In the City of Cardiff there is a
Broadway. There is a City Road. There is an Albany Road. There
is a Fitzalan Road. English names.
Also there is Boulevard de Nantes,
Australia Road, New Zealand Road, and Africa Gardens.
Then there is Gellegaer Street, Cathays
Terrace, Llantrissant Street and Crwys Road.
On my tongue there was no Welsh until I
had lived a while in the city of Cardiff. Inevitably I would
fail the Postman Test. But they didn't send me away, instead they
gave me work in the parcel department where machines did the reading.
"Gelligaer" is pronounced
"GETH-LEE-GARE" and it means small wood.
"Cathays" is pronounced "CAT-TAYS". "Crwys" is pronounced "CREW-IS"
and it means cross.
In the parcel department, I learned the
sound of Welsh names without ever having to spell them. My
pronunciation could never match the Welsh speaker who could turn his
tongue into those native shapes that had left me bewildered.
In Kentucky there is Louisville, Versailles, Cadiz, Lebanon. When I
first came to Kentucky I had to relearn words I thought I knew.
"LOOWVLE", "VERSE-AILS", "KAY-DEEZE",
Pronunciation does not need to be native. It needs to be
roughly right, otherwise a person can sound foolish, or stubborn,
sometimes even ignorant.
I remember too the "The little flower that dies
of shame" (Luganda for the sensitive plant) but I could never spell
it. Nor could I spell "Sit on the floor" (Ateso for make
yourself at home).