Liz Williams, who lives in Melbourne, Australia, is learning Welsh in order to understand and appreciate more about her ancestors' history - and one of the ways she practices is by using the digital resources on learnwelsh.cymru, the website of the National Centre for Learning Welsh.
Born in New York, Liz lived in Pennsylvania for a while when she was a student. She was aware of her Welsh roots, and learning about her great-great-grandfather, who emigrated from Wales to New York in 1886, made her want to learn more about the language and its history.
As a child, her father took her to several of the Cymanfaoedd Canu (traditional Welsh hymn-singing festivals) held in Welsh churches across North East America. One of her earliest memories is of standing at the front of one of those churches, aged five, and singing the Welsh hymn 'Calon Lân'. Although she could not pronounce the words correctly, or understand their meaning, the seed was planted and her interest in Wales and the Welsh language continued into adulthood
I started learning Welsh in 2012 after hearing about the SaySomethingInWelsh (SSiW) app. I also love using the resources on the National Centre for Learning Welsh's website, learnwelsh.cymru, and have been following their online courses. This helps me learn new words and strengthens my pronunciation. I can now use what I learn in everyday conversations. I was able to use Welsh during my visit to the National Eisteddfod in Meifod in 2015.Liz Williams
Liz moved to Melbourne in 2018 and decided to continue with a Welsh class there organised by the Melbourne Welsh Church. She adds, “I love listening to Radio Cymru, and watching programmes like Rownd a Rownd on S4C. I also use Duolingo every day, and organise talks on Skype with my relatives in Wales.”
Although her class in Melbourne has not been able to continue as a result of the strict Covid-19 pandemic regulations, a group of the same class come together weekly to chat with a tutor in Wales over Zoom.
On her first visit to Wales at the age of 11, the family visited the house near Aberdaron where her great-great-grandfather grew up before he emigrated to America, and this had a profound effect on Liz. She decided to return to the Llŷn Peninsula at the age of 21, visiting other places around Wales on several occasions during that year. She is now enjoying the thrill of learning more about her family history in Wales by translating old documents, letters and newspaper articles from Welsh into English.
“I've been learning Welsh online for seven months now, and this is the new normal! My favourite thing about learning Welsh is to be able to communicate with family members who still live in Wales. My great great grandfather was the only one of 10 siblings who emigrated to America. I often wonder how different my life would have been if he hadn't left Wales,” she says.
During lockdown, Liz has finished the first draft of a book which tells the story of the impact her great great grandfather’s emigration has had on the rest of the family over the generations. She also looks at her own journey to learn Welsh.
Liz adds, "My advice to Welsh learners is to ensure they have plenty of opportunities to use the language. Watching Welsh TV and listening to Radio Cymru, or even enjoying a Welsh book, has really helped me. The trick to learning the language is to keep going!”
Liz would like to thank her Welsh tutors in Pittsburgh, Melbourne and Wales who have encouraged her to keep going, and she looks forward to returning to Wales and visiting the National Eisteddfod again when that will be possible.
A range of free digital learning resources is available on our website for learners in Wales and beyond and we’re delighted to support Liz as she learns Welsh.Efa Gruffudd Jones, Chief Executive of the National Centre for Learning Welsh.