I’m currently in Bangor, Gwynedd in search of a new place to live – I plan to move here soon and will be starting an MA in Linguistics at Bangor University in September.

Bangor is one of the smallest cities in the UK and is an attractive place with views across the Menai Strait to Anglesey (Ynys Môn) and along the North Wales coast. Students make up a significant proportion of the population, at least during term time, and at least half of the permanent population speak Welsh as their first language, which is one of the reasons why I chose the course in Bangor.

Welsh has now ousted Mandarin as the dominant language (apart from English) in my head. Mandarin dominated for many years, even after I left Taiwan. Now when I try to say things in languages other than Welsh, they come out partly in Welsh, or with Welsh word order, which tends to confuse people. There aren’t many people around, as far as I know who can follow a Mandarin/Welsh mixed conversation. Well, I do know one person who could.

On the train on the way here today I heard some people talking in an unfamiliar language. As I usually do, I tried to work out which language it was. At first I assumed it was Spanish or Portuguese as I saw Iberia Airlines tags on their bags and they looked Hispanic. When I listened more closely, I realised it wasn’t either of those languages, though there did seem to be a few Spanish loanwords, which made me suspect it was maybe Quechua or one of the other indigenous languages of Latin America. Unfortunately I didn’t have a recording device to hand, otherwise I could have posted a recording here to see if any of you recognised the language. I suppose I could have asked the people what language it was, but where’s the challenge in that?!

This entry was posted in Chinese, Language, Travel, Welsh.

0 Responses to Bangor

  1. Uff! Something similar happened to me last summer when I visited the temples in Agrigento. We were in a bit of a rush to leave before the parking closed, and a few metres behind me I could hear two middle-aged women, Mediterranean-looking, speaking a language I couldn’t understand at all but whose numerous fricative and plosive sounds with open vowels completely fascinated me. It seemed to have some Semitic elements, but was nothing like Maltese, Arabic or Hebrew, I would easily have picked out a word or two. It definitely wasn’t Turkish or Albanian. Their speech was music to my ears, one year later I still regret not turning round to politely ask them where they were from! Perhaps it was Georgian, or Armenian… The worst thing is, if I happen to hear it again, I will never be sure that it is the same language 🙁

    Good luck in the house-hunting and for the M.A. I hope you’ll still find time to blog!

  2. Joe DeRose says:

    I do the same thing, eavesdropping when I hear another language. I was on Atlanta’s MARTA (metro) train this past weekend and heard a family speaking in what sounded like a familiar language — Spanish or Portuguese I thought (just like in your example). But I was missing a lot of words and some things just weren’t right in the pronunciation. When I finally got the courage to greet them (in Spanish), I learned that they were a family, the father born in Italy, but all of them living in Costa Rica. They were passing through Atlanta on the way to visit Italy, and so were shifting between Spanish (the native language for the kids and a language of fluency for the father) and Italian (which the kids were studying).

    Dutch (which I don’t speak) always messes me up. It always sounds to my ears like it might be French or German. (And people always tend to use such a low volume when speaking in a foreign language that I miss the clues I need.) Each time I’ve asked, “Est-ce que vous parlez français?” or “Sprechen Sie Deutch?” the situation has turned awkward when they reply (in the appropriate language) “Yes, but how did you know?”

    — Joe | Atlanta | USA

  3. Nikki says:

    Hey, how is Bangor pronounced, with [ŋ] or [ŋg]?

  4. Simon says:

    It’s usually pronounced with /ŋg/ I think.

  5. Peter J. Franke says:

    It also could be Basque/Euskadi (they have Castilian loanwords); or was it Catalan? The Galician dialect is a mixture of Castilian and Portuguese and some years ago I came across a family from Ceuta (Bab Sebta), a Spanish enclave at Marocco’s north coast, near Gibraltar. There dialect is a special mix of Maghrebi and Castilian.

  6. Ramses says:

    Hm, Dutch sounding like French? Not in a single way! Maybe apart from the throat-rolled R… German, maybe, but the accent differ waaaay too much.

    Simon: maybe it was Papiamentu/o or another Portuguese-bases creole language?

  7. alexandra says:

    perhaps they were speaking catalan, the language of catalunya (barcelona). it borrows quite a few words from spanish and italian while taking on more french or portuguese pronunciations.

  8. Simon says:

    I’m fairly sure it wasn’t Catalan, Galician or another Romance language. It could have been Basque though.

  9. Ramses says:

    Hm, Basque is really another language with few Romance-language influences (and then I’m talking about vocabulary). It’s just so different that it doesn’t even look like Spanish…

  10. Damon Lord says:

    I echo the above statement that it could have been Basque.

    And I hope it all goes well for you in Bangor; it’s a beautiful university, and depending on which student accomodation you get into (if you choose to), you’ll have some beautiful views. I spent six months living in the Friddoedd site and studying at Bangor before moving to a different university. Dim problem, mei wenti!

  11. Simon says:

    Damon – I’ve found a small house to rent in the Hirael district just round the corner from Beach Road / Lôn Glan Môr. I’ll be moving in there in about two weeks’ time.

  12. Jon says:

    Hi Simon

    I’ve been reading your blog for about a year and I’m really happy you’re coming to Bangor. Lynne Murphy (head of Ling at Sussex) put me on to Omniglot last year as she said she originally thought it might be me (I lived in Brighton then). After looking at the blog I told her I was very flattered she thought it could be me writing it as there’s no way I’d be able to create something so amazing…

    I’m a post doc in the Bilingualism Centre at Bangor and will be here for another year or so. Once you are settled in, come and meet us. My office is just round the corner from Pam’s and Eddie’s so you have probably been past a few times already. Hope to see you soon.

    all the best


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