Wales through a window

We’ve already established that the “they all started speaking Welsh” story is problematic. Luckily, there are other ways to identify arrogant English attitudes. One great way is if you’re chatting to an English person and you mention that you’re Welsh/a Welsh-speaker/someone who has lived in Wales. If the other person says, “I know one word in Welsh – ARAF!” you know you have a bona fide case of English privilege on your hands.

Araf, as many people already know, is Welsh for “slow”. Lots of people know it because they’ve seen it on Welsh roads. When they tell you that it’s the only Welsh word in their vocabulary, what they’re really telling you is this:

  • They’ve been to Wales on at least one occasion but haven’t tried to learn a single word of the language.
  • They’ve been to Wales by car on at least one occasion without trying to learn a single word of the language. In other words,  either they haven’t grasped the fact that safe driving involves preparing for driving through an unfamiliar area, or they believe Wales is essentially the same as England and can hold no surprises.
  • They think this is nothing to be ashamed of.

I would also guess the following:

  • They see driving as an easy option compared to public transport, because the car is a magical metal case that will protect them from any foreignness that the country can throw at them.
  • They haven’t grasped that safe driving, just like being a decent human being, involves interacting with other people and being aware of your surroundings.

When they’ve told you all about how they learnt the word araf, they will then try to tell you that actually, they’ve remembered another word they know. That word is almost always gwasanaethau, which means “services”. Unfortunately for the English person, they’ve never learnt how Welsh pronunciation works, so even if they remember how the word is spelt, they can never pronounce it. And so the marvellous joke, the “I went to your country and all I got was this lousy road-sign” joke, never reaches its full potential.

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