If you are expecting local people in North Wales to speak English with a stereotypical “Welsh” accent you couldn’t be more wrong. If you hear that accent it is guaranteed you are listening to someone who originates from much further South. The local accent in the North seems to be similar to Cheshire, mild North West England, with a touch of Scouse. You can tell them from the tourists from across the border only when a place is mentioned and the Welsh language letter pronunciations will come into play.

This area of Wales has a strong Welsh language speaking community. The further West you go, the more people will use Welsh as their first language. You will find stores will make announcements in Welsh, shop assistants and families speaking Welsh to each other. Virtually everyone over school age will speak English too and they won’t be worried or offended if you can’t speak Welsh – this is a very friendly part of the UK that welcomes visitors. It isn’t unusual for someone to start a conversation with you in Welsh – if you look puzzled or just say sorry I don’t speak Welsh, they will switch to English and it is never a problem.

It is polite to know a few basics that virtually all locals will know and use. Diolch (dee-yock) – thank you. Bore da (borey dar) – good morning. Prynhown da – good afternoon. Noswaith dda (dd is pronounced th so this would be pronounced thar not dar) is good evening. Nos da – goodnight. Helo is Hello so that’s an easy one. Plez is surprisingly Please. If someone says Diolch to you the reply is Croeso (crow-so) for You’re Welcome. The fact that you’ve made the effort means everything.

The way to tell a tourist from a local is, as I’ve said, place names, and this far West there are no bilingual place names. Llandudno. If you say Lan-dud-no you’re a tourist. If you say Hlan-did-no, no-one will know. Llanfairfechan isn’t Lan-Fair-Fetchan, it is Hlan-ver-vecken or just Hlan-ver. The next little town along is Penmaenmawr – Pen-mine-mao-er (to rhyme with power).

Once you’ve mastered how letters sound, Welsh is actually pretty easy to work out despite how difficult it might look. English is far more difficult with lots of silent letters and inconsistencies – power / lower for example. Ll is Hl. f is v. Ff is f. Dd is th. U is ee. Y can be ee as in English at the end of a word, but uh on its own. You see Ty a lot, meaning house, and that is pronounced tee not tie. W is the most inconsistent often oo or ou in the middle of a word but w at the start. Conwy is Con-wee but then you could say it as Con-oo-ee I guess; say it fast and it’s the same. If you see a police car with Heddlu on it, that’s not Headloo, it is Hethlee. You see Araf on the roads a lot – slow – that would be pronounced Arav. The road behind Edina parallel with Valley Road is Nant-y-felin – pronounced Nant-uh-velin. Nant is a stream, y is the, felin is a mill. So combined it translates as The Mill Stream. Halfway down it changes to the English Mill Road.

https://www.go4awalk.com/fell-facts/welsh-language-pronunciation.php is a good guide and I like https://cuhwc.org.uk/book/export/html/199 too. Try this site for some basic phrases, enough to get by for a week: https://www.qualitycottages.co.uk/aroundwales/simple-welsh-words-phrases-started. Watch out though – the Welsh spoken in the North can vary in pronunciation and, sometimes, the words themselves, from the Welsh spoken in the South.

If you say Nah when you mean No, you can already speak Welsh. It can be amusing when you see a Welsh word and say it out loud very slowly, only to find it is the same as the English word, just spelt using the Welsh letter sounds. I once received a letter from Conwy Council completely in Welsh and understood it perfectly, then turned it over to find an English language version, and I was right! Try ambiwlans (ambulance), cwestiwn (question), tacsi (taxi), and sori (sorry). Don’t be nerfus (and f is a v remember), give Welsh a try. At worst you might sound like the substantial number of locals learning Welsh to keep up with their little kids and get understanding smiles.

Welsh has a small problem with vowels so dispensed with many of them – you know they are there, you don’t need to see them too. Your brain fills in the gaps and gets it right 9 times out of 10. You get used to it very quickly, just don’t think too hard about it. Plez – easy, Please, two extra letters doing nothing.

Diolch yn fawr (sounds like dee-yock-un-var when said at speed to my ear) – Thanks very much!