I was brought up in the industrial valley town of Ebbw Vale in the 1960s and 1970s. The only Welsh I ever heard was on programmes like Y Dydd, Newyddion etc on BBC Wales and HTV Wales, long before S4C. Welsh was seen as a dying language then, spoken by those living in the back of beyond. It wasn’t taught in school as part of my education, although I do recall that the year following mine starting learning it.
I would always have liked to have been able to speak Welsh but there was no real opportunity at that time in that place and as I wasn’t raised with it, it just didn’t happen.
Throughout my adolescent years and early adulthood I didn’t think about it much, I was young and had plenty going on in an English-speaking world. As I matured and especially when I left Wales in the 1990s I had a hankering to know more about the language, but this was pre-internet and there was still little opportunity. Besides, by now I was married, had children and a busy job, so time was very limited. I did pay it more attention through and started learning a few words here and there when I could.
My children are grown up now and just before the pandemic, following meeting a Welsh-speaker in California of all places, I took the plunge and had a look at a few Welsh-learning options. Since then I have been going through the SSIW lessons. I’ve still not done much in terms of speaking to others but that is something that I need to step up with. Reading and writing too needs some attention and I’m sure that would move things along.
I would say that my conversational skills are still very rudimentary but my knowledge of the language is a million times better than it was before I set off on my journey to discover this wonderful language. In the early days I got frustrated if progress was slow but I have learned. My goal now is simply to learn as much as I can and see where that takes me. Fluency? A dream, probably, unless I go to live in a Welsh-speaking area. Above all, I am just happy to enjoy learning every new word and phrase as I grow into it.