Ask Sandra de Pol
This year, the Learner of the Year Award will celebrate its 40th anniversary.
Sandra de Pol is a past winner and in this article we get to know her better.
Where are you from originally?
I am originally from Agentina. I was born and raised in a city very similar to Cardiff.
When did you start learning Welsh?
I started learning Welsh in a class twice a week in 1997 in Patagonia.
At which Eisteddfod did you win the Learner of the Year Award?
I won the competition at the Llanelli and District Eisteddfod in 2000.
What do you remember about the evening?
It was a very emotional night. We had food and watched the short films which told the story of the candidates in the final (we were all from outside Wales). I was very surprised that I had the privilege of winning the competition, actually.
What difference did the award make to you?
Although I had to return to Argentina shortly after the Eisteddfod, winning the award was extremely important for me personally but it was also a very significant event for the society in Patagonia and in Wales.
It showed it was possible to learn Welsh successfully if you lived outside Wales. I am also extremely grateful that a Learn Welsh programme was established in Patagonia in 1997.
Today there are many of us, descendants of the original Welsh settlers as well as those from a Latin background like myself, who have discovered the language of heaven and use it every day in Patagonia...and in Wales.
How did you continue with your Welsh after winning the award?
I moved to Wales in 2002 to work in two Welsh secondary schools as a Spanish Assistant and the staff at the schools were very happy that I could speak Welsh.
After that I moved from Llanelli to Cardiff where I met my partner. In that period, I did the ‘Meistroli’ Welsh course and took the Advanced exam.
I later qualified as a Class Assistant with Mudiad Meithrin, and have worked in several Welsh primary and secondary schools.
I have also qualified as a Learn Welsh tutor for adults with Learn Welsh Cardiff, which is run by Cardiff University on behalf of the National Centre for Learning Welsh, and have worked there as a full-time tutor for 12 years.
What is your advice for people who are learning Welsh at the moment?
Don’t give up and grasp every opportunity to speak the language. It doesn't matter if you forget words, or mutations. What’s important is that you use the language you have learned in class, have read or heard on the television. Enjoy the feeling of chatting in Welsh.
What, in your opinion, is the most important element when rewarding the Learner of the Year?
It is very difficult to answer this question. I've judged the competition once and I have to admit, it wasn't easy at all.
But by now, I believe the emphasis is on using Welsh in the community. It is very important to see and hear Welsh in every context and to be proud that it is a living language.