Forty Years Since our First Welsh Lesson……

Forty Years Since our First Welsh Lesson……

…….let’s have a little competition to celebrate!

2022 is a milestone in the history of Nant Gwrtheyrn, with 40 years having passed since the first Welsh class was held there. Thousands have followed the winding road down to the Nant during this time, many falling in love with the magical location as well as with the language itself. What better way of celebrating the occasion than by offering the opportunity for 12 lucky learners to attend the Nant for a 3 day residential taster course in July, completely free of charge. The package would include the taster course, two nights’ accommodation, meals and entertainment.

To win one of these excellent prizes, however, the applicants needed to do more than email their names to the Nant. As people wish to come to learn Welsh for so many different reasons, we decided to ask the applicants to explain their reasons for wanting to come to learn Welsh. It became clear from reading the applications that everyone’s story was different, and that their reasons for learning Welsh were equally as varied.

SC was a student from near Caerphilly who had recently completed her first year at Aberystwyth University. The family had lived in various locations in Britain and Germany due to her father’s work. Having moved to Wales, SC decided that she would like to be able to speak Welsh with her mother, who was fluent in the language. She added that she would, “like to be able to speak to the people in my life and those that I interact with who speak Welsh in Welsh. I think that it’s important that I learn to speak Welsh if I live in Wales.” She also believed that it would help her to take part more fully in Aberystwyth’s Welsh life.

KK, from near Manchester, on the other hand, had visited Llŷn regularly for over 35 years, coming here with her husband and their three children for holidays and weekends. Following his retirement and a period of ill-health, her husband was spending more time in Llŷn and KK hoped that she would be able to do this more regularly as well. She viewed the Welsh language as an integral part of this life, saying that her “long term goal is to live permanently in the area and would love to contribute fully to the local community, I feel that learning the language would be essential to enable this to happen.”

As he looked forward to his wedding in Nant Gwrtheyrn in 2023, SA, from Poole, wished that he could learn the language to enable him to communicate more effectively when he and his bride to be, who is from Llŷn, moved to live to North Wales next year. SA is a keen walker and added that it “would be a dream come true to be able to prepare a speech and deliver it in Welsh” on their wedding day.

SB, from Gloucestershire, started learning Welsh this year, and admitted that her language journey to date was largely from Welsh television and history books. She would like to move to Wales in the future, “and be able to speak Welsh fluently so that I can be a part of the community and play my part in reaching the ‘one million speakers’ target.”

JH’s reason for learning the language was his mother’s Welsh roots. Having left Wales for England in the 1940s, her eternal hiraeth for her country was clear to JH. On retiring, JH realised his late mother’s dream by purchasing a farm in Eifionydd. He wanted to learn Welsh to play a greater part in the farming and cultural life of his new square mile. Learning the language would also enable him to help local businesses due to his expertise in the field of innovation.

AG cited falling in love as his reason for learning Welsh. That is, falling in love with Wales, following a visit to his friends’ house in Waunfawr in 1986. He described his long journey from his Manchester home, his late arrival in Caernarfon, the welcome of a hot bath and lobscows in Waunfawr, and his surprise on waking up in the morning to find the village and surrounding mountains under a blanket of snow. Although his “knowledge of the people and culture of Wales is far beyond that of most Saesneg (sic), the final barrier to fully embracing (his) love is language.”

Bangor-born EW moved to Cheshire aged 3. She described holidays in Pwllheli with her ‘English’ Nain and her surprise on meeting a lady who only spoke Welsh. She also described her sadness on hearing that her ‘Welsh’ Taid was not allowed to speak Welsh at school. While on a walking trip in 1983 she came to a lost village, learning later that this was in fact Nant Gwrtheyrn. Now in Swansea, she hoped to attend the 2023 National Eisteddfod as a Welsh learner.

AC did not study Welsh at GCSE but her interest was re-ignited following a visit to Cardiff with a ‘Twitter’ friend and being inspired by the Welsh atmosphere. She took part in online taster sessions and admitted to practising her Welsh out loud and singing ‘Yma o Hyd’ while walking her dog in Worcestershire!

DH’s Welsh story started with a sheepdog bite while walking in the Welsh countryside. Beti, the farmer’s wife, came to her rescue and welcomed her to the house. Her ability to effortlessly change between English and Welsh impressed DH. Although she had spent many a holiday in Wales, learning the language had never occurred to her, but she started learning online and enjoyed the experience immensely.

It’s clear from these stories that the Welsh language means and offers different things to different people, with most viewing learning Welsh as a means of playing a fuller part in their lives in Wales. The successful group from the competition have now been with us at the Nant. It was a pleasure to welcome them and, from their comments, it is clear that they enjoyed the experience as well. The best of luck to them on their journey to learn Welsh, and we look forward to welcoming them and thousands more down the winding road to the Nant over the next four decades.