Austrian finds Welsh is 'exotic' music to his ears

June 9, 2000

A love of Irish folk tales was the unlikely starting point for an Austrian academic's part in creating the first Welsh-German dictionary.

The dictionary has been launched, along with a Welsh-French version, by the Centre for Education Studies at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth.

Wolfgang Greller, the Welsh-German dictionary's author who is projects manager for language learning at Southampton University, recalls how his Celtic interests developed from Irish tales to Welsh legends while he studied linguistics at the University of Vienna in the mid-1980s.

His research won him an Austrian government scholarship to study for a year at Aberystwyth, where he returned to lecture after a brief spell back in Vienna to complete his MA.

He stayed in Wales for seven years, becoming fluent in the language he describes as "exotic".

"There is no similarity between the German and Welsh languages. But I was attracted to Welsh because it is such a melodious language and it seemed more exotic than Irish because not many people on the Continent are familiar with it," he said.

The dictionaries are important because they give students direct translations into German and French, rather than having to translate via English, he added. The increasing popularity of Welsh among young people in Wales means that the books should be well used.

"I think the Welsh language is thriving. You can hear it being spoken in Welsh cities as well as in the country by younger people, which to me shows it will survive," he said.

The dictionaries were produced with support from Trinity College, Carmarthen, and the Qualifications, Curriculum and Assessment Authority.

The Welsh-French dictionary was edited by Aberystwyth researchers Menna Wyn, Linda Russon and Meirion Davies.

Glyn Saunders Jones, director of the Centre for Education Studies, said:

"It is an important milestone for the increase and development of Welsh medium education, and is an important step towards securing the status of Welsh."

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