The English language is so ubiquitous in the UK that I sometimes forget that it’s not the only national language. Living in Germany, it’s easy to think of the surrounding countries having mainly (hello Austrian and Swiss German) different languages, but living in England, the borders get a bit muddled. Yes, the main language in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland is English, but they all each have their own national language. So, instead of learning some languages from a far off land, I decided to learn some basic phrases from those closer to home.
I started with Irish, which is a minority language in both Northern Ireland and Ireland, but more widely spoken in the latter. The Irish language often has a very different way of pronouncing things to English (hello Saoirse Ronan – pronounced like inertia) so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but although the phrases were a little difficult, they weren’t too far out of reach.
Scottish Gaelic is spoken by around 1% of Scottish people, and although not an official UK language, it is protected as an indigenous language. It comes from Irish but seemed to have a lot more consonants. I had great joy in pronouncing these with my thickest Outlander accent.
The Welsh language is the widest used of the 3 spoken by around 25% of Welsh people, and the one I’ve been exposed to the most. Road signs in Wales have both English and Welsh on, and there was a terrestrial channel, S4C, that you could sometimes pick up if your signal was dodgy. The language is famous for having a lot of consonants and sometimes no vowels in words (cwtch anyone?) [Edit: a lovely commenter had since informed me that Welsh actually has seven vowels as w and y are counted as well – the more you know!] and has one of the longest place names in the world: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. I was expecting Welsh to be one of the hardest, but actually, the phrases I learned were quite simple to remember.
I found this so interesting, and really a nice way to think of the UK as a whole rather than being so England-centric. I would love to be able to use some of this knowledge in the future.