Robert Gee

I love trying to understand and get to know different cultures and the only way to do that is through the language. My wife’s mother was from South Wales but was only taught English, as her father, a head teacher, said that you had to speak English to get anywhere. She was 100 years old when she died in 2020 and insisted that Welsh was the most difficult language to learn and virtually impossible. So that was it!
When my wife and I were looking for a house to retire to, after years of living in Church houses as Ministers, we found our ideal home in North Wales. A beautiful small village which is somewhere that we both love, having both been brought up in small villages.

On visiting my new GP in Bala (a Welsh speaking area) my doctor suggested that I learn Welsh. I can’t resist a challenge, and the prospect of proving my mother in law wrong was too good to miss. I looked around for courses, but few were convenient and required evening classes – which during winter would have been challenging for me. I discovered SSiW and took up a special offer!

It’s been brilliant: before the pandemic I was able to meet like minded learners and listen to talks in Welsh (not that I understood much then); I also engaged with my neighbours in the village who were very helpful.
At my mother in law’s 100th birthday party I spoke to her in Welsh – to prove that it isn’t impossible to learn the basics. She was surprised. The pandemic demonstrated that the SSiW process is resilient and accessible and I continued to work through the course. Instead of in person chats I chatted online.

Now I find myself reading the road signs and notices in Welsh first and then the English if I’m stumped! I love Welsh folk music and feel like I’m more inculturated in my adopted homeland. I have attended Welsh speaking Chapels and we even have an online Welsh Methodist service once a month. These days I try to think in Welsh and sometimes, though not yet often, do it without realising! I feel so much more connected with the people and my home. I feel that I owe it to the lovely, welcoming people of Wales to honour their history and their language, and I have gained so much from the experience.