Teaching Welsh has been a big part of my life for many years; in secondary school, I used to enjoy visiting evening classes to speak to learners as part of a Cynllun Pontio (Bridging Scheme).
Background: A passion for study, research and lifelong learning
Between 2004 and 2007, during my undergraduate years at Aberystwyth University studying Welsh, I established and ran a Welsh conversation and social society for students who were Welsh learners. In 2011, I became a Welsh for Adults tutor at the University, and since then I have taught an unbroken string of intensive weekly classes – along with Work Welsh classes, week-long courses and residential summer schools. Following two years of formal study, I gained the Welsh for Adults National Teaching Qualification in 2018.
Welsh is also my academic field of study. After graduating with a B.A. Single Honours in Welsh in 2007, I went to Bangor University, where in 2010 I graduated with an M.A. in the Study of Religion with a thesis that focused on 20th century Welsh-language publications in the field. Following on from this, I completed an MPhil in Welsh from Aberystwyth University in 2013. Since 2015, I have been working on a PhD thesis on the linguistic and cultural hybridity of translations into Welsh in the long 19th century with the University of Wales’ Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies.
I was also the Research Officer on the Mercator Institute project at Aberystwyth University to compile Cronfa Cyfieithiadau’r Gymraeg, an online library of 20th-century translations into Welsh in the Arts, the Humanities, and the Social Sciences. During my studies and my career, I have presented and published research in conferences and publications in Wales, Europe, and North America.
The role of a Work Welsh Training Officer
I began this role in July, and have been very busy from the outset, establishing new lessons, activities and events that will provide the perfect opportunities for the staff of Ceredigion County Council to learn Welsh in engaging ways.
My job offers both a chance and a challenge to develop new formal and informal teaching programmes in the field of learning Welsh. The Work Welsh Pilot Scheme, funded by the National Centre for Learning Welsh, is a pioneering one that answers a vital need in Ceredigion, one that will, in turn, feedback into the broader conversation about teaching and learning in the Work Welsh education sector in general. I see it as a chance to develop something new that is of genuine value to the people around me. It is, therefore, a very important and especially exciting opportunity, an endeavour of which I’m really pleased to be part.
Teaching a class is the primary joy of any tutor. It’s a privilege to assist a learner on their journey to fluency and to get to respond to the challenge of preparing and delivering classes of the highest quality to best serve the needs of the learners, both as individuals and as members of unique classes. Formal teaching also brings its duties – the duty of detailed preparatory research, the duty of informed and correct leadership to the learners, and the duty of constantly improving the tutor’s own understanding of the subject. I go about preparing and delivering all the Council’s classes with these duties clear in my thoughts, and with the specific needs of the learners forever at the forefront of my mind.
Language is a communal phenomenon and the provision of opportunities for learners to become a language community and use their Welsh outside of the classroom is also a vital part of my job.
In response to this, I arrange a weekly Clwb Cinio Cymraeg for Council staff. The Clwb gives learners of every level and fluent speakers a chance to meet over lunch to speak in Welsh. This is a welcoming space in which learners may use and develop their Welsh – perhaps for the very first time outside of class – and in doing so, become a part of the Council’s community of Welsh speakers.
I also coordinate the Council’s Ffrind Iaith (Language Friend) scheme. With this scheme, the Council’s learners and fluent speakers are paired together, meeting with each other regularly to use their Welsh in different situations. The scheme provides another opportunity for the Council’s learners to take their Welsh beyond the classroom and to become a language community.
A chance to talk
I arrange a programme of events to supplement the formal and informal learning. These have included a trip to the National Eisteddfod, visits by influential and popular guest speakers in the world of Welsh, and various other activities of linguistic and cultural interest to our learners.
To mark Shwmae Su’mae day this year, the Clwb Cinio Cymraeg celebrated by competing in a grand Shwmae-themed bake-off. The event was a success with a great turn out, all the learners enjoyed having a chat in Welsh over a cuppa and a scrumptious slice of homemade cake!
Shwmae Su’mae day itself, which occurs every year on 15 October, is an opportunity to have fun and share the Welsh language – in the shop, leisure centre, work, school, playing fields and with your friends. Anyone can show their support of this campaign by starting a conversation in Welsh; why not give it a go!
Busy and varied
Every day is unique and productive, offering new ways to contribute to the use of Welsh amongst the Council’s staff, which is why I enjoy my role so much as a Work Welsh Training Officer.