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Russian student falls in love with Welsh at first sight

A 16 year-old student from Russia says that learning Welsh has become her biggest hobby over the past nine months, despite never having visited Wales or having any Welsh roots.

Nastya Lisitsyna, who was born in Smolensk, and is studying Natural Sciences at the Higher School of Economics Lyceum in Moscow, decided to learn the language after seeing it on Instagram.  It was love at first sight she says;

‘‘Last summer I heard the name of the village, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch in a video and thought it would be a good idea to learn how to pronounce it.  I had to learn Welsh pronunciation rules to do it and I mastered it in the end!  This led me to learning the language and after nine months, I am still as excited about learning Welsh as I was on the very first day.’’

Nastya has made use of various resources to help her achieve her goal of learning Welsh. She has completed the Welsh course on Duolingo, uses the ‘Teach yourself Welsh’ book and has taken part in a Sadwrn Siarad workshop, an online session for learners, organised by Learn Welsh Pembrokeshire, on behalf of the National Centre for Learning Welsh.

As Nastya explains, the Sadwrn Siarad workshop has enabled her to communicate with others in Welsh for the very first time;

‘‘My first Sadwrn Siarad was a genuinely exciting and interesting experience.  It was great to finally be able to communicate with others in Welsh.  I communicate with people from Wales on a regular basis now, all through the internet in various chats.  By using platforms such as Zoom, seeing and hearing other people, instead of reading their messages, feels almost like a real conversation.’’

Online learning has become second nature to Nastya since the coronavirus outbreak as all her classes from school are being delivered online.  A few of her fellow students from school and friends from across Russia and Belarus have shown an interest in learning Welsh, and they discuss learning the language together online.

Although there is no active Welsh society in Moscow, Nastya hopes that will change in future;

‘‘I would love to find more Welsh learners in Moscow and possibly meet them in real life one day.  Welsh is my biggest passion therefore I would like to contribute to its popularisation in Russia and share my love for it.  I want to become fluent in Welsh and learn more about the country and its culture.  My dream would be to visit Wales and practise my Welsh in the not too distant future!’’

New Welsh courses at all levels, from beginners to more experienced speakers, will be starting in September, with most courses held online, as distance learning courses, to begin with.  There’s an Early Bird discount of 50% if people book a new course before the end of July.  For more information, just go to learnwelsh.cymru

Video: Nastya Lisitsyna in front of Zhivopisny Bridge in Moscow