St. David’s Day

This Sunday (1st March) is St. David’s Day.

The Welsh are very proud of their heritage. St. David’s Day is a major event across the region. In Cardiff a large parade is held every year.

For the first time this year Swansea Council will be hosting St. David’s Week Festival with a range of musical, sporting and cultural events.

A little history on St. David…

Born in the 15th century he was later educated at Henfynyw (Old Menevia) in Ceredigion.

He founded a Celtic monastic community at Glyn Rhosin (The Vale of Roses) where St. David’s cathedral now stands. The site is possibly an early religious community and has associations with St. Patrick who is thought to have spent time there before heading back to Ireland from Porth Mawr to convert the Irish to Christianity.

The exact year of his death is not known but the date of 1st March was chosen to commemorate his death and celebrate the patron saint.

St David is possibly the only patron saint of the four chief nations of the British Isles to have been born in the land which adopted him.


For years children were given a half day off from school on St. David’s Day. This custom no longer officially continues but it depends on the school.

Young girls often wear traditional Welsh costumes on St. David’s Day. The costume consists of a long woollen skirt, white blouse, woollen shawl and a Welsh hat. A Welsh hat is a tall stovepipe-style hat, similar to a top hat.
The national emblems of Wales are the Daffodil and the Leek.  The association between leeks and daffodils is strengthened by the fact that they have similar names in Welsh, Cenin (leek) and Cenin Bedr (daffodil, literally “Peter’s leek”).
The flag of Saint David often plays a central role in the celebrations, and can be seen flying throughout Wales.


Anyone who has studied languages knows that different languages can be surprisingly similar.

For example, Spanish and Italian look very much alike on paper-if you know one of the languages, you can almost intuit the meaning of a sentence written in the other language.

It’s not surprising to be able to see relationships between the languages of two countries that are close together geographically, but did you know that Spanish and Italian are also related to some of the languages spoken in India?

Strange but true-although we tend to think of European culture as being totally unrelated to Indian culture, there actually is strong connection.


Sanskrit, a language spoken in ancient India, is part of the Indo-European language family. As the name suggests, this family includes Sanskrit and its descendants along with most languages spoken in Europe, Southwest Asia and central Asia.

All in all, the Indo-European language family includes approximately 3 billion people speaking several hundred different languages. Each of these languages stems from a common, long-vanished ancestor called Proto-Indo-European.

How can we show that such a diverse group of languages and cultures are related? The first written evidence connecting them is from 1585, when Italian Filippo Sassetti wrote a letter home describing some of the similarities between Sanskrit and Italian.

The first public, scholarly mention of a common source for both European languages and Sanskrit was made during a speech by Sir William Jones in 1796, who advised the Asiatick Society:

“ Sanskrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of a wonderful structure; more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either, yet bearing to both of them a stronger affinity, both in the roots of verbs and in the forms of grammar, than could possibly have been produced by accident; so strong, indeed, that no philologer could examine them all three, without believing them to have sprung from some common source, which, perhaps, no longer exists. ”

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. 2000. Read more

A Welsh Translation for Sherlock Holmes?

82 years after Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s death, there’s no doubt that his famously logical detective has left a mark on the world. The Sherlock Holmes stories have inspired countless adaptations and have been translated into 76 different languages. However, they’ve never been translated into Welsh…until now.

The Deerstalkers of Welshpool, Sherlock Holmes society based in Powys, plan to translate “The Legend of the Speckled Band,” a locked-room mystery that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle considered to be his finest story featuring Holmes.

Roy Upton-Holder, the society’s founder, had long dreamed of translating Holmes into Welsh. As he explained to the BBC, encouragement and an offer of support from across the pond finally prompted him to act:

” I had an email from a Sherlock Holmes fan in Texas who is a member of the Baker Street Irregulars, the largest Holmes society in the USA. He asked if we were thinking about translating a book into Welsh and why didn’t we do something about it. He said he’d give us $100 towards it.”

However, according to Levy Gruffudd, a Welsh publisher interviewed by the BBC, the high cost of translation and presumed low demand have kept the popular detective stories from being translated into Welsh thus far:

“Most people would be interested in reading the original in English. It would be feasible to translate a book, but the costs would be very high. It might even be in the thousands of pounds, depending on the number of pages.”

So, how does Mr. Upton-Holder plan to get around these obstacles? By crowdsourcing the translation to local university students. He told the BBC:

“Since then I’ve contacted Aberystwyth University to see if someone there could help with the translating and we’ve thought about asking Welsh A-level students if they’d like to take on the translating as a school project. One of our members has recently retired from the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth and he speaks Welsh, so he could help check the pupils’ work.”

That should help keep costs down, and I’m sure it would be a great experience for the students. Potential problems stem from the fact that literary translation is a highly specialized form of translation. It’s not enough to correctly choose words that mean the same thing in both languages. To be successful, you also have to capture as much as possible the tone, feel and rhythm of the original work.

Still, it’s an interesting experiment and definitely one worth watching.

Welsh to Headline Top American Arts Festival

The 10 day Smithsonian Folklife Festival takes place in Washington DC from the 24th June. The 2009 festival focuses on Wales and Welsh heritage.

Over 100 firms, artists and experts will be attending the festival to showcase contemporary Welsh culture, industry and traditions under the theme of sustainability.

The annual Smithsonian Festival is held at the National Mall, which is where President Obama was inaugurated in January.

The Welsh programme of events includes talks by five up and coming Welsh writers, the woodland charity Coed Cymru who will showcase their affordable housing project, Cardiff choir ‘Only Men Aloud!’ and various Welsh professions.

There will be a ‘pub’ stage and a main stage which are designed to represent urban and rural environments; they have even erected some rugby goal posts!

It will be an interesting event for those visiting Washington DC this summer.

Welsh Exit Sign Confuses Shoppers

Bilingual shoppers leaving the Tesco in Swansea are presented with a bit of a conundrum: An exit sign with the English word “Exit” pointing to the right, and the Welsh language translation, “Allanfa,” pointing to the left. Which is it? Is there a separate exit for Welsh speakers?

Actually, no. According to store management, drivers can either exit the car park directly or they can exit through the petrol station. The English language sign points to the direct exit while the Welsh language sign points to the petrol station.  A Tesco representative told the BBC:

“We’d like to reassure all customers that they are welcome to exit the car park in either direction.” Read more

A Welsh Play in London

According to the 2011 UK Census, the number of Welsh speakers has fallen slightly since 2001, even in Wales itself. With that in mind, you might be forgiven for thinking that putting on a Welsh-language play in the middle of London would be a losing proposition.

Aled Pedrick hopes to prove you wrong. The actor and director is putting on a production of Gwenlyn Parry’s “Saer Doliau,” which translates to “The Doll Maker.” The play will run at the Finborough Theatre until the 19th of February.

Pedrick told WalesOnline that while staging a Welsh language play in London was bound to be challenging,

“[W]hen the Invertigo Theatre Company – two of whom are Welsh-speaking graduates from my alma mater, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama – approached me with the idea, I was intrigued. And, being a London-based Welsh speaker myself, I knew that there was quite a sizeable community of similar sorts living here, many of whom work in the theatre themselves. So I figured there’d be quite a bit of interest in something like this from the off.”

The play is written and performed entirely in Welsh, but Mr. Pedrick told WalesOnline that “while the actors’ dialogue might be in Welsh, what they’re saying isn’t tied down to one single nationality.”

“Saer Doliau” tells the story of a Welsh doll mender tormented by two mysterious strangers, both of whom may or may not be hallucinations. The set incorporates a subtitle machine, so even if you don’t speak Welsh at all, you can understand what’s going on.

This review calls the subtitles “spare” and says that the setup “works very well for those who do not know any Welsh but offers a great deal more to those that do, for whom it should definitely be compulsory viewing.”

If you’re in the area and interested in attending, tickets and showtimes can be found here.

Photo Credit: Attribution Some rights reserved by Magnus D

Slades Seasonal Chart Topper Gets Translated Into Welsh

The BBC has reported that Slades Christmas hit ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ has been translated into Welsh.

Nevarro, from Cardiff and Llanelli got permission to translate and perform the some from original 70’s rocker Noddy Holder.

The cover of the 1973 number one will be played on music strand C2 on BBC radio Cymru on Christmas Eve.

Steff from the band told the BBC “it wasn’t an easy song to translate but we are happy to be the first band to be singing it in another language.

If you want to sing along to the familiar chorus:

“Wel dyma hi,
Nadolig Llawen,
Pawb yn Hapus hwyl a sbri
Edrych i’r dyfodol nawr
Mae pethau ar fin digwydd”

Farewell to Welsh Language Activist Eileen Beasley

Eileen Beasley, a pioneering Welsh language activist, died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 91 on Sunday.

Mrs. Beasley, along with her husband Trefor, attained near-legendary status among Welsh activists when the couple decided to convert their deeply held commitment to the language into direct action.

In the 1950’s, you see, Welsh had no official status or protections. Despite the fact that 90% of the Beasleys’ neighbors in the village of Llangennech spoke the Welsh language, all local government business was conducted in English. In protest, Eileen Beasley and her husband simply refused to pay the tax bills sent (in English) from their local council until the bills became available in Welsh as well.

As a result, the couple was hauled to court repeatedly over a period of 8 years. In lieu of the unpaid taxes, bailiffs came more than once for their personal possessions, at one point leaving the empty room barren of everything except a jar of homemade jam. In 1960, the Beasley’s were finally successful, and the council agreed to send bills in both Welsh and English.

In an obituary posted on Wales Online, Adam Phillips, chairman of Balchder Cymru, called Mrs. Beasley the “Rosa Parks” of the Welsh language movement, saying

“To have bailiffs come into your house and take everything you own because you refuse to pay on a point of principle – imagine the shame of that in those days with people looking down their noses at you. It’s people like these activists that make things happen. She and her husband did it peacefully, but suffered for it.”

The Beasleys’ protest inspired other Welsh language activists, leading to the founding of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (The Welsh Language Society) and eventually to a variety of political and cultural gains for the Welsh language, such as the passage of the Welsh Language Act in 1993.

Former Cymdeithas yr Iaith chair Angharad Tomos told the BBC that the Beasleys ” lit the flame of hope” with their fight for Welsh, which “persevered for a decade at a time when such action was unheard of in Wales.”

Welsh Language Activist Denied US Visa

Arfon Gwilym, a Welsh folk singer, author and the director of Gwynn Music Publishers, has been denied a visa to visit the United States, according to Celtic News.

Mr. Gwilym had been invited to perform at the Smithsonian Institute’s cultural festival, which takes place next week. However, the US Embassy denied him a visa based on “moral turpitude” for acts he engaged in many years ago as a Welsh language activist with Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, the Welsh Language Society.

What does it take to get denied a visa on grounds of “moral turpitude?” Not that much, apparently. According to Wales Online, although Mr. Gwilym was sent to jail three times, his crimes consisted of non-violent activities like taking down road signs as part of a campaign for bilingual road signs and occupying a house to protest against English speakers occupying second homes in Wales.

In the UK, Mr. Gwilym is even considered to have a clean record, because the crimes all took place in the late 60s and early 70s. Under UK law, after a certain period of time, convictions become “spent” and fall off your record. In the United States, however, there is no such thing as a “spent conviction:” once something is on your record, it stays there.

Mr. Gwilym has appealed to US President Barack Obama for assistance via email. From the Celtic News article referenced above, here’s an excerpt of the email he sent:

“After September 11 I can understand the concern for safety in your country, and I can understand also why you do not wish to see murderers and rapists enter your country. May I respectfully suggest that you would not be in your present position were it not for the great battle for civil rights in your country when it was necessary to break the law in order to succeed. Can you imagine Martin Luther King and other civil rights campaigners being refused entry into Britain for ‘moral turpitude’?”

You know, the man has a point…

Welsh Website Translation

Just a quick update on what’s been going on here at K, especially from the Government Translation Sales Team point of view. As you might not know before, I have been working in close partnership with the Environment Agency now and have been really enjoying it.

Only because I know you are really curious, I will try to explain what we do for them…

Basically, we translated their English website into Welsh back in 2008 (more than 290 000 words!) but since then we have been making sure that we keep everything updated and add any additional information that they require. The translation was completed by professional welsh translators working directly into the Environment Agencies content managment system. This meant that the content was produced as quickly as possible and left our client with a Welsh language website ready for use.

It’s a must that we comply with the Welsh Language Act and in doing so we always do our best to achieve this essential requirement. Check out the images of the English & Welsh website below!

English Version

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