Two members of the same family, who live thousands of miles apart, have recently come into contact again through a Learn Welsh class.
Kris Dobyns attends a Learn Welsh class via Zoom from her home in Ontario, Canada, run by Learn Welsh North East – led by Coleg Cambria and Popeth Cymraeg on behalf of the National Centre for Learning Welsh. The class is taught by her nephew, Owain Talfryn, who lives in Sweden.
Kris and Owain last met in person 16 years ago, when Owain visited his grandmother in Seattle, Washington, with his mum, Pegi Talfryn. Pegi attended a Welsh university in 1975, met her husband, raised a family, and never returned to her hometown of Seattle.
After learning the language, Pegi is now a fluent Welsh speaker and this inspired Kris to learn Welsh during the coronavirus pandemic. Kris hopes that she can safely travel to Wales one day to see her sister and family, and put her Welsh language skills into practice.
Kris says: ‘‘Learning Welsh has become my little bit of hope for a better future, a future where people can travel easily again, a future where I can go to Wales with my husband and visit my sister and her family. And a future where I can have fun talking to other people and listening to them in Welsh. This hope keeps me going in my Welsh studies.’’
Learning Welsh in a virtual classroom has been a positive experience for Kris, and having learners join from all corners of the globe has been fun, she explains;
‘‘I enjoy meeting people from all over who are interested in learning Welsh. I’ve met learners from Canada, France, England and of course, Wales. Owain is a great tutor and his experience of learning other languages like Swedish, Gaelic and Icelandic, has helped him be more in tune with the challenges that can sometimes arise when learning a new language.’’
Brought up in Rhyl, Owain and his family moved to Waunfawr, Gwynedd during his teenage years and he’s been living in Uppsala, Sweden for the past three years. From a young age, Owain expressed an interest in languages and recently gained a Masters degree in English from Uppsala University.
‘‘I have learnt many languages over the years, and as a result, I understand why some people feel anxious when faced with the prospect of learning a brand new language. The most important thing is to encourage learners to stick at it and remind them that they can achieve their goal, even if it takes time. It’s great to see Aunt Kris joining each week, and I hope we can meet in person back in Wales in the not too distant future!’’
Image: Kris and her husband, Keith.