05 May 2015

GSCE part I

15% down, 85% to go! In June, I will have an attempt at Welsh GSCE. But the first part of it is done now. The exam comprises reading, writing, listening and talking. The talking is partly with a tutor during the exam, but we also have to have a 5 minute conversation with a random Welsh speaker, record it, and send it in. And that has to be done by the end of April. Not sure why, but well, if that's what it takes. I had asked Phil (of the underground lot) to be my Welsh speaker. He had agreed, and we had chosen the Sunday after the Victorian trip for this event. We had just forgot to set a time. Phil had said "as early as possible" but we had not said anything more precise. And after the Victorian trip, when I wanted to finalise things, he had vanished. And he didn't look at his phone, or his computer, the rest of the day. And by the time he did the next day he already had to be on his way. Not a good start.

We then decided on another try on Tuesday afternoon. It did mean I had a little bit more time. But less opportunity to sort things out in case something would go wrong! Let's hope it wouldn't. I went home early, faffed around a bit, looked up some last words. And then I heard a car.

Phil greeted me in English. I wasn't having that; I had to be at my most Welsh! He got the hint and switched to Welsh too. I offered him a coffee and poured myself one too. We had a small chat and then I switched on the dictaphones (yes plural; time was running out, and I wanted to be sure I had a recording!). I started by asking Phil how he had ended up mine exploring. A big story followed. I was getting a bit worried. I managed to get a few words in edgewise. Then I managed to say something too, but time had been flying and I stopped the conversation at 6 minutes. Phil asked what I thought of it. I thought it wasn't quite what I had aimed for. Fortunately, we still had coffee, so he wasn't going anywhere yet anyway. We decided to do a second take. Phil suggested he ask the questions this time. That worked! In the end he went off on a tangent about the structural integrity of a specific mine anyway, but that was mainly after the required 5 minutes, so I thought it would do.

Phil said he thought I had done well. I wasn't so sure! I knew I had been halting and clunky, and that I had pretty much not answered any yes/no question properly. Not that I had given the wrong answer; I had just taken the easy way out and avoided the notoriously tricky answers and said things like "of course" and "I like it too" rather than "yes" and "no". Oh well. I am like that in most of my Welsh conversations! We'll see. I think I showed my level and I'll find out in August whether that's enough for a qualification. And in the meantime I'll keep practicing! Phil figured the Thursday nights should be all Welsh. I think that won't happen, but any extra practice would be good!


PS another addendum on yes and no; I explained earlier that what you do in Welsh is repeat the verb of the question by means of "yes" or "no". And that sounds simple, but it isn't; first of all, it means that just understanding the question isn't enough; you have to have payed attention to what exact form of the verb was used. Present, perfect, imperfect, conditional, etc? Was it a normal or empathic question? Do you have to answer in the same person or not? They might ask "did you go" in the second person but then you have to answer in first, of course. And if they ask "did the children go" you have to know that they'll ask it in third person singular, but you should answer in third person plural. And you have to distinguish between the past describing a situation or an action. And between questions such as "is there cheese left" or "is the cheese old"; that's two very different types of "is" in Welsh. So a "yes" can look as different as ydw, oes, baswn, do, cewch, fyddan, gwnawn, dylech, oedd and hoffai. And that is just a small selection...

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