Learning Welsh at work: proof that you can teach an old dog new tricks

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All my adult life I’ve made excuses about why I didn’t speak Welsh like “I didn’t learn it in school” or “my family didn’t speak Welsh”. I was embarrassed every time I was asked. But the truth was the real reason I didn’t speak Welsh was that I had never bothered to learn.
Learning Welsh at work: proof that you can teach an old dog new tricks

So when the chance came up to learn Welsh in work, I thought it’s now or never. I wasn’t worried about whether I would be able to learn at 553/4  –  I’d worked in adult education long enough to know that it’s never too late to learn. But I knew that learning a new language is a life time commitment – something I was not that good at (I’d just got a divorce). But I thought, “hey, why wouldn’t I be proud to speak one of the oldest languages in Europe, the language of my country? And the Wales TUC was giving me time off to do it – what’s not to like?”

Starting off with speaking and listening

I started my learning adventure with an organisation called SaySomethingIn.com which has a specially designed Welsh language app. It’s great because it focuses on speaking not writing or reading.  So no paper, no pens, no dictionaries. Just me, the app, and my new best friends – Iestyn and Kat. If you want to know who they are you can download the app for free and meet them yourselves!

I first started using the app 2 years ago. I’m 57 now and when people ask if I can speak Welsh I take  deep breath and proudly say, “Ydw, dwi’n siarad Cymraeg” – although I always add that I’m learning because, as I said, it’s a life-time journey. And what a great journey it has been so far.

Learning Welsh has helped me in so many ways, some unexpected. For example, when I wake up stressing about life I try to think in Welsh and before I know it I’m back to sleep! I also think learning Welsh has made me sharper mentally and more confident to face challenges both at home and in work which has been rather handy during the Covid pandemic.

Continuing my learning journey during Covid

In fact, Covid has helped my learning journey, because lots of courses are now being held online. As I’m working from home I’ve been able to join a day time Cwrs Cymraeg with Cardiff University – one hour a day Monday to Thursday – which is great fun and is really helping me get to grips with reading and writing Welsh. I’d never been able to do this if I was still working in the office.

So it would appear you can teach an old dog new tricks and if I can learn a new language, anyone can! If you’re thinking of learning Welsh I’d say give it a try – there are apps and online classes and loads of books to get you started. What are you waiting for?

Talk to your Union Learning Rep about language learning in your workplace, and take a look at what courses are available during coronavirus through the Wales Union Learning Fund.

And if Welsh isn’t for you, Say Something In also has apps for Spanish, Manx, Dutch, Cornish and Latin. Why not have a go yourself?