A great story Colin! Love the bit about the wedding! You mention your time learning with Duolingo, do you mind me asking you about your learning journey with SSiW ?
My father would tell us we were descended from welsh kings from quiet an early age. And after spending holidays on Anglesey my wife and i fell in love with all things welsh. I began and still use Dou. then saw a post about SSiw. and decided to give it a look and then a go. i simply want to learn the language to regain some of my ancestry and now i’m retired i have the time to do it.
Diolch yn fawr
That’s such a lovely story! You must let us know @gary-cadwallader if you ever find out if your father was right?
We have visited Llangadwaldr (the church of St Cadwallader) just need for find all the links lool
I’m Welsh on my mother’s side.
As a young lass I’d try to pronounce Llanfair PG and was routinely terrified by Tŷ Chwith when I switched on S4C on family trips to Gwynedd, but was told growing up that the family never really spoke Cymraeg. Unfortunately I think many of us, especially across the border, were subject to the lie that Cymraeg was practically dead in the water and there was no point unless you wanted to design novelty teatowels for the tourist market - particularly in the 90s.
For me, the seeds were sown when my sister moved to Gogledd Cymru, had my niece (who is now nearly 11), and enrolled her in Cymraeg-medium education. Thrilled to bits for her, I started poking around on YouTube just to hear what this language sounded like. I came across a lovely video of Hywel Gwynfryn speaking Cymraeg, clear as a bell (cheers Wikitongues) and the series Learn Welsh With Will. I picked up a few numbers (un, dau, tri - not phone numbers, cheeky) and bore da, diolch, etc.
Life happened. My sister did try a few Welsh for Parents classes at the school but didn’t grok with it; so any conversations in the family were conducted purely in English and my niece was (understandably) pretty shy about using her Cymraeg in front of us. I didn’t persevere with Cymraeg at the time (I was studying BSL, which as a language has had very similar struggles to Cymraeg) but it was at the back of my head right up until lockdown when I downloaded Duolingo. By now I’d had a full brainful of people telling me ‘not to bother’. Well, not only am I a contrarian sod by nature but I’ve also always had a nice hot barrel of anger that what should be languages encouraged, passed down, and celebrated just weren’t.
Duolingo’s a gateway drug. Sure, first it’s the owl. Before you know it you’re back on YouTube for another fix, and that’s when I clocked a new clip of Aran teaching Joanna Scanlan (who I loved in The Thick Of It) how to speak Cymraeg. I signed up to the taster emails and I stuck with the whole week. During lockdown I had to shield, so it was just me and the four walls, but I just didn’t want to let the SSiW man down. There was just something about the ‘pob hwyl’ signoff and the friendly voices and Aran’s nice librarian face and the instructions to relax that made me want to continue.
(Before anyone says I’m making you all sound like a cult, I’m sure there were plenty of adults out there who felt similarly about Joe Wicks or Yoga With Adriene.)
From there I progressed to taking an official Mynediad course with DysguCymraeg, as I felt I needed live reactions/tuition to my attempts at Cymraeg, and I’m not too shabby in a class environment. I also wanted to leap on the chance of getting a Zoom course before it all went back to (Cymru-based, three hours away) classrooms. Now, I don’t think there’s any danger of Zoom going anywhere given how global learning Cymraeg has become, which makes me pretty chuffed - accessibility is super important.
I’ve nearly finished Mynediad now, which got me an account to SSiW through the scheme. Just one more day of the Cwrs Dwys, and I’ll be looking at booking my exam - and I’ve also got a place for Sylfaen in the summer. My grandmother has since told me that my grandfather did understand Welsh - and his mother and a great deal of his family were fluent. They’d hold a conversation with my grandparents in English, and then answer the phone or the door in perfect Welsh. I can’t ask Grandad about that now or his feelings about his mother tongue - sadly, he died in 2006 far too young at the age of 71. I’d insert irreverent ouija-board humour here, but I’ll finish by saying I hope he’d be proud, at least.
PS. I knitted an Wcw doll last week, in honour of my first memory of spoken Cymraeg. Although from what I can find on YouTube, Tŷ Chwith has always been scary.
PPS. oh NO this is long. Diolch yn fawr iawn if you made it to the end of this essay.
The first time I heard Cymraeg was in 2002 in a restaurant in the south of Wales. I thought it was the most beautiful language I’d ever heard.
I like learning languages, considered Welsh as it was the geographically nearest one to me (important during lockdown) and chanced across the excellent SSiW. Without a good course to help me, I would have got nowhere. I was heavily pregnant with my second at the time and it kept my brain ticking over while on maternity leave. Now I play my lessons during my commute to work which makes me rail against enforced time in a car a bit less.
I went to North Wales last week but failed to speak any Welsh to anyone, largely due to shyness but also some reactions that made me wonder whether I’d been learning Urdu instead! I’m determined to go back and be braver.
Long term, I dream of persuading my husband to move our family to North Wales, maybe around Bangor. Knowing Welsh would mean I could transfer from firefighting here to the same job there, our children could go to a Welsh-medium school and I could spend any free time running around Snowdon. Heaven.
This thread continues to be a treasure trove of amazingly inspirational stories, diolch to all of you for continuing to share - your contributions are greatly appreciated.
Do any of you, by any chance, fancy sending me a selfie to go with your story? Pretty please?
I’m not sure if that’s the nicest or the worst thing anyone’s ever said to me…
If Buffy the Vampire Slayer taught me anything, never underestimate a librarian!
Yes, still ticking both boxes…
I left the Rhondda Fach for London when I was just five years old (taking my parents with me), but some of my earliest memories are of older (sadly now deceased) relatives conversing with each other, with neighbours and with the Minister at Horeb in Welsh. Sixty-two years later, I hope to improve the rudimentary bits and pieces of Welsh that I possess to a standard that will enable me to understand much better the programmes on SC4 and the broadcasts on BBC Radio Cymru and bring me linguistically closer to the cultural life of Wales. Unfortunately, in Staffordshire, where I now live, there is little chance of my being able to practise conversational Welsh with anyone around here. I am a fluent German speaker, having lived and worked in Bavaria (which enjoys its own fascinating regional dialects) for many years. This has made it a cause of great personal sadness that I do not have command of the beautiful language of my birth. My personal target is to attain a decent level of proficiency in time for my 70th. This is a retirement project, but I have many others. More than that, it will help to fill an emotional void that has accompanied me throughout my life. I’ve obviously left it a bit late in life to achieve a high level of proficiency, but I’m going to give it my best shot. Thank you for creating this inspiring learning resource.
You have absolutely not left it late at all, Jason and you have as much chance at success with learning and speaking Welsh as anyone else - go for it!
All the very best to you and we look forward to hearing about your progress.
Diolch yn fawr iawn, Catrin, for your kind words of encouragement. My familiarity from early childhood with the sound of spoken Welsh means I already have a pretty good basis for making progress. I unfortunately suffer from increasingly poor hearing in public spaces nowadays, but I can still usually spot a North Walian accent a mile off and enjoy guessing where people come from when I hear them speak on the television/radio. And having previously learned German to the high standard required for my old job, I’m pretty sure in retirement that I can add a third language to my repertoire . . . if I just get off my bottom. Which is what I now intend to do. Thoughts of winning the Chair at the Eisteddfod 2024 in the Rhondda might be a bridge too far , but being able to hold a half-way decent conversation with a native Welsh speaker on my visits to Wales would do me just fine and make me feel very proud. I’ll let you know how I get on. Thank you again for your encouragement.❤
I started learning Welsh as a lockdown project during the pandemic. The pubs were shut, couldn’t go outside and meet up with anyone so what else was there to do…
(There’s more to it than that, of course, but the pandemic was definitely the final catalyst)
I was born in England. My mum, born in Bristol, England but to Welsh parents, was evacuated to live with relatives in Cwm Rhondda for her formative years because of the war. She totally identified as Welsh; spoke a little, not much; whenever the 5 Nations (as was) was on telly, the rest of the family would have the England game on the big telly, and she’d be in the other room listening to the Wales match on the radio.
I went to Uni in Abertawe late '80s. I don’t recall Cymraeg being a massive thing then. There were a few bilingual bits of signage, and I used to joke that during my time there I learnt 3 bits of Welsh - the words for “toilet”, “railway station”, and “intermittent hard-shoulder”, but that’s as far as it went.
Scroll forward a few years, only after my mum died in 2009 did I really start digging into my Welsh roots. There was a formative moment when England met Wales at the rugby World Cup, must have been 2015. My Welsh identifying side had kind of grown to the point where I didn’t actually know ahead of the match which side I was going to support. The whistle blew and in that moment I left England rugby deteam behind forever. Weird, but true.
Anyway, I’d considered trying to learn a bit of the lingo a few years ago. Didn’t really think about online/app stuff, and oddly in-person Welsh classes were few and far between on this side of the border. So I parked the idea.
Scroll ahead again. I was in a Zoom meeting for participants in the Dragon’s Back Race (a running event across the mountains of Wales, my other lockdown project, long story) and the presenter kept dropping in snippets of Cymraeg. In that moment my brain finally put 2 and 2 together and went “hey Jer, they do everything online in Zoom calls now, so you’d probably find Welsh classes that do the same…”
Turned out of course that not only are there LOADS of online classes via Dysgu Cymraeg, but that it was also FREE to enroll in the beginner taster course. How could I refuse…
Turns out that mini-course was just the gateway drug, and here I am totally hooked! Passed the arholiadau Mynediad (back at my old uni, now full of bilingual signage) back in the summer. On to Sylfaen now. SSIW to myself on the walk to work each morning. Occasional DuoLingo, but now rather hooked on PolyGloss as a learning app instead. Got the car radio tuned to Radio Cymru (In Bath, I know, perfect reception, who knew…?)
SSIW is just a small piece of my learning jigsaw, but a useful one nonetheless.
Adult second language learning can be a frustrating painstaking process sometimes, but I’m going with the flow. Don’t get too frustrated that I can’t do everything. Can only gets the gist of what they’re saying on the radio, but it gets better each day…
This might as well be my first forum post!
My real journey as a dyswr only began in January, but probably took root much earlier through music - but perhaps not the kind of music you’re think of!
In the 90s I loved my punk and hardcore - especially when it came in a new language. I had (and still have) Yr Anhrefn LPs rubbing shoulders on the shelf with Basque political punk! Fast forward to 2008 and I moved to the Basque Country, learnt Spanish and Euskera, and started a family with a local who coincidentally had learnt some Welsh at Bangor Uni on a minority languages exchange in the 90s.
Fast forward again to this year, and I was learning to play/sing a song in Cymraeg - “Sbia ar y Seren”, a lovely ballad by Gorkys Zygotic Mwnci. That’s when I picked up Duolingo, and later began making my way through the old SSIW beginner course.
Still living in Euskadi, my chances to practice my Cymraeg are few. I did bump into a bloke from Caernarfon in my local pub, who was wearing a Papur Wal t-shirt (he’s one of their dads lol) and that was my first - if very broken - conversation in Welsh. I can’t tell you how proud that made me. My only claims to Welshness are a distant Welsh nain (I’m fron yr Hen Gogledd, yn wreiddiol), a love of the rugby team, and watching S4C when younger, as it reached across Morecambe Bay!
We toured north Wales in our campervan this summer, and I managed to use my Cymraeg “yn yr wyllt” a few times using some of Aran’s set-pieces… “Paid â siarad Saesneg efo fi” and thanks to another chance encounter here, I met a guy from Cardiff interested in doing a regular Euskera-Cymraeg intercambio. So, while my level is still very basic, the future looks good and I hope you all have a great time on your taith Cymraeg!
Thank you so much @robert-john-summers ! What a fascinating story! Thank you also for the picture and welcome to SSiW and to the forum!
@Deborah-SSi Tutor and Learning Support Manager currently lives and works in Euskadi and speaks Euskara!
Diolch, Catrin. If you are the Catrin from the Northern course, I do apologise for shouting over you all the time! The gaps are never big enough for me to get my words out haha
And helo from Donosti, @Deborah-SSi
It’s possible you know Ifor, the chap I bumped into in my local pub, as he was on his way to Gasteiz to record a Welsh person living there, who was probably you! Byd bach yw e!
Hmmm, sounds like that could be Ifor ap Glyn - I know him very well!