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Early start proves a hit for US-based Welsh learner

New York-based musician Darhon Rees-Rohrbacher woke up at 3.15am over the summer to attend an intensive Learn Welsh course, from her home in Albany, the capital of New York State in the USA.

Darhon, who is originally from Cleveland, Ohio, completed the four-week Intermediate level course with Learn Welsh Ceredigion, Powys and Carmarthenshire, which is run by Aberystwyth University on behalf of the National Centre for Learning Welsh.  She will now progress to a weekly Advanced level Learn Welsh course in mid-September.

After retiring from nursing in April 2020, Darhon decided to concentrate on music and now works as a composer, performer, private tutor and church musician under the name Dragonflower Music.  Darhon, who has conducted numerous ‘Cymanfa Ganu’ hymn-singing festivals in the past and won third-place solo soprano at the National Eisteddfod in the late 1980s, had a special reason for learning Welsh, as she explains:

“Welsh is the language of my ancestors.  My paternal family was very proud of their Welsh heritage and often spoke of it.  My Welsh ancestor, ‘Rees Rees’ moved from Wales and purchased 300 acres of farmland near Altoona, Pennsylvania around 1800.  It is such a unique language and it’s important for me to be able to understand the meaning of the hymn texts.”

In addition to competing at the National Eisteddfod, Darhon once competed at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod and received a grant to study Welsh and the harp in Wales.  Over the years, she has followed Learn Welsh courses in Lampeter and Aberystwyth, but she has thoroughly enjoyed learning Welsh online;

“I love learning virtually due to its flexibility.  I especially enjoy using Zoom, because I can see all my classmates and interact with them.  The 3.15am start meant I had to be in bed by 8pm.  This disrupted my sleeping patterns, and they are still not quite back to normal, but it was worth it!”

Darhon is looking forward to starting her new weekly class, which is at a more reasonable hour of the day this time;
‘‘Consistency is key and attending the weekly class will, hopefully, bring me one step closer to achieving my goal of having more confidence with the Welsh language.’’