Welsh is sometimes mocked for allegedly possessing a limited lexicon, which apparently means that we rely on weird committees to make up new words for recent inventions, or, failing this, that we just steal the English words and spell them oddly.
It is a strange accusation in many ways. It’s true that new words are constantly being coined in Welsh, but that’s hardly unusual. If there is some sort of formal committee somewhere that is tasked with inventing words for novel concepts, none of us have ever heard of it. Like in most languages, words are coined quite “organically”. If they catch on, they catch on; if they don’t, they don’t, and someone somewhere starts using others ones that do.
It is true that, occasionally, a word will simply be borrowed from another language (which, yes, often means from English). Again, however, this is hardly unique and doesn’t say anything instructive about the inherent value of Welsh. The truth is that every language pillages. For what it’s worth, no language does so more prolifically than English. It is true that English has more recognised words in its vocabulary than any other language, but that hardly means that those words are all Anglo-Saxon in origin. To the contrary, the vast majority have been pinched, from languages from every corner of the globe: not only Latin, Greek and French but also Hungarian, Māori, Malay, Korean, Czech, Hawaiian and, yes, Welsh. English is the ultimate mongrel language, but the whole point is that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
So yes, Welsh does include many borrowings (not only from English, but also from Latin, as a result of the Roman occupation; this actually comes in handy sometimes for the Welsh-speaker when learning a Romance language like French). The classic example of a borrowed word in Welsh, which is often used to attack the language’s legitimacy, is “tacsi”. Many people find this a source of much mirth when they see it emblazoned on our taxis. “Ambiwlans” is another, which, as you can probably guess, means “ambulance”. Apparently Welsh is so ill-equipped to deal with these new-fangled concepts that we simply leap for the nearest English word, change it a bit to make it look funny, then think “that’ll do”.
The problem with this assumption, of course, is that both “taxi” and “ambulance” are of Latin origin. Countless languages have adopted these terms in exactly the same way, and adapted them to suit their respective orthographies (the Welsh alphabet doesn’t include “x”, for example). So the convenient transport service that we call a “tacsi” in Welsh is “táxi” in Portuguese, “taksi” in Turkish, “takso” in Estonian, “teksi” in Malay and “такси” in Russian. Similarly, the emergency vehicle that is known in Welsh as an “ambiwlans” in Welsh is “ambulanssi” in Finnish, “ambulanza” in Italian, “ambulanță” in Romanian and “амбуланта” in Macedonian. I’m sure you get the idea.
There is nothing unusual going on here: Welsh is merely doing the exact same thing that every other language does. For some reason, however, this is often held up as a sign of some sort of deficiency in Welsh. You may remember the story about George Bush claiming that the trouble with the French is that they don’t have a word for “entrepreneur”. It isn’t true, as it happens, but it is funny because we can kind of imagine Dubya saying it. We laugh because it’d be a very silly thing indeed to say. The point is that it isn’t all that different to mocking Welsh simply because we’ve adapted the word “taxi” slightly differently to how it’s been done in English.