With Welsh, as with all regional and minority languages, there are those who question and ask: “What’s the point of learning it?” They’re not as useful as majority languages like Mandarin and Spanish, and anyway, most of the languages in this category are dying out (Welsh is an exception in this respect), with some even claiming that it’s better to let these languages disappear.
Therefore, it’s even more remarkable when someone from a country outside the UK decides to learn Welsh and we realise how the Welsh language is admired internationally. Wales does not have a history of colonialism, and Welsh is restricted to Wales (with the exception of Patagonia, of course). So why did so many international students attend the Learn Welsh in Mid Wales Welsh for Adults Centre’s Intensive Welsh Course in 2015?
For Jean-Yves LeGoff, from France, the exhortation to learn Welsh came from the fact that he was also learning Breton which is also a Celtic language closely related to Welsh.
For Ielyzaveta Stefanova, academic work led her to learning Welsh: “In Germany I am doing my PhD research on Welsh, Sorbian and Donbassian literature about mining … I found many similarities between recent Welsh and Sorbian history.”
For Bogdan Hristov, who studied linguistics at university (His postgraduate thesis was on a dialect of a language of Siberia which is only spoken by ten people.): “Learning a language is like “entering a new World.”
For Calafornian linguist Ariel Jackson, there is an academic interest but also a more simple one: “I think it’s absolutely beautiful”.
For self-confessed ‘linguaholic’ Maryanne Samson from Australia, the decision to learn Welsh came after studying languages of Europe, the Middle east, Asia, and the Aegean. She developed an interest in British culture from watching BBC programmes, and her interest in Welsh grew, finding it refereshing that, in Wales: “National pride is something that is evident everywhere”, and a national language is the first step towards this.
For Julie Duran-Gelléri, now living in Aberystwyth, the fact that she and her husband are expatriates who have lived in a variety of different countries means that they have an interest in different cultures, as they feel like guests in their host country, therefore learning about its culture and its language is: “a simple matter of good manners”. It’s also a great way to make new friends. Languages and cultures are part of world heritage; the fewer there are, the more uniform and boring it all is.”
The fact that people from other countries are coming to learn not only about our country but also our language is refreshing. It also shows that, to some extent, there is an interest and passion for minority, regional, and indigenous languages, even if that enthusiasm isn’t shared by everybody in the countries those languages belong to.
For more information about Learn Welsh In Mid Wales visit: www.learnwelshinmidwales.org