Getting to know the learners at Nant Gwrtheyrn by Alun Jones

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Getting to know the learners at Nant Gwrtheyrn
by Alun Jones

Visiting the Nant and getting to know the learners is always an absolute pleasure. Why?

It’s a fantastic opportunity to speak to interesting learners from all over the world. I have kept in contact with many of them over the years, as I man the Lolfa stall at the National Eisteddfod every year. They often call by for a chat and many of them have mastered the language – and they always ask me which books are worth a read.

I’ve met so many over the years, that I better not mention them all. I will mention one, though – Carolyn Hodges. Carolyn is originally from Buckinghamshire and learnt Welsh while she was Managing Editor at Oxford University Press. She was a frequent student at Nant Gwrtheyrn. She was interviewed for an English language Editor post at Y Lolfa and insisted that the interview was conducted in Welsh. Her reason for moving? She wanted more opportunities to speak Welsh, and she is now living happily in Aberystwyth, working for Y Lolfa. It was Carolyn’s idea for the learners to contribute towards a special Christmas lunch for the volunteers each year ,to thank them for their service and for helping the students with their Welsh.

It’s only natural that I volunteer. I was a second-language Welsh teacher for the first ten years of my career as a teacher at Pontypridd Grammar School for Boys. I was also one of the six to put my name on the document to buy Nant Gwrtheyrn under the leadership of Carl Clowes in 1978. Following the purchase, I arranged and led one of the first weekly Welsh courses at the Nant in the only house that, at the time, had been restored. A week cohabiting, everyone cooking and learning under one roof, spending the evenings listening to the generator outside, these were the days before electricity at the Nant. This was before the road was built, and we travelled along an old trunk road in the back of a grey Ferguson to get there. Those were interesting days.

I was a trustee for about twenty-five years, working in the background. During the early years, it was the responsibility of the teachers who were trustees to give the weekly Welsh lessons. Our work was to bring together a team of teachers to the Nant during the summer holidays to take a class. All the teaching was voluntary back in those days, but it was such a pleasure and enjoyable experience that I never had a problem finding volunteers.

There’s no wonder that I still enjoy spending a Wednesday afternoon at the Nant, reminiscing about the past, but more importantly chatting and to getting to know the new learners.

I’ll finish by recommending three books for learners to read:

  • Inc by Manon Steffan from the Stori Sydyn series: Lolfa
  • More challenging: Llyfr Glas Nebo, Manon Steffan Ros: Lolfa
  • Advanced learners: O! Tyn y Gorchudd, Angharad Price: Gomer