How learning Welsh brought one couple together….
On St Valentine's Day, a Pembrokeshire couple have spoken about how their love blossomed – all while learning Welsh.
Helen and Andre live near Croesgoch (between St Davids and Fishguard in Pembrokeshire) and both feel that learning Welsh has bought them close together – so much so, that André proposed to Helen in their learned language.
André has now been learning Welsh for just one term – with Helen as his course tutor.
He said: “I proposed in Welsh, having used Google translate as my guide, which led to a ‘lecture’ on mutations - clearly missing the point of my proposal! Luckily, Helen recovered and said yes after all.”
Helen Evans started learning Welsh in 2001 when an illness meant she moved home to the family farm in Pembrokeshire. She said “I got really ill in 2000 when I was working for the BBC as a journalist. I came to Pembrokeshire to get better with my parents, who moved here in 1993 from Hereford. I felt really low and lost my confidence. My mum suggest I learn Welsh, so I went to a class in St David’s and I was soon ‘hooked’ on the language. I’ve competed in the National Eisteddfod several times, reciting and writing as a learner, and in 2006, I got down to the final four for the Learner of the Year competition.
“I now work as a tutor and, during the day, at the Pembrokeshire and Local Studies Archive.
"It’s wonderful having André in my class this year. He’s originally from the Netherlands and speaks English, German and Dutch of course! So he’s very good with Welsh and is determined to be fluent and it’s always nice to have someone to carry my bag to class each week!”
New learner André said: “I feel it’s important to at least try and learn the language of the country I live in. Although English is the most common language in Pembrokeshire, I believe every effort should be made to preserve and promote the Welsh language. It also benefits me in my workplace when supporting people that have Welsh as their first language.
“With my fiancée being the tutor, it actually helps me as we are able to use more Welsh at home. Helen as a previous learner has shown how much it can enrich your life and open up new opportunities.
“We do practise together, even though I’ve only started this term. I need to use more and more Welsh and keep practising. I am also starting conversations in Welsh and Helen will respond in Welsh. The most difficult thing about learning Welsh is getting used to the singular often being a longer word than the plural!
“Helen takes great pride in teaching Welsh and is a perfectionist. She is a great advocate for the Welsh language and culture as a whole. I love the fact it’s a language steeped in tradition and built on great pride in the nation.”
Helen and André will get married in September in Pembrokeshire with a trilingual party in Welsh, English and Dutch. André added: “We want a trilingual themed wedding to honour and respect both our heritage and adopted Welsh home. We are both proud of the Welsh heritage and language and we want our wedding to reflect this.”
Kevin Davies, Head of Learn Welsh Pembrokeshire, one of the providers of the National Centre for Learning Welsh, said: “There are lots of reasons why people learn Welsh – and it’s clear to us that often people learn for romantic ones!”