The Sounds of Welsh
This is enough to get you started. For a fuller guide, please see the reference work at Pronunciation of Welsh.
We will start with learning the consonant sounds of Welsh. We've split them into 4 groups. Consonants in Welsh can only make one unique sound, as opposed to English which can make several sounds per consonant. For example, the c can make a k sound as in cat or a s sound as in city. When you learn the sound a consonant makes in Welsh, it will only ever make that sound you learn.
Consonant sounds same in English and Welsh
These consonants look the same in English and Welsh, and sound the same.
- b /b/ Like b in boy. Welsh example: bachgen (English: boy)
- c /k/ Like c in cat. Welsh example: cath (English cat)
- d /d/ Like d in dog. Welsh example: drwg (English bad)
- g /g/ Like g in gun. Welsh example: gardd (English garden)
- h /h/ Like h in happy. Welsh example: hen (English old)
- l /l/ Like l in lake. Welsh example: calon (English heart)
- m /m/ Like m in mad. Welsh example: mam (English mother)
- n /n/ Like n in none. Welsh example: nain (English grandmother)
- ng /ŋ/ Like the end of the English word sing. In Welsh, this letter can come at the front of a word. In Welsh, it is never pronounced with a hard g, as in the English finger. Welsh example: angau (English death)
- p /p/ Like p in poker. Welsh example: pen (English head)
- s /s/ Like s in sad. Welsh example: sebon (English soap)
- t /t/ Like t in tar. Welsh example: tŷ (English house)
- th /θ/ Like th in think. Welsh example: methu (English fail)
Consonant sounds in English, Different letter in Welsh
These sounds are found in English, but they are assigned to a different letter in Welsh. Train yourself to read them differently now.
- f /v/ Like v in violin. Welsh example: gafr (English goat)
- ff /f/ Like f in friend. Welsh example: ffrind (English friend)
- dd /ð/ Like th in then. Welsh example: hardd (English beautiful)
Consonant sounds in English, Not in Welsh
These sounds are in English, but you will not hear them in Welsh.
- The c in Welsh only makes a hard /k/ sound. It will never sound like an s, such as in the English city.
- The g only makes a /g/ sound. It will never sound like an English g, like in the English gender.
- The th in Welsh represents the th in English think. The dd represents the other th in English, like the word then.
- There is no z sound in Welsh.
Consonant sounds only in Welsh
These consonant sounds may be new to you.
- ch /x/ Like the Scottish loch or German composer Bach. Welsh example: chwech (English six)
- ll /ɬ/ The ll is a hard Welsh sound to make. It is best described as putting your tongue in the position of l and then blowing out air gently. Like saying a h and l simultaneously, but with more puff. Welsh example: llyn (English lake)
- r /r/ The Welsh r should always be trilled. Welsh example: ar (English on)
- rh /r̥/ The Welsh rh should be trilled with aspiration. Like saying a h and r simultaneously, but with more puff. Welsh example: rhan (English part)
There are seven vowels in Welsh. Most vowels can be two different sounds. The y can take three different sounds. There are clear patterns on when to use which vowel sound, but for the beginning level: learn how to pronounce each word as you go along, and you'll eventually be able to logically deduce which vowel sound to use.
|Welsh Vocabulary • Alphabet • audio (upload) |
Yr Wyddor Gymraeg The Welsh Alphabet
|Letter||Name of letter||Corresponding sounds||as in|
|a||â||/a, ɑː/||hat, Am. hot|
|ch||ech||/x/||like Scottish 'loch'|
|o||ô||/ɔ, oː/||hot, Am. pole|
|rh||rhî, rhô||/r̥/||same as above but unvoiced|
|u||û||/ɨ̞, ɨː/ (N), /ɪ, iː/ (S)||sit, seat|
|w||ŵ||/ʊ, uː/||put, loot|
|y||ŷ||/ɨ̞, ɨː, ə/ (N), /ɪ, iː, ə/ (S)||kit, about|
- The names of the letters above are in Southern dialect. In the North, the letters are pronounced differently.
- h indicates voicelessness in mh, nh, and ngh.
- ph occurs occasionally in words derived from Greek (e.g. phenol) but more commonly as a result of aspirate mutation (e.g. ei phen-ôl)
- y indicates /ə/ in unstressed monosyllabic words (e.g. y "the", fy "my") or non-final syllables, but /ɨ̞, ɨː/ (N) or /ɪ, iː/ (S) everywhere else.
- The digraphs (letters consisting of two characters) are treated as a single letter (with the collation order as listed above), although the same combinations of characters can sometimes also arise as a juxtaposition of two separate letters. For example, the digraph ng representing /ŋ/ is alphabetised between g and h (alphabetical order llegach, lleng, lleiaf), but when ng is two letters representing /ŋg/ it is alphabetised between nf and nh (alphabetical order danfon, dangos, danheddog).
- si indicates /ʃ/ (as in English sheep) when followed by a vowel.
- di and ti sometimes indicate /dʒ/ (as in English joke) and /tʃ/ (as in English church)respectively when followed by a vowel. Otherwise /dʒ/ and /tʃ/ are spelled j and ts, but only in loanwords like jẁg "jug" and wats "watch".
- To pronounce the ll sound, blow while placing your tongue on the roof of your mouth.
- a b c ch d dd e f ff g ng h i j l ll m n o p ph r rh s t th u w y
- A B C Ch D Dd E F Ff G Ng H I J L Ll M N O P Ph R Rh S T Th U W Y
And saying it out loud : ah bee ec ech dee eh edd ef eff eg eng aetch ee jay el ell em en o pee phee er rhee es tee eth eu oo uh