Oxford Pocket Modern Welsh Dictionary

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Oxford Pocket Modern Welsh Dictionary

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Review of "Oxford Pocket Modern Welsh Dictionary"

published 13/08/2003 | AlexWales
Member since : 11/10/2001
Reviews : 36
Members who trust : 39
About me :
Pro Makes learning less painful!
Cons Can't learn for you
very helpful

"Dictionary, is it?"

Yeah, dictionary, innit!

A Welsh dictionary probably isn’t going to be the most useful addition to most Ciao members’ bookshelves – but if you ever are in the market for learning Welsh, then I heartily recommend this purchase.

Learning Welsh up to GCSE level in school as a second language really needed the aid of a decent, helpful dictionary. Unfortunately, we never got one and had to suffer with one of two awful versions. First was the ancient tome that seems to lurk in every teaching establishment in the Principality: the one with the stiff cover that seemed to have been typeset in 1917 and appeared not to contain translations for items more modern than the Ark. Secondly was the Collins offering in the jaunty green, red and yellow cover. This was a more useful work, but still basic and hugely lacking in any serious advice on grammar or linguistic conventions.

So, after struggling along with these poor helpers, imagine how pleased I was to find that Oxford had brought out a Welsh dictionary. Although sceptical at first, it didn’t take long to realise just how good a dictionary can be.

Firstly, the layout is a breath of fresh air. The dictionary uses different typefaces, bolds and italic in an excellent fashion which truly does improve its usability. Each entry is picked out strongly in heavy bold type, with an indented translation in lighter type and notes in italic. There’s sufficient space between entries and the whole thing just seems quicker to browse than any other dictionaries I’ve come across.

Things really are made very clear in this edition! I’m used to a dictionary that upon looking up an English word just spits back two or three Welsh words with little information on which I should use or how. The Oxford edition is excellent. For example, the entry for ‘drive’ I would have expected in any other work to be along the lines of:

DRIVE v. gyrru, ysgogi

Now you can see my problem – they’ve offered me two verbs – but what do I use where? Oxford to the rescue – they split the entry for ‘drive’ clearly into two parts. First they handle the verb and distinguish clearly between the alternatives. In seconds I have found out that ‘gyrru’ is appropriate if I’m talking about driving cars, while ‘ysgogi’ is more to do with driving people to do things or herding geese. The second part is the real strength. There isn’t a direct translation for drive as in “to go for a drive” in Welsh. However, Oxford have considered this and offer a thoughtful alternative under the noun part: “to go for a drive = mynd am dro yn y car”. It’s so easy! This kind of help is given liberally.

Similar thought is shown under the entry for ‘primary’: the uninitiated could easily find the translation ‘prif’ and think that they’d be correct as translating ‘primary school’ as ‘prif ysgol’. In fact, ‘prifysgol’ is actually a university – as in *primary* (most important) school! Oxford simply advise that if you mean ‘primary’ as in ‘main’ you should use ‘prif’, but that ‘primary school’ is ‘ysgol gynradd’.

It’s also great that it is always made very clear whether a word’s masculine or feminine, plus help is given on forming plurals.

There are many helpful usage notes beyond simple sentence construction scattered around. Highlight with an exclamation mark, there are plenty of pointers which stop you looking like silly in front of the native speakers. Under the entry for “fifty” there’s a pointer that although you can use ‘pumdeg’ or ‘hanner can(t)’, you’d be better off using ‘hanner can’ if you’re talking about money. Meanwhile, the entry for “frog” explains “technically, ‘llyfant’ is ‘toad’ but many speakers do not use ‘broga’ and call all frogs and toads ‘llyfaint’.” Likewise there’s a nod that although ‘cyfaill’ is the standard term for ‘friend’, that it’s far more normal to use the loanword ‘ffrind’.

The dictionary also points out regional differences. Whereas from other dictionaries I would expect looking up ‘milk’ to simply bring me the two alternatives ‘llefrith’ and ‘llaeth’ and let me make my own decision, Oxford points out that the former is more common in North Wales, and the latter in South Wales.

Major topics have their own boxed notes in the main dictionary. Examples:
 A whole page explaining all the ins and outs of saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in Welsh with a sensible explanation and good example. Far better than the usual bog-standard list of synonyms.
 A great section on numbers. This simply shows the masculine and feminine alternatives for the lower numbers. It also explains a bit about the two parallel sets of numbers available to speakers, offering both modern decimal examples and the traditional base 20 numbers. Thus you are given a shortcut into fluency by being able to say the traditional ‘deunaw’ (2 nines) for ‘18’ instead of the modern but rather kiddy-sounding ‘undeg wyth’ (one-ten eight).

There’s a generous sheaf of pages at the start offering all kinds of useful hints on how to go about forming sentences. This covers matters such as the changing or ‘mutation’ or words under certain conditions – a common pitfall for learners. There’s also details on how to change verb endings to make sensible sentences (all your usual he ran / she ran / they ran / we ran stuff), details of adverbs and examples of reported speech and how to place focus in a sentence (e.g. we ran to the beach / to the beach we ran).
You also get the basics of pronunciation, the Welsh alphabet and a glossary of terms to remind you just what a pronoun is and make understanding the terms used in the main body easier.

It’s not going to teach you Welsh from scratch, but this dictionary would certainly be a huge help to most Welsh learners. It’s informative and helpful – not just a list of words. It doesn’t assume knowledge on the reader’s part. It holds your hand and explains things to you, without tipping too far over into the realms of a phrase book. You can be sure of finding the word you want quickly and easily without the need to double-check and cross-reference, and what’s more you’ll be learning proper, living Welsh as most people speak it!

The dictionary itself has an RRP of £9.99 in paperback – and looks more than able to stand up to a good thumbing through. However, ‘pocket’ dictionary may be a bit optimistic at about 8" x 5" and over 1" thick!

ISBN 0-19-864531-7

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Comments on this review

  • carminator published 08/10/2003
    I rememeber on my last school,placement they said 'yackavower' which either meant good morning or good afternoon. It probably isn't spelt like that though!
  • Morgenhund published 01/10/2003
    Might get one of these - I adore dictionaries and languages... That explains why I have a Croatian-Turkish-Croatian dictionary at home... Having done some Breton I'd like to pick up some Welsh, but of course it is impossible here in Vienna... Mike
  • Ophelia published 28/08/2003
    My mum wants to learn Welsh - I should get her this!
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Product Information : Oxford Pocket Modern Welsh Dictionary

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Listed on Ciao since: 13/08/2003