At the start of a new academic term, with Welsh learners everywhere preparing to join their virtual classes, Leicester resident Janette Ratcliffe is also looking forward to starting her new Welsh course. Janette, who works as an archivist at a school, has Welsh roots and was born in Cardiff.
Janette, who will shortly join her new course, held in a virtual classroom by Learn Welsh Swansea Bay Region (Swansea University) on behalf of the National Centre for Learning Welsh, sees the opportunity to learn Welsh as a way to reconnect with her roots.
She explains: “I'm very interested in family history. My dad's family couldn't speak Welsh, and although he lived in Wales he didn't get the chance to learn when he was a child. The message at school then was that everyone could speak English anyway, and there was no point in learning another language.”
Janette spent much of her childhood moving from place to place as her father worked for the RAF. The family settled near Manchester but enjoyed visiting Wales and spending holidaying there.
“I have many happy memories of Wales,” adds Janette. “I remember spending time with my grandparents, and my great grandmother too when on holiday in Cardiff. I've been wanting to learn Welsh for years because I'm very proud of my identity. I used to pretend to speak Welsh to my sisters (born in England) and enjoyed telling them that as I was born in Wales I could understand Welsh! ”
During the lockdown period, when she was unable to work, Janette began learning Welsh using a language ap called Duolingo. She then decided to follow a new ‘blended learning’ Welsh course for beginners, which combines tutor-based learning in a virtual classroom with online self-study units. She found the experience to be very rewarding, and looks forward to continuing.
“From the end of September onwards I will be continuing to learn Welsh every Wednesday evening with Learn Welsh Swansea Bay Region. This way of learning is perfect for me. I can talk to the tutor and other learners in the class, and also have the opportunity to enjoy activities from home in my own time. I would never have been able to learn the language without these new opportunities. Although I'm a bit nervous, I'm really looking forward to the challenge. ”
Members of Janette’s Welsh class have a WhatsApp group to practise together, and she enjoys every possible opportunity to use the language with Welsh speakers and other learners. Janette hopes someday to move back to Wales to live, although for the time being, she has to settle for visiting during holidays only.
I believe language is more than just words - it enables you to understand and appreciate the history and culture of the people who speak that language. Learning a language is a valuable way of engaging with the people, and with the country where the language is spoken - it is worth protecting.Janette Ratcliffe