Welsh in the workplace: My experience


By Christian Kelsey

Having spoken to a number of people in English and explaining that I also speak Welsh, a lot of them decide to speak Welsh to me after realising that I do, as you would expect. Something like ‘I’m doing a Welsh degree see..’ generates the response ‘O I ti? Fi’n siarad Cymraeg hefyd…’ (Oh is it? I also speak Welsh). I realise that that is quite an informal dialect of Welsh that I just noted but the point I am trying to make is that a lot of people do have enough confidence to speak their mother tongue, which should be applauded.

However, this doesn’t always happen. Of course, there are those who I have met who worry that their Welsh isn’t good enough to be used within the workplace and deem it as too informal to speak to their colleagues. This could be down to the fact that they were raised in a Welsh speaking household, speak in a colloquial (Southern/Northern) dialect that they worry won’t be understood, or that they believe that they need to know every word in Welsh and not use any English. Last week, a staff member at Swansea University library told me ‘Sain siarad Cymraeg yn aml yn y gweithle achos safon Cymraeg fi’n awful’ (I don’t speak Welsh in work often because my standard of language is awful). How does one measure standard? It baffles me.

Consider your use of the English language. When you are speaking with a friend or co-worker, how exactly do you speak with them? My guess is informally and comfortably. The Welsh language should be no different. Some academics would argue that standard is important with regards the Welsh language as to save it from degenerating but after spending four years doing a Welsh language degree, I would then argue that using the language impurely is better than not using it at all. Of course, in writing, professionalism is key but in everyday speech, slang and familiarity are key. Thus, even though professionalism is required within the workplace, here are some tips for you with regards to using Welsh informally, perhaps on the phone, with your co-workers or customers;

  1. Don’t be shy when it comes to making mistakes. Everyone substitutes Welsh words for English words sometimes, especially when it comes to specialist terms. You are not expected to be a ‘scholar’ but an everyday person.
  2. Wear a ‘Welsh speaking badge’ to show that you speak Welsh and that you are proud to do so. They are available for free. If you wish to receive one, e-mail post@comisynyddygymraeg.org and explain that you are interested in receiving one.
  3. Be proud of your roots. This is known as ‘tafodiaith’ (or dialect) and means that you use a regional word that may be different in another part of Wales. You could teach your co-workers something, after all.
  4. Listen out for Welsh conversations and venture to speak the same language that another person is speaking! Using the same language as somebody can strengthen relationships and make them feel more at ease when communicating.

The more you do this, the more confident you will become. Therefore, keep at it and don’t give up!