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‘Learner of the Year’ award celebrates 40th anniversary

‘Learner of the Year’ award celebrates 40th anniversary

Welsh learners from Wales and beyond are being encouraged to enter the ‘Dysgwr y Flwyddyn/Learner of the Year’ competition this year, 40 years after the competition was first launched at Anglesey National Eisteddfod in 1983.

The competition has been held 36 times since then, with many familiar names among the winners.

Spencer Harris, originally from Coedpoeth near Wrexham, won the award at the Denbighshire National Eisteddfod in 2001. Spencer is vice president of Wrexham Football Club and works as a senior director for Kellogg's in Europe.

We caught up with Spencer to talk about his experience of winning the award and how he’s spoken Welsh since then.

When did you start learning Welsh?

I started learning Welsh in 1995. I went to night classes to begin with and then, I went on to complete an A Level in Welsh.

What do you remember about the day you won Learner of the Year?

It was a special day. I didn't expect to win. There was a big ceremony in a local hotel in Denbigh and my Welsh tutor and my family came with me.

What difference did the award make to you?

It was a huge honour. I've competed for Wales as an international table tennis player but winning Learner of the Year was just as important to me. It was amazing when I got the invitation to be a member of Gorsedd y Beirdd.

How did you continue with your Welsh after winning the award?

I use the language often. We raised three children to speak the language. Who all went through Welsh medium education.

As director of Wrexham Football Club, I have done many television and radio interviews in Welsh over the last 20 years.

And when we sold Wrexham Football Club on behalf of the fans to Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, I made sure they understood the importance of the language to the club, and to us as a country.

They have now attracted a lot of attention to Wales and the Welsh language.

What’s your advice for people who are actively learning Welsh?

Nothing is easy in the world, but if you keep going, you will be successful.

What, in your opinion, is most important to consider when awarding the Learner of the Year?

The standard of your Welsh is important, but I think they should also consider who is likely to inspire others to learn Welsh.


The competition is open to learners aged 18 and above who are confident using the language in their everyday lives.  Individuals can nominate themselves; a relative, friend, colleague or tutor can also make a nomination. 

The initial round will be held virtually on 11 and 12 May, with the final round held at the Eisteddfod on Wednesday, 9 August, with the judges: radio presenter, Tudur Owen; Liz Saville Roberts MP; and Geraint Wilson-Price, head of Learn Welsh Gwent. The winner will be announced on the same day.

The competition is organised by the Eisteddfod and the National Centre for Learning Welsh. 

The application form is on the Eisteddfod’s website, and the closing date is 1 May.