Travels in an Old Tongue

British edition, Flamingo, HarperCollins, London, 1997

The idiosyncratic and witty travelogue of a young Welsh-speaking woman who travels the globe in search of Welsh communities. The acclaimed debut of a remarkably witty and engaging travel writer (Bill Bryson meets Jan Morris). At once a fascinating travelogue and an innovative book about the consequences of language. 


A delightful read – a marvelous mixture of wit, nostalgia, character description and atmosphere setting. Anyone who is Welsh, or who has connections with Wales, should read it, as should anyone who isn’t, and hasn’t, but who simply wants to work out what on earth is going on in the minds, hearts and mouths of those for whom Welsh is the language of heaven.

Professor David Crystal

I cannot commend it too highly, for, however she may react to Greeks in the morning, Miss Petro knows how to write. Enthusiastic and indiscreet, funny and learned, she is about as good a travel companion as you can get. Her book is delightful.

Byron Rogers, The Spectator

Pamela Petro has written a powerful, colourful, sprawling, sparkling book. Everyone concerned with mission, nationhood or devolution should read it at once.

Brian Morris, Lord of Castlemorris, The Church Times

This book gives the most honest account I have ever read of the trials that await the would-be learner of a minority language…The result is a revealing travel book full of insights. Petro has a fine turn of phrase too.

Foundation for Endangered Languages

This wonderfully refreshing book is saved from the artificiality of its own set task by a second, almost existential journey which Petro makes through the Welsh language. This, for me, was where the real adventure of this marvelous book lay… The resulting book deserves a place alongside such classics as Eva Hoffman’s Lost in Translation.

Petro is particularly good on the relationship between a language and its history.

Seeing a language as a landscape is a clue to why this travelogue is so immensely enjoyable, because Petro has all her senses working as she looks at the external view and the interior speech-scape.

Read this book, it’s funny, instructive, and beautifully written.

Gwyneth Lewis, First National Poet of Wales, Planet: The Welsh Internationalist

This is a journey around the language rather than the nation, but somehow, by being an outsider exploring the edges of Welshness with an enthusiasm for its peculiarities, its strange vowels and convoluted sentence structures, Petro sees the country with clearer eyes than many writers who have been a great deal closer.

Carole Cadwalladr, The Sunday Telegraph

If ever there was an unlikely idea for a travel book, this is it. The strange thing is, her irreverent—and frequently hilarious—account actually works.

The Scotsman

Her four-month expedition takes her through Oslo, Athens, Tokyo and Bangkok to the Welsh settlers in Patagonia and Buenos Aires, and throws up some hilarious experiences and acute observations.

The Guardian


British edition, Flamingo, HarperCollins, London, 1997