Some say that we shouldn’t look back, that it’s healthier to set our sights forward, embracing newness and progress. But sitting in the sun on the Eisteddfod Maes, a pint of something cold and golden in hand, in the company of learners who became speakers who became friends, and looking back over their learning journeys, is such a great pleasure.
There’s Carolyn from Oxford who now lives and works through the medium of Welsh in Aberystwyth. Mark from Coventry spent the whole week at the Eisteddfod through the medium of Welsh, and I can’t ever remember thinking of Margaret from Sir Gaerfyrddin as a non Welsh speaker.
Seeing how Welsh has transformed these individuals’ lives, is not only inspirational, but for me as a first-language Welsh speaker, it’s profoundly moving.
I was born and raised in the area of this year’s National Eisteddfod, in the county with the highest percentage of Welsh speakers in Wales – proud of the fact that I could live every day without fail through the medium of Welsh, fearful that the language which was/is such an integral part of my identity, was facing such an uphill battle.
When I was a child, I couldn’t have ever predicted that working with Welsh learners would be a part of my future. But here I am.
Working with SSiW has become one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and as it turns out, Welsh learners are the best kinds of people. Bearing witness to their learning journeys and the way in which they approach those journeys with such enthusiasm and gratitude, is an endless pleasure. Their determination to keep on when it feels difficult and their love for our culture is always awe-inspiring. They’re helping to keep our language alive and for this, we are endlessly grateful.
So, diolch to Stan and Therese who greeted us with the warmest smiles at the Eisteddfod, wearing their SSiW badges with pride! Diolch to Catherine Marsh whose emotional embrace will stay with me forever – roedd hi’n fendigedig cwrdd â ti. Diolch to John and Leia for the chats – always a pleasure! Diolch Hendrik for the sgwrs and the music. Diolch also to Geraint, Sara, David, Kiri, Talat, Aleighcia and so many more of you who made the journey to Pen Llŷn and the effort to come and meet us.
The SSi community is a truly inspirational gathering of people, who love the Welsh language passionately. It is an extraordinary privilege to be part of it.
When SSiW was very young, one of the things which kept us going through those early days of cultivating were the little snippets of feedback we’d often receive from our learners. Like tiny green shoots in a new garden, we knew there was reason to hope that our methodology was succeeding in growing new Welsh speakers.
Our relationship with our community of learners has been essential to our growth and development. Not only does it serve as a constant source of hope and inspiration, but it’s been essential in showing us how to best nurture and support learners and new Welsh speakers, therefore helping to strengthen the Welsh language.
Over the years we’ve been privileged to hear the most wonderful stories and testimonials. From tales of learners ordering a paned (cuppa) in Welsh for the first time, to those who’ve transformed their lives by moving to Wales to live and work through the medium of Welsh, our community’s achievements never cease to amaze and delight us.
It is a pleasure for us to be able to share with you this ever-growing treasury of stories via our website and YouTube channel. We hope they inspire you as much as they do us.