My Mother Tongue
by Bethany Celyn
Like a moth in the dark I flew to London, that intricate web adorned with bright lights. I breathed city life. The anonymity. The excitement. I was here, there and everywhere. I discovered new tastes, new sensations and a new desire to escape everything I had ever known. To reinvent myself.
I was immersed – intoxicated – and had an insatiable desire to learn and to experience everything; but it didn’t take too long for the brash tones of English to thicken my tongue. My accent bore only the slightest hint of the Clwydian hills, not enough for people to realise that I am foreign in my familiarity. That my heart, mind and whole perception of life is through Welsh. I became lost between two tongues as I was painted over with a British brush.
Hiraeth wrapped its arms around me. My tongue longed to curl around the familiar letters of my language. I hid in words, in music and long nights. I would drink and dance and laugh, and laugh some more, and then cry. I saw my language and culture in everything, and felt a desperate need to share them – for people to listen – to understand that Welsh exists. That we exist. That I exist.
During my third year in the lights I often found myself stood on my windowsill breathing in the night air from the large window of my third floor flat. Drunk on city lights I would always look to the sky for the slightest hint of stars. They brought me comfort as I missed a Welshness that I wasn’t sure I had even experienced. I felt a burning desire to create – to contribute my voice to the Welsh spectrum – to breathe life, creativity and expression through my first language.
“I became lost between two tongues as I was painted over with a British brush.”
And during those long city nights, I knew that there was a large part of me that I could never hope to share beyond the rhythms and tones of my mother tongue. That there was a beat that could never be heard. Meaning that could never be understood. I knew that I must return and carry with me a hint of that city glow. The richness – diversity – the possibility. To live the Welshness that I was missing, even if it didn’t exist. I had to try, for the sake of my sanity and very existence.
The thought of leaving London frightened me. Young and aspirational, I had always imagined my future in the Big Smoke or beyond; and yet the thought of returning to Wales also frightened me. But what a sobering thrill to discover that my biggest desire in life is to live and to create through my mother tongue. Such a simple and yet such a profound notion.
I am as changeable as the moon and as bright as the stars. I cannot say where my path will lead. Perhaps the city lights will draw me back some day with a surer tongue and stronger heart. But right now, I am finding my voice between the hills, mountains and city lights of Wales, and if you listen carefully, you might hear its echo.
Bethany Celyn | @BethCelyn
Beth is a singer, composer and (aspiring) writer from North Wales and graduated from King’s College London last summer with a first in BA (Hons) English Language and Literature. When she isn’t making music or dabbling with words you’ll find her performing at numerous gigs and festivals and travelling here and there looking for the next adventure, great or small.