Kylie Mathias from Australia and Catherine Halverson from the USA have one thing in common – they were both inspired to learn Welsh because of their family ties with Wales.
Catherine Halverson is from Michigan and has always been told that she had Welsh ancestors. But it was when she and her mother took a holiday visiting places associated with King Arthur that she became aware of the Welsh language.
During their holiday, they went to Cornwall and Wales, and while in Wales, Catherine saw bilingual books that piqued her interest; one of the guides was also a Welsh speaker.
Catherine said, “After returning to the U.S, I continued to be interested in the Welsh language and culture and eventually discovered Say Something in Welsh (SSiW). I’ve used the app frequently since then, as well as Duolingo, which is also great fun.”
Then, earlier this year, Catherine started an online course with the National Centre for Learning Welsh, through its provider, Learn Welsh North East, which is run by Coleg Cambria and Popeth Cymraeg.
She added, “I thought it would be good to have a structured course covering the basics since my Welsh language education has been largely ad hoc. I log onto the class Tuesdays and Thursdays at 4.00am US local time and am really enjoying it.
“I hope to travel to Wales in the next few years to spend time exploring and learning. In the meantime, I am happy there are so many great resources available to Learn Welsh.”
Kylie Mathias from Perth, Australia always knew that her mother’s grandparents were Welsh, but she wanted to find out more about her heritage.
Then, during the Covid lockdowns, she started tracing her matrilineal line. She said, “I wanted to know more about my Welsh heritage and found out that the women in my family have come from within about 20 miles of Llanfyllin since the 1700s.
“I also found out that one relative, Ellis Roberts (Ellis Wyn o Wyrfai), had won the Eisteddfod Crown in 1880. It rekindled my own love of poetry and storytelling.
“And as I love learning, the idea of learning the language of my ancestors really caught my interest. I believe language can be a window into a culture – the patterns and vocabulary can reveal such wonderful things!”
Kylie started learning Welsh two years ago with the Duolingo app, and then joined an online class with Learn Welsh North East in January 2023.
She added, “I’ve been learning online with Ceri at Coleg Cambria since January. I also have the learner’s magazine Lingo Newydd delivered, listen to various Welsh learner podcasts, and try to listen to Radio Cymru when I can.
“My partner and I will be having milestone birthdays in 2027 and would love to visit Wales with our two daughters then. We would like to time our visit so that we can experience the National Eisteddfod in August!”
Dona Lewis, Chief Executive of the National Centre for Learning Welsh, said, “It’s great to hear about people like Catherine and Kylie, who have such an interest in Wales and in learning Welsh.
“Although the vast majority of our learners live in Wales, our online courses, held in virtual classrooms, enable learners from further afield to join in. Having Welsh heritage is often a reason why people want to learn – but Welsh music and books also inspire many others.
“New courses for beginners will be starting in September, which will be available face-to-face in classrooms, as well as online, and we hope to welcome many more people to enjoy learning Cymraeg with us.”
More information on new courses for beginners – available for just £45 for the whole year – is available on this webpage.
For more information, visit learnwelsh.cymru.