Lewis Campbell, a 26 year old PhD student from the Rhondda Valleys, is hoping to create an app that will allow Welsh learners to enjoy practising their Welsh by using artificial intelligence (AI).
As a Welsh learner himself, Lewis saw he could put his Masters in Software Engineering to good use by using AI and natural language processing to create a speech recognition app to help Welsh learners.
He will be developing the app as part of his PhD within the Computer Science department at Bangor University. Lewis is learning Welsh with Learn Welsh North West, which is run by the university on behalf of the National Centre for Learning Welsh.
Lewis explains, “I’m learning Welsh at the moment, and I feel comfortable enough speaking in the classes and with good friends, but when it comes to trying to speak with people outside of that safe circle, I don’t yet have the confidence to say much.
“Therefore, my idea was to create an app that would help increase conversational skills and confidence to use the language. The app will be able to ‘answer’ the user and give feedback on pronunciation or if the structure of a sentence was correct or not.
“It will also have scenarios where you might want to use the language – such as going into the shop to buy milk, ordering food in a café and so on.”
Lewis started his language journey on the Duolingo app. He adds, “If I’m honest, when I started with Duolingo, learning Dutch was my priority. At the time, I used to play a lot of games online with Dutch friends, and wanted to be able to join in the conversation.
“Then whilst I was using it, Duolingo released their Welsh course and I thought I might as well give it a go and that’s when I fell in love with the Welsh language.”
Since then, Lewis has also used the SaySomethinginWelsh app before moving on to a Learn Welsh course in the summer of 2021.
Lewis started with an intensive ‘Entry’ summer course for beginners and is now following a weekly ‘Foundation’ level course.
He adds, “I’m really happy I’ve started the journey to become a Welsh speaker. It feels like something I should be able to do having lived my whole life in Wales.
“Learning Welsh as an adult is a very different experience to the lessons I had in school. I think it also makes a difference that I am the one now choosing to learn the language, and I have a better understanding of why it’s useful to speak Welsh.
“And on a small scale, one of the best things is that when I’m travelling around, I can literally translate place names and understand their meaning!
“If you are a young person thinking about learning Welsh, I would encourage you to give it a go.”