Mid-Wales’ best Welsh learners rewarded at the Eisteddfod

Welsh learners

Welsh learners

02 August 2022

A family from Tal-y-bont in Ceredigion and a worker at the National Library are among those who have been recognised as the best Welsh learners in mid-Wales.

The Welsh at Home award was presented to Cat Roll’s family from Tal-y-Bont and the Welsh at Work award was presented to Wilhelmina Brandon, Digital Curator at the National Library, in a ceremony at the Eisteddfod on Tuesday 2 August.

Hywel Dda Health Board received the Welsh in the Workplace employers’ award for the efforts of its staff to learn the language. The Group of the Year award went to a Carmarthenshire reading club for increasing its members use and confidence in the language.

As part of the ceremony, Eisteddfod-chaired poet Mererid Hopwood, Professor in the Department of Welsh and Celtic Studies at Aberystwyth University, presented a poem to both the Tutor of the Year, Richard Vale from Newcastle Emlyn, and Learner of the Year, Lynne Blanchfield from Aberystwyth.

Congratulating everyone on their success, Professor Elizabeth Treasure, Vice-Chancellor of Aberystwyth University, said:

“Very many congratulations to everyone on their success in learning Welsh. I would like to thank everyone for making that effort, and for being so enthusiastic in their efforts. Wales’ unique language is a special national treasure, and a gift to everyone who lives here.

“We are also especially grateful to the tutors who have helped so many learners over the years. Thanks to them all for their excellent work, and to everyone in the Learning Welsh team.”

There are around 1,500 learners following Learn Welsh courses through Aberystwyth University and its partners.

Aberystwyth University's Learn Welsh Department provides courses in Ceredigion, Powys and Carmarthenshire, with specific provision for learning Welsh in the workplace and for families.

More information is available by going to: https://learnwelsh.cymru/about-us/providers/aberystwyth-university/

Welsh in the Home – Cat Roll

Cat Roll from Tal-y-Bont, Ceredigion received the Welsh in the Home award. She has been learning Welsh for two years and her whole family has joined in the effort. Along with her husband Jon, they teach the language to their children - a son and two daughters, aged between 6 and 10 - who are educated at home.

Cat Roll said: “It feels really good for us as a family to be able to speak more and more of the beautiful language of the beautiful country we live in. Zoe [Pettinger] is such a fabulous teacher and I feel we are making such great progress thanks to her. We have very much appreciated the Dysgu Cymraeg courses and have recommended them extensively to others who are keen to learn Welsh.”

Welsh in the Workplace (Employer) – Hywel Dda Health Board

Hywel Dda Health Board was awarded the best employer for teaching the language in the workplace.

As part of the Board's efforts to encourage everyone to use the language, it has developed the 'Rho Gynnig Arni' brand and a series of resources to assist staff and learners to communicate in the language while at work

Jane Westlake, a vaccination centre worker, is one of the 150 members of its staff who has benefited from the lessons.

She said: “When I am working in the vaccination centre, the patients come into an unusual building and are scared because of COVID. It's better for me to speak to them in their mother tongue to try to help them relax and feel safe."

Steve Moore, Chief Executive of Hywel Dda University Health Board said:

"The Health Board is extremely proud to receive this award today. Supporting our learners is one of the goals within our Bilingual Skills Policy, as we try to increase the number of staff who can use Welsh with our service users and at the same time, contribute to the Welsh Government’s strategic goal of reaching one million Welsh speakers by 2050. Congratulations to all our learners."

Learner of the Year - Lynne Blanchfield

The Learner of the Year award winner was Lynne Blanchfield from Aberystwyth who is a keen volunteer who inspires other learners. This is the third time she has learned the Welsh language, after she retired to live in Aberystwyth in 2013. Lynne lost the Welsh language twice in her life after she had to move from Prestatyn to England when she was ten years old.

She won the Aberystwyth University Learners' Eisteddfod Chair in 2020. She has worked and volunteered through the medium of Welsh for several charities and organisations locally, including Age Cymru and Amgueddfa Ceredigion.

Lynne Blanchfield said: "I value this award very much - it is heartening to have these milestones along our journey of learning Welsh. I hope to encourage other learners after I have had so much support on my own journey from the department, fellow learners, the people of the town, and our wonderful tutors."

Tutor of the Year – Richard Vale

The tutor of the year was Richard Vale, a former international journalist who learned Welsh as an adult.  He lives in Newcastle Emlyn. He said:

“This is the best job ever. Getting to know so many interesting people and everyone with their own story is an unparalleled privilege, and to top it all off, being able to open the door to the world of Welsh is a pure pleasure."

Welsh Learner in the Workplace - Wilhelmina Brandon

Wilhelmina Brandon was the winner in the 'Welsh Learner in the Workplace' category. Mina works at the National Library of Wales and learns Welsh at an intermediate level. She is a Digitisation Curation Officer and the language plays a crucial role in her work as well as when speaking to colleagues.

Group of the Year – Carmarthenshire Reading Club

The Group of the Year was Clwb Darllen Sir Gâr (Carmarthenshire Reading Club) which is a club for learners who have been learning Welsh for two years. They meet regularly on Zoom to read and discuss books for learners.

Cara Llywelyn-Davies is the tutor who leads the club. She said:

"The wide variety of books has enabled the learners to learn about the northern Welsh dialect and those of other areas of Wales. The group has given them the confidence to venture into reading more books independently. Their Welsh is going from strength to strength, and it has been a pleasure to see their confidence improve."