This article was first published in the Western Mail
Come and try out your Welsh!
“Learning a language is like learning a musical instrument – it takes a lot of practice,” says Helen Prosser, Director of Strategy at the National Centre for Learning Welsh. A new festival for Welsh learners, Ar Lafar, is set to provide lots of opportunities for people to use and enjoy their Welsh – Helen Prosser explains more:
I was fortunate to learn Welsh at Tonyrefail Comprehensive School way back in the seventies, and from there I went on to Aberystwyth University to study Welsh which meant opportunities for total immersion in the language. Adults learning Welsh, unless they live in a Welsh speaking family, rarely have this opportunity for total immersion and this is why providing regular social opportunities for adults to practise their Welsh is so important for the National Centre for Learning Welsh, its providers and its partners.
Ar Lafar (the Welsh word for ‘spoken’) on 22 April is a new initiative between the Centre, National Museum Wales and the National Library of Wales. It is a festival to celebrate Welsh learning and there will be a full programme of activities for learners and their families at four different sites: the National History Museum at St Fagans, the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea, the National Slate Museum in Llanberis and the National Library in Aberystwyth. Among the activities on offer will be talks introducing some of our national treasures at these sites, theatrical performances and craft sessions. There will also be short, Welsh taster sessions available for non-Welsh speakers who’d like to learn some very basic Welsh. It will be a fun day to round off the Easter holidays, and all free of charge.
The saying goes that no-one can learn a language in a classroom. This isn’t meant to undermine the importance of attending a course, but rather is meant to emphasise the importance of regular practice to achieve fluency. Throughout Wales, the Centre’s providers and other partners provide regular opportunities for practice in events such as coffee mornings, luncheon clubs, book clubs, walking clubs, visits to Welsh language theatre productions and quiz evenings, to mention just a few. Ar Lafar has a similar aim but is on a bigger scale and will give people the opportunity to meet with learners from different areas. Buses are being arranged from north-east Wales to Llanberis, and from north-west Wales and Pembrokeshire to the National Library in Aberystwyth.
The National Centre for Learning Welsh has been responsible for Welsh for Adults since August 2016, and this is its first large scale national event for learners to enjoy practising their Welsh. It couldn’t have happened without the co-operation of the National Museum and National Library. It has been so heartening to meet with national bodies throughout Wales who want to open their doors to Welsh learners and help them on the road to fluency by offering the opportunity to practise.
Other partnership initiatives include working with the National Theatre to provide a pack for learners to help them understand and enjoy the recent Welsh language production of Macbeth at Caerphilly Castle, working with the Urdd Centre at Llangrannog to hold a Welsh for the Family residential course during the half-term February break, and working with our Welsh language broadcasters, S4C and Radio Cymru to make Welsh language programmes more accessible to learners. The Welsh Books Council has recently announced significant funding to provide a suite of reading books for learners which will be published to correspond with the launch of new course materials for learners in September 2018.
Practice can involve passive enjoyment of the language – particularly reading and enjoying the Welsh media, and these activities are a great help with learning vocabulary. But there is nothing quite like the buzz of trying out your newly acquired skills with another person. Ar Lafar will provide that buzz. Yes, learning a language takes a lot of practice, but it is well worth the effort. See you on 22 April. Events kick off at 11am.