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Both English and Welsh are spoken in Wales, although English is the dominant language. Welsh is the official language according to the Welsh government (de jure), although this is not the case in reality as English is more common (de facto).
Initiatives by the Welsh government to increase the number of Welsh speakers appear to be working as the latest figures suggest that 29.5% of people aged 3 or over can speak Welsh, although just 15.7% of the population speak Welsh daily2 (source: Welsh Government).
What is Welsh?
Welsh is a Celtic language. It is similar to Breton (a language once spoken in Britanny, France) and Cornish (from Cornwall)3 (source: BBC). All three evolved from Brythonic which was the main language spoken in England, Scotland, and Wales long before the English language evolved.
Welsh is the traditional language of Wales and was the most spoken language in the country for over 2,000 years. That was until 1911 when the English language first overtook Welsh as the dominant language in Wales. It has remained that way ever since4 (source: BBC).
Is Welsh the Same as Gaelic?
Brythonic Celtic (also known as British Celtic) includes Welsh, Breton, and Cornish which are all very similar, whereas Goidelic Celtic includes Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic, and Manx (from the Isle of Man) which are also similar to one another.
How is Welsh Different From English?
Welsh and English have very different roots so the languages are completely different. Welsh is a Celtic language whereas English is a Germanic language that was bought to Britain by the Anglo Saxons.
Here are some of the key things you need to know about Welsh:
- There are 29 letters in the Welsh alphabet including 23 consonants and 7 vowels. This is compared to the English alphabet which has 25 letters made up of 21 consonants and 5 vowels.
- All nouns in Welsh are masculine or feminine, this is similar to many other European languages, whereas in English, all nouns are ungendered.
- There are two ways to count in Welsh. The old way is a vigesimal system which uses 20 as it’s base, whereas the new way is a decimal system which uses 10 as its base, like in English. Schools now teach decimal but older generations may still use vigesimal. Learn more about counting in Welsh here.
Do They Speak Gaelic in Wales?
No, Gaelic is a type of Celtic language spoken in Ireland (Irish Gaelic) and Scotland (Scottish Gaelic). Gaelic is not the same as Welsh.
Is the Welsh Language Still Spoken?
Yes, Welsh is still spoken by some people in Wales. Latest figures suggest that over 15% of the population in Wales speak Welsh There are proportionally more Welsh speakers in North Wales with the highest numbers in Gwynedd where 76% of people are able to speak the language5 (source: Welsh Government).
So, if you’re hoping to try out some of my flirty things to say in Welsh, you’ll have much more success in a bar in North Wales than anywhere else in the country.
Do All Welsh Speak Welsh?
No, not all Welsh people can speak Welsh. Less than one-third of the population can speak any Welsh and around 15% speak Welsh daily.
Kieren is the founder and editor-in-chief of Wales Guidebook. Originally from rural Mid-Wales, he has lived all over the country from Cardiff to Wrexham. A true Welshman, Kieren created this site to share his passion for Wales and help others discover this beautiful country.