Learning Welsh has been a ‘life-changer’ for trainee teacher Hiroshi Bowman
Learning Welsh has changed Chicago-born Hiroshi Bowman’s life, as he begins a new chapter in Aberystwyth, training to be a schoolteacher.
“Before my wife and I decided to move to Wales, I had no prior knowledge of the language. My interest in studying came from our plans to move here, and then through my decision to train as a teacher.
“Once I started reading more about Wales, I came across Welsh Government’s initiative to increase the number of Welsh speakers, and somewhere along the way I put two and two together and it became apparent that to teach here and to do a really good job, I would need at least enough Welsh to encourage my students and to set a good example.”
Before moving to Wales in August 2022, Hiroshi enrolled on an online Learn Welsh ‘Cwrs Brys’ (Express Course) in July 2022 with Learn Welsh Glamorgan, which is run by the University of South Wales on behalf of the National Centre for Learning Welsh.
As well as completing the first part of the beginners’ Entry-level course, Hiroshi has been learning on his own using Duolingo. As soon as he has completed his PGCE teacher training, he will spend the summer of 2023 studying once again.
Speaking about his experience on the Cwrs Brys, Hiroshi highlights the importance of learning with others. “The intensive course helped put into context some of the things I had already learnt. It was a great motivator being part of a community of learners, and to hear the tutor as a native speaker.
“It was brilliant being able to ask questions and also to hear questions from other learners on the course. Even the best computer course can’t offer you this.”
Hiroshi grew up speaking English, Japanese, and Spanish at home. He learnt English at school and for a while refused to speak Japanese due to being bullied. As he grew up he felt the loss of the language and this has stayed with him and is a real reason for him to encourage young people to learn their language in Wales.
Back in the USA, Hiroshi was working as an attorney in Chicago. When Hiroshi and his wife made the decision to move to the United Kingdom – his wife is originally from Scotland – they looked at several places to settle but it was the beautiful Welsh coastline that attracted them most.
Aberystwyth is a far cry from the heavily industrialised Chicago and offers a calmer and more relaxed pace, but at the same time, says Hiroshi, it has great cultural diversity driven by tourism and academic life.
“The Welsh language is a huge part of the community and society in Wales and of course in Aberystwyth. It is the whole cultural experience. Selfishly, I want to drink deeply and dive in. It would be a shame to leave anything untouched.
“Learning a language, any language, and learning it as an adult is a fantastic challenge, and I think it is important to be in a community of learners to keep motivation up.
“I'm hoping that as the strange American teacher, who shows an interest in learning and speaking Welsh, it will be helpful as I progress my career as a teacher in Wales.”