Learning Welsh with Nant Gwrtheyrn through the decades

Learning Welsh with Nant Gwrtheyrn through the decades

Janet Watkin is originally a home counties girl. Her story with the Welsh language began when she spent some time as a student in Glangwili Hospital where she met her future husband.

She decided that she wanted to speak Welsh with her children from the start. She had attended a Cwrs Carlam in Aberystwyth in 1982 then evening classes at the London Welsh Centre.

She first came to the Nant in 1983 when she was pregnant with her first child, Iwan. It was quite the trip! Travelling down the steep gravel hill by tractor when six months pregnant. Then again in 1984 when Iwan was a toddler. Mamgu came as well to look after Iwan while she attended classes. She remembers tutors from that time: Cennard Davies and Marc Raimant.

Janet returned over the years, some of her most memorable trips was coming to the Nant with her children who were pupils at London Welsh School in 1989 and 1991. They spent a week playing, learning and exploring the area and some of the parents attended classes.

Moving to Bangor almost thirty years ago really helped Janet grasp the language, using it in her everyday life at work, in the community and with family and friends.

Iwan returned to the Nant in February 2018 with his family. He looked after his children while his wife attended a course. Despite the Beast from the East arriving that week Janet was able to visit Iwan and family. The Nant had been upgraded but very sympathetically. The road down was very different! Classes in the Plas not in one of the cottages and a fantastic Café. The essence had not changed since the 80’s and there are still plenty of goats.

Over the past couple of years, she has returned to the Nant, most recently attending our virtual Welsh myths advanced course. How was the experience and why did she return to her learning journey with the Nant nearly 30 years later?

“There was a moment when I showed a picture of our granddaughter, Carys to my husband. And I referred to her as ‘him’ (within a sentence). “Dyma Carys ar ei feic.” “Since when was Carys a boy?“ There are male and female words in Welsh which effect the mutation of verbs, nouns and adjectives. Any Welsh learner will tell you; they make learning Welsh quite a challenge! This was the encouragement I needed to hit the books again and brush up on my Welsh. I wanted to improve and wanted to speak correctly with my grandchildren, just like I’d wanted to learn all those years back for the sake of my children.

“So, I’ve done a few things; a weekly master class with Bangor University, I joined Dyffryn Ogwen book club and came back to where it all started – Nant Gwrtheyrn.

“I attended a proficiency course in 2018 when Ifor ap Glyn was the invited speaker to speak about one of his books. I did not hesitate to attend Rho Awch ar dy Gymraeg in 2019 with Ifor ap Glyn, the tutor. Something clicked with Ifor in the way he explained how mutations work and it also opened a new door to understanding and appreciating Welsh poetry giving me the confidence to register again when I saw the virtual myths course being advertised.

“Learning via Zoom was a different experience, getting to know people in a different way, and people from all over the world. After all, you’re straight into strangers’ homes, with people from all over the world!! But it was excellent and an experience which I really enjoyed. It gave me something to concentrate on and even though I wasn’t at the Nant, I did get a feeling for the place from the course. Our son in law has also now attended a virtual beginner’s course although they live in Preston.

“It has been difficult not seeing the grandchildren this year, but I’ve enjoyed reading and singing with them in Welsh over Zoom. They are my inspiration and encourage me to keep on improving.”