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‘Superb response’: US agony aunt advice on Welsh language discord impresses speakers

18 Sep 2020 3 minute read
Picture by @ChicagoTaffia / Twitter

Welsh speakers have been left impressed by the advice of a US agony aunt who answered a letter by a woman who said the Welsh language was causing discord in her relationship.

In her ‘Ask Amy’ column in the Chicago Tribune, Amy Dickinson answered a question by a woman who said that her husband insisted on speaking Welsh on the phone with his family back home.

“I often hear my name mentioned in his conversations and although I am sure it is not malicious, I am still uncomfortable as he babbles on in his native language,” the anonymous woman said.

“Is it too much to ask that he speak English while I am present and in my own house?”

Amy Dickinson impressed Welsh speakers by telling the woman to support her husband in continuing to speak Welsh on the phone.

“If your husband was a Spanish speaker, he would have many opportunities to speak his native language in many different contexts, outside the home,” she said. “Welsh, however — ‘dim cymaint’ (not so much)!

“Your husband is not being deliberately rude. I think he is trying to communicate with his landsmen using expressions that are unique to a very small population. He is seeking a sort of verbal ‘cwtch’ (a comforting hug).”



She then went on to show an understanding of the challenges facing the language.

“In doing so, he is also defying centuries of English cultural and language dominance (and often, outright oppression),” she said.

“Welsh is one of the oldest spoken languages in Europe, and, outside of Wales, it is extremely rare to hear it. (My research for your question revealed that there are only about 2,000 known Welsh speakers in the United States — many of them, curiously, living in Florida.)

“Furthermore, the language was in danger of dying out altogether until concentrated national efforts in Wales have resulted in something of a revival.”

She then goes on to advise that the wife herself learn Welsh.

“It would serve multiple purposes for you to become conversant, and I hope you will. (I just finished my first lesson — so “lechyd da!”)” she says.


Her understanding answer left a good impression on Welsh speakers.

BBC journalist Huw Thomas praised the “superb response”.

That’s a pretty fantastic answer from Amy Dickinson to be fair,” Tegid Roberts said. “Da iawn wir a diolch iddi.”

Another Twitter user, The 7puzzle Company, said: “Amy totally puts to shame the vast majority of London-based journos who know a fraction of what she knows about Wales – and yet they are only 2 hours from us down the M4!”

I’m in love with Amy Dickinson – this is the best problem page answer I have ever read!” Catherine Brown said.

Amy Dickinson responded to the praise by saying that she “really enjoyed researching and answering this query”.

Amy Dickinson has worked as a columnist for Time and the Washington Post and has appeared as a social commentator on ABC’s Good Morning America and NBC’s The Today Show.

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