I was born on the original VE day (8/5/45) in a coal and steel “valleys” town to a Welsh speaking Llangadog mother and an English speaking Ebbw Vale father. When I was about 2, the family moved to the North East of Scotland where I had the benefit of an Aberdonian school and university education. I spent the next 20+ years in England and came to Aberystwyth in 1990 to establish the European Office at the university. Until I retired in the early millennium, there really wasn’t time to learn Welsh.
In Aberdeen, there was little opportunity to talk Welsh (although I became proficient in the local Doric) but my brother and I spent all our idyllic childhood summers divided between Ebbw Vale and Llangadog. I still remain grateful to our childhood friends in Llangadog who generously included us in all their conversations and games without hesitation. This goes against the oft-repeated and unfair urban myths which portray Welsh people using their language to exclude people. “I walked into this shop in Ulan Bator where everyone spoke English (as I could tell from the microphones I had planted there the day before). As soon as we walked in, they all broke into Mongolian.”
My work involved using English and French but little Welsh. On retiring I started to put that right. I attended a number of formal classes at different levels and an intensive month-long summer course at the university. These courses were all excellent and well delivered but, although I have some proficiency in languages, I found they didn’t stick. I found SaySomethinginWelsh in its early days and quickly built enough confidence through its method and many bootcamps to use my Welsh most days. I often talk to my son, who works locally, in Welsh and love talking to my granddaughter who goes to a local Welsh medium school provided she is in the mood . My English wife understands an enormous amount of Welsh (perhaps too much). The biggest and most rewarding milestone for me, however, was being able to converse with my Cymraes Gymraeg mother in her mother tongue before she died. I will always owe a huge debt of gratitude to SSiW for that. (People who knew her will understand my enjoyment that, even on her deathbed, she would correct me on my Welsh).
I have now reached a sort of complacent plateau far short of fluency, especially in reading and writing, but I am confident that, if and when I am ready to progress, SSiW’s resources are there to help. I will continue to encourage and support family, friends and the online community to learn Welsh and other languages not because they ought to but because languages are key to communication, mutual understanding and are, above all, great fun.