottish. Well if I had to learn what wasn't me, how about something I am at least related to, such as in-laws?

My name is Cindy Lloyd, so as you can see, I married a Welsh descendant. Sadly, we have no children together (and will never have any) so there will not be a blood bond between us. However, being the genealogist that I am, I love researching his father's family. Talk about clanish! Heavens to Betsy they're such fun learning and reading about.

They came from Wales in a group, sometime during the late 1600s to 1700s and landed in North Carolina (yes, I know, you don't care but bear with me a moment while I get into my element). From what I can tell, it's a rather large group of Welsh folk, not necessarily related. Like most cultural immigrants, birds of a feather flock together. Despite what liberals will tell you, it is perfectly natural to stick to what you are most familiar with. You don't see black bears and grizzlies hanging out together. You don't see the bald eagle having coffee with a hawk. It's just not done in nature! You see my point? It's not racism, just similarities in culture.

This Welsh group tended to migrate with each other as well. They left North Carolina and landed in Lauderdale County, Tennessee. Then they took a wagon train and left for Texas, again, together. This was a 100 year migration, granted. Still, since the group stayed together, they began to intermarry.

This was really interesting. Think of it like this, a number of Welsh are standing on the deck of a ship, sighting the land of America for the first time. None are related, they are just casual acquaintances that met on the ship when it left England. Being culturally similar, they made their homes close together. Years pass, and their children intermarry. This goes on a number of times and some families don't manage to criss-cross until two generations later!

Now they live in Texas forevermore, or at least, until my husband's father developed a case of the very same sense of adventure, his early American ancestors had. There are beaucoups and beaucoups of them still there today, in those tiny Texas towns all right next door to each other.

Don't worry, I'm getting there dadgummit!

As I learn about each individual in my husband's tree, I wonder about their lives. What did they do day to day? I think how brave they must have been to move to such wild towns, where hostile natives were raiding homes. In fact, one home of my ancestor was raided and they tried to kill a man on his property. A cousin was nearly kidnapped by them during the day while at school, their teacher murdered by them, right in front of those young children.

How bad must life have been to chance living in such an area? Those were some daring people. I mean, they had to be absolutely tenacious! Just the kind of folk you see in an American Western film. Some things, it turns out, were not fiction.

A strong fondness of them grew out of my growing admiration. I decided that the Welsh grew some strong people and my husband, without having any children and beginning to age, is now in search of a legacy of sorts. He is enjoying learning about the Welsh and what their culture was like. We watched Hinterland (though not about the culture, but still filmed in Wales) with great interest.

I told you all of that to tell you this. Though perhaps I am not a blood relative of the Welsh, I admire their history and my husband. I still feel a close tie. Couple that with the fact that more people speak Gaelic than do Welsh, I decided that the smaller man should win.

Besides, haven't you fantasized at least once, being able to speak to each other in some foreign tongue in front of other foreigners as they do to us? Let them be the one concerned that they're being talked about for a change! Seinfeld even did an episode on that. Now I'll have my chance. The odds are against anyone else learning it.

For all these reasons my husband and I have decided to make a go of it. Unfortunately there are no classes and no one that we can speak to in Welsh. Perhaps it'll be the Texas Lloyd dialect, or something like that. lol! Hey, it's the effort that counts.

Wish us luck and I'll catalog how we're doing, or try to.

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