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From Hong Kong to Barry – Maria and Kwok’s language journey

From Hong Kong to Barry – Maria and Kwok’s language journey

Maria Tong and Kwok Hung Cheung are originally from Hong Kong but moved to Wales in 2020. They live in Barry and started learning Welsh with Learn Welsh The Vale in October 2021.

Here’s their story:

How did you meet?

Maria: We met in a book shop just before we started university. I’m short and he’s tall and I couldn’t reach the book I wanted on the top shelf so he helped me…and the rest is history!

What did you study at university?

Kwok: I studied Applied Physics at university and then went on to work for an insurance investigating firm in Hong Kong

Maria: I studied Business Administration at another university and then went on to work for the Hong Kong government.

Why did you move to Wales?

Maria: We decided to move following the Hong Kong protest in 2019 and the passing of the National Security Law in Hong Kong in July 2020. As we were born before 1997, we have British Nationals (Overseas) status and therefore were allowed to relocate to the UK.

Kwok: My boss in Hong Kong also told me that Wales was a beautiful country and that we should consider moving there, rather than to one of the big English cities. And having lived in Hong Kong for over 40 years, we didn’t want to live in another big city!

How did you first learn of the Welsh language?

Maria: We knew nothing of the language until we moved here.  We suddenly noticed bilingual road signs in Wales, which is just like we have in Hong Kong (they have English and Chinese characters on them).  But it made us feel quite strange, as we had always understood both languages on our road signs – so we wanted to learn the language.

When did you start learning?

Maria: We started learning in October 2021. We wanted to attend classes in person rather than online, as we wanted to have direct interaction with other people learning the language.

What did you make of the language at first?

Maria: We feel that the ‘ch’, ‘ll’ ‘th’ and so on are manageable, but we find rolling our ‘r’s very hard!! It is totally different to any sound that we have!

Kwok: But Welsh is very interesting, and we love learning the language. It sounds beautiful and speaking or reading the language is such a lovely process. People are so appreciative that we are learning the language.

How often do you get a chance to speak Welsh outside class?

Kwok: Not many people speak Welsh in our community, but there are many opportunities in coffee mornings in local cafes and the library where we work part time.

Maria: Many of our classmates also come to the coffee morning in the library with us – we have brought them with us!

What’s next on your journey learning Welsh?

Maria: We are going to continue with our Sylfaen 2 course and we would also like to learn more about Wales and its history and culture.  We were delighted when we heard that the National Centre for Learning Welsh has a module, in Cantonese, all about Wales and its history – this will be brilliant for us.

The ‘Croeso i Bawb’ (All are Welcome) resource pack is available free at and includes a self-study module about Wales and an online Learn Welsh taster course.