A guide to Welsh Language Pronunciation

With thanks to Howell Owen Williams for help with this guide.

Vowels | Consonants | Dipthongs

While English is the most common language in Wales, Welsh is still used and actively promoted by some half a million people. It is particularly strong in the Western and Northern regions (Gwynedd, Conwy and Dyfed) where the Welsh language remains strong and highly visible - such as on road signs.

For the walker planning to scale the hills and mountains of Wales, a cursory glance at the map will reveal that most mountain tops and geographical features are described in Welsh. At first sight, this seemingly incomprehensible language may be daunting, yet a little knowledge of the language and how to pronounce it correctly will enhance your experience in these majestic surroundings.

Welsh is a language whose spelling is entirely regular and phonetic, so that once you know the rules, you can learn to read it and pronounce it without too much difficulty.

Just remember that in Welsh ALL the letters are pronounced (even if sometimes its looks impossible).

See if you can read the following out loud. It is english but written using the sounds of the Welsh alphabet:

Ai hop ddat yw can ryd ddys and ddat yt meiks sens tw yw. Iff yw can ryd ddys, dden yw sawnd ryt and ar redi tw gow hycing in wals widd gofforawalc dot cwm. Gwd lwc and Haf ffyn.

Click here to see how it should have sounded.

The Welsh Alphabet:

There are 28 letters in the Welsh Alphabet comprising 7 Vowels and 21 Consonants and 13 dipthongs

There are 28 letters are: A | B | C | Ch | D | Dd | E | F | Ff | G | H | I | L | Ll | M | N | Ng | O | P | R | Rh | S | T | Th | U | W | Y

The dipthongs are: Ae | Ai | Au | Aw | Ei | Eu | Ew | I'w | Y'w | Oe | Ow | Wy | Ywy

Officially, Welsh does not possess the letters J, K, Q, V, X or Z, though you will come across imported words from other languages using these letters where no suitable Welsh letter is available, notably Jones (!) and Wrexham (Wrecsam).


Vowels
| Consonants | Dipthongs

Pronouncing the Vowels:

Welsh vowels have distinctive sounds and it is the difference between these sounds that enables the listener to differentiate between and understand the meanings of, words. An example is the difference between mil = thousand and mul = donkey.

A | E | I | O | U | W | Y

A as in man.
Welsh words: aber (abber); Garn (garn)

E as in bet or echo.
Welsh words: carnedd (caneth)

I as the ee in queen.
Welsh words: ni (nee); mi (mee); lili (leelee); min (meen)

O as in lot or hot.
Welsh words: o'r (oh/rr with a rolled r); don (dohn); pont (pohnt)

U as the 'i' in pita
Welsh words: canu (can-i); cu (key); Cymru (Kum-ri); tu (ti); un (in)

W as the 'oo' in Zoo.
Welsh words: cwm (koom); bwlch (boolch)

Y has three distinct sounds.

The first is 'uh' when used as the definite article
Welsh words: y ci (uh key) = the dog.

The second is similar to the Welsh u
Welsh words: Glyder (gleeder); byd (beed)

The third is similar to the English u in under.
Welsh words: Y (uh); Yr (ur); yn (un);

All the vowels can be lengthened by the addition of a circumflex (^).
Welsh words: Tân (taan), lân (laan).

Since the circumflex (^) changes the sound of the word, it also changes the meaning.
Welsh words: Glân (glaan) = Clean, Glan (glan) = Riverbank or Shore.


Vowels
| Consonants | Dipthongs

Pronouncing the Consonants:

B | C | Ch | D | Dd | F | Ff | G | H | L | Ll | M | N | Ng | P | R | Rh | S | T | Th

Usually(!) B, D, H, L, M, N, P, R, S, and T are pronounced the same as they are in English (Since all letters in Welsh are pronounced, H is never silent).

C always 'hard' as in cat:
Welsh words: cwm (coomb); carnedd (caneth); Cymru (Kumree)

Ch soft and aspirated as in the Scottish loch or Docherty:
Welsh words: fach (vach); uwch (youch ), chwi (Chee)

Dd as the 'th' in the or seethe:
Welsh words: bydd (beethe); carneddau (caneth-eye); ddofon (thovon); ffyddlon (futh lon)

F as the 'v' in five:
Welsh words: afon (avon); Tryfan (Try-van); fydd (veethe); hyfryd (huvrid); fawr (vowr), fach (vach)

Ff as the 'f' in fight:
Welsh words: ffynnon (funon); ffyrdd (furth); ffaith (fithe)

G always 'hard' as in goat:
Welsh words: ganu (ganee); ganaf (ganav); angau (angeye); gem (game)

Ng as the 'ng' in finger:
Welsh words Yng Nghaerdydd (ung hire deethe); Yng Nghymru (ung Humree)

Ll is peculiarly Welsh and difficult to describe. Form your lips and tongue to pronounce the letter L, but then blow air gently around the sides of the tongue instead of saying anything. The nearest you can get to this sound in English is an l with a th in front of it:
Welsh words: llan (thlan); llyn (thlin); llwyd (thlooid)

Rh sounds as if the h comes before the r with a slight blowing out of air before the r is pronounced:
Welsh words: rhengau (hrengye); rhag (hrag); rhy (hree)

Th as 'th' in think:
Welsh words: gwaith (gwithe); byth (beeth)

Vowels | Consonants | Dipthongs

Pronouncing the Dipthongs:

Ae | Ai | Au | Aw | Ei | Eu | Ew | I'w | Y'w | Oe | Ow | Wy | Ywy

Ae, Ai and Au as the 'y' in my:
Welsh words: ninnau (nineye); mae (my); henaid (henide); main (mine); craig (crige)

Aw as the 'ow' in cow:
Welsh words: mawr (mour); prynhawn (prinhown); fawr (vow)

Eu and Ei as the 'ay' in pray:
Welsh words: deisiau (dayshy), or in some dialects (deeshuh); deil (dale or dile); teulu (taylee or tyelee)

Ew is more difficult to describe. The nearest English sound is probably the Birmingham pronunciation of 'you'.
Welsh words: mewn (meh-oon); tew (teh-oo)

I'w and Y'w as the 'ew' in yew:
Welsh words: clyw (clee-oo); byw (bee-you or b'you); menyw (menee-you or menyou)

Oe as the 'oy' in toy:
Welsh words: croeso (croyso); troed (troid); oen (oin)

Ow as the 'ow' in tow or low:
Welsh words: Rhown (rhone); rho (hrow)

Wy as the 'wi' in win or the french 'oui':
Welsh words: Wy (oo-ee); wyn (win); mwyn (mooin)

Ywy as the 'ui' in fluid:
Welsh words: bywyd (bowid);

Vowels | Consonants | Dipthongs

That sentence:

Ai hop ddat yw can ryd ddys and ddat yt meiks sens tw yw. Iff yw can ryd ddys, dden yw sawnd ryt and ar redi tw gow hycing in wals widd gofforawalc dot cwm. Gwd lwc and Haf ffyn.

Should have sounded thus:

I hope that you can read this, and that it makes sense to you. If you can read this, then you sound right and are ready to go hiking in Wales with go4awalk.com. Good luck and have fun.

See - told you it was easy!


Vowels
| Consonants | Dipthongs



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English translations for some Common Welsh Words
A B C D E F G H I L M N O P R S T U W Y
A
Abaty= Abbey
Aber= River Mouth or Estuary
Afon= River
Allt= Height
Ardal= District
B
Bach= Small, Little
Bangor= Monastery
Bedd= Grave
Bera= Pyramid
Betws= Chapel
Blaenau= Upland
Bod= Dwelling
Braich= Arm or Branch
Bryn= Hill
Bwlch= Pass, Col, Gap or Saddle
Bychan= Small
C
Caban= Cabin
Cadair= Chair
Cader= Stronghold
Cae= Field
Caer= Fort or Encampment
Cantref= District
Capel= Chapel
Carnedd= Cairn, Pile of Rocks
Carreg= Stone
Castell= Castle
Cefn= Ridge
Celli= Grove
Ci= Dog
Clas= Church
Clogwyn= Cliff or Precipice
Coch= Red
Coed= Wood
Craig= Crag
Croes= Cross
Cwm= Valley
Cymru= Wales
D
Din= Hillfort
Dinas= Large Town or City
Drum= Ridge
Drwg= Bad/Evil
Drws= Door
Du= Black
Dwr= Water
Dyffryn= Valley
E
Eglwys= Church
Emyn= Hymn
Emynau= Hymns
F
Fach= Small
Fawr= Large
Ffin= Boundary
Ffordd= Road
Ffridd= Pasture
Ffynnon= Spring or Well
G
Gallt=

Wooded Slope

Garn= Cairn
Garth= Hill
Glan= Riverbank or Shore
Glân= Clean
Glas= Green, Blue, Grey or Silver
Glyder= Heap or Pile
Glyn= Valley
Gribin= Jagged Ridge
Gwaun= Bog
Gwlad= Country
Gwrach= Witch
Gwyn= White
Gwynt= Wind
H
Hafod=

Summer House

Hebog= Hawk
Hen= Old
Hendref= Winter House
Heol= Road
Hewl= Road
Hir= Long
I
Is=

Below

Isaf= Lower
L
Llan=

Church

Llanerch= Meadow
Llech= Large Rock
Llithrig= Slippery
Lloer= Moon
Llwyd= Brown or Grey
Llyn= Lake
Llys= Palace
M
Maen= Stone
Maes= Town Square
March= Horse
Mawr= Big
Melin= Mill
Mochyn= Pig
Moel= Bare Hill or Mountain
Morfa=
Seaside, Marsh
Myn= Mine (Pit)
Mynachlog= Monastery
Mynydd= Mountain
N
Nant= Valley
Newydd= New
Nos= Night
O
Ogof

= Cave

P
Pant=

Valley

Pen= End
Penrhyn= Headland
Pentref= Hamlet
Perfedd= Middle
Pistyll= Waterfall
Plas= Large House
Plwyf= Parish
Pont= Bridge
Porth= Port or Harbour
Pwll= Pool
R
Rhaeadr= Waterfall
Rhiw= Hill
Rhos= Moor
Rhyd= Ford
S
Sarn= Causeway
Sir= Shire
Stryd= Street
T
Tal= Tall or high
Tir= Territory
Traeth= Shore or Beach
Traws= District
Tref= Town
Twll= Hole
Ty= House
Ty'n
Llan=

Vicarage
U
Uchaf= Upper
W
Wen= White
Wyddfa= Burial Mound
Y
Ynys= Island
Ysbyty= Hospital
Ysgol= School
Ystad= Estate


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