Welcome to the blogspot of Melbourne writer, Elizabeth Jane

Welcome to the blogspot of Melbourne writer, Elizabeth Jane

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Understanding Welsh words - or, should I say, misunderstanding? :-)

Last month I attended a Welsh language Summer School in Aberystwyth. It was one of the most tiring, inspiring and exhilarating holidays I have ever been on. I reeled through the days drunk on words and meaning. When I got home, I found the Welsh language had entered my dreaming. If you've been reading this blog, you may have spent some of those moments with me.

What you won't know is that I also got filmed for Welsh television.

What? I hear you say. How could this be Liz?

Well, that's a good question, and, if you are patient I will explain. But from the outset, I have to say, there was a fair bit of misunderstanding involved.

Right, now we've got that out of the way, let's start at the beginning.

First, I learn Welsh. I go to the classes at the Celtic Club in Melbourne, do Mp3 lessons when I'm walking the dog. I also watch Welsh language television. Now, if you know anything about television rights, you will know that watching Welsh television from Australia involves an element of illegality. But for the purposes of this blog, let's just say I watch short segments of Welsh language television on YouTube.

One of my favourite programmes is a show for learners called Hwb and, because I'm a cool info savvy public librarian, I follow the Hwb Twitter stream. I also spend time on a fantastic forum called Say Something in Welsh (yes, if you haven't worked it out by now, I have a mildly obsessive personality). Anyway, in addition to the forum, SSiW sends out a weekly email newsletter and, as SSiW has links to Hwb (yes, Wales is a small place), they give us regular updates on what is happening.

One week, the newsletter said Hwb were looking for dysgywr o ddramor - learners from overseas. According to SSiW the success of Hwb depends on having as much interaction between learners and the program presenters as possible. This set up a rather uncomfortable feeling in my breast. Not only do I watch Hwb regularly and 'illegally.' I also owe my current proficiency in Welsh to the amazing SSiW team. And let's face it there was no denying the fact, I am a dysgwr o ddramor.

'If anyone feels up to doing a two minute Skype chat,' the newsletter said, 'just get in touch with Owen from Fflic television.'

Well, what could I do? They'd even provided the cyfeiriad ebost. I typed it into the address bar and sent a message - about our Welsh classes in Melbourne, my own language journey, the fact that I was planning to do summer school in Abersystwyth. All in Welsh by the way, which is where the word misunderstanding comes in.

Conscience assuaged, I pressed send. And promptly forgot about it. I mean who expects a return ebost from a stranger on television?

You can imagine my surprise when, two days later, I received an ebost from Owen. I pulled my dictionary out. 'Helo Liz,' he said. 'Diolch am dy ebost. We'd love to have you as one of our dysgywr o dramor (at least, I thought that's what he said. It was all in Welsh). It would be incredible if we could come to Aberystwyth and meet you.

Wow! I thought, aren't Welsh people kind. But why come to Aberyswyth, if I'm going to be chatting on Skype? It sounded like an awful lot of bother for a two minute TV segment.

Nevertheless, I sent Owen the dates of my course and turned my attention elsewhere. We were in the throws of buying and selling houses at this stage. I also had a five day stay in hospital somewhere in the middle. Being on Welsh television hardly impacted my consciousness.

Until I received another ebost from Owen.

'I've been in touch with your tutor,' he said (in Welsh remember). We've been given the all clear to film you in class.'

He added a date which was precisely three days after my arrival in Wales.

Great, I thought, I'm going to be jet-lagged on Welsh television.

About this point, it began to dawn on me that this was shaping up to be more than a two minute Skype chat. They were bringing a film crew to Aberystwyth and they were going to spend a whole morning filming me. Added to which, it was right at the beginning of the course. So, I'd be a complete twpsin on on national television. At that point, I made a firm decision:

I'm not telling anyone in Australia about this.

True to their word the film crew arrived in Aberystwyth. They gave me instructions. I understood about a quarter of what they said. I somehow managed to mutter a few things. Had manifold mistakes recorded for posterity and, to top it all off, no one wanted to sit next to me in class that morning.

At the end of filming, I signed the consent form. 'Diolch yn fawr,' said Owen. Bydden ni'n dweud wrthot ti pan bydd y eitem yn ddangos. O ie, hoffen ni'n siarad gyda ti ar Skype nes ymlaen, hefyd.'

By which I understood that the Skype chat was still going to happen at a later date.

I've been back in Australia almost a month now and, last week, I received another ebost from Owen.

'Hiya Liz,' the program will be on television this Sunday, 30th of September. 'Please tell all your friends.'

My friends! Oh, dear, what a dilemma. I sent an ebost off to the course coordinators (I figured I owed them the courtesy). Considered posting a: hey, guess what, on the SSiW forum. But decided against it.
But the big questions was should I spill the beans down under?

On the one hand, this was a big moment. I've never been on television before. On the other hand, it was guaranteed to be embarrassing. I don't even like looking at photos of myself, let alone a short film segment of me muffing up a foreign language. But what about my family? And the Welsh speaking world? It is a small community? What if people found out anyway?

In the end, the matter was taken out of my hands. The SSiW eNewsletter has a new segment entitled: Coming up on Hwb.

Under this weeks heading it says:

'We meet Liz Corbett from Melbourne who attended a Welsh language course at The University of Wales, Aberystwyth. (Liz also learns with SSiW and some of us met her at the Eisteddfod).'

That's the thing about the World Wide Web. It disseminates information.

SSIW has 23,000 members. Many in Australia. Some who even go to my Welsh class - the cat was well and truly out of the bag. Therefore, before any of you stumbled across my stuttering Welsh presence, I thought I'd better announce it.

Here it is, for the first and, possibly, last time in history, a YouTube of me speaking Welsh on national television.

Corbett kids at Phyllis Court for the last time

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Living in Australia

Some years ago our famIly were randomly selected to be part of a survey called the Living in Australia. The survey was initially piloted by Melbourne university and was supposed to last only three years. That was about ten years ago and, quite frankly, the whole routine is getting a bit tired. Nevertheless, I keep participating because three of my kids studied at Melbourne University.

Anyway, the living in Australia lady turned up today and I thought, right let's just get this over with. We went through the usual round of questions and and a few ransom tests unique to 2012, and I'm thinking come on let's just get this over with when all of a sudden she asked a question that smacked me around the ears.

'Does anyone in this household speak a language other than English?'

'Yes,' I said. 'I do. I'm the only one.' I added. 'So I don't get much opportunity.'

'But, you can hold an every day conversation? Over a range of topics?'

'Yes,' I said, thinking of emails and Skype conversations, phone calls, travels planned, books ordered and read. 'Yes,' I said, 'definitely. There are people I relate to entirely in that language.'

'Right,' she said. 'What language is it?'

'Welsh,' I said. 'I speak Welsh.'

It was one of the proudest moments of my life.

Just thought I'd better share it. :-)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Tri nofelau fyr - three short novels

Yn ôl. Wedi gorffwys. Yn barod am waith yfory. Ond, os ydych chi'n tybed beth wnes i wneud gyda fy amser sbar pan ro'n i'n yng nghymru, dyma'r tri llyfr darllenais i. Back. Rested. Ready for work tomorrow. But just in case you were wondering what I did with my spare time in Wales, here are the three books I read.

E ffrindiau dweud y stori o ddau dysgwr - un yn byw yn Awstralia, un yn byw yng Nghymru. Mae nhw anfon negesau ebost ei gilyd yn Nghymraeg. Trwy eu negesau nhw dyn ni'n dod i wybod eu gobeithion, eu, breuddwydion a cyfrinachau nheulu. Roedd y stori yn ddidorol a eitha hawdd i ddarllen. Roedd restr geirfa cymorth ar bob tudalen. E ffrindiau tells the story of two learners - one living in Australia, one living in Wales. They send email messages to each other in Welsh. Through their messages we come to know their hopes, dreams and family secrets. The story is interesting and quite easy to read. There is a helpful word list on each page.


Pwy sy'n cofio Sion dweud stori am Leni, fenyw ifanc a uchelgleisiol sy'n gweithio am gwmni radio. Pan ei bos hi'n rhoi tasg diflas arall i Leni mae hi'n benderfynol i profi ei werth. Ond, pan mae'r dasg yn profi peryglus. Mae Leni yn gorfod i adolygu ei chynlluniau a ei gwethoedd. Beth yw hi'n moyn gwneud gyda ei bywyd hi? Pwy sy'n cofio Sion tells the story of Leni an ambitious young woman working for a radio company. When her boss gives her another boring assignment she is determined to prove her worth. But when the task prove dangerous. Leni is forced to revise her plans and her values. What does she want to do with her life?


Budapest dweud y stori o Gwyn a Margrit. Unwaith, pan roedd yn ddau yn myfrwyr eu bod nhw yn cariadon. Ond dros y blynyddoed mae nhw wedi tyfu ar wahân. Nawr mae'r cwmni Gwyn wedi enill cytundeb yn Budapest. Tybed Gwyn, beth yw Margrit wneud gyda ei bywyd hi? Ydy hi'n briod? Yn hapus? Ddylai hi'n bod hapus i'w weld e eto ar ôl cymaint blynyddoed. Budapest tells story of Gwyn and Margrit. Once when the two were students, they were lovers. But over the years, they have grown apart. Now, Gwyn's company has won a contract in Budapest. Gwyn wonders what Margrit has done with her life? Is she married? Happily? Would she be happy to see him again after all these years?