Community Manager Pete Rogers spent some virtual time catching up with Emily Louise Beech of Cymreictod to find more out about the challenges and the joys of teaching Welsh lessons during a global pandemic and why she is so passionate about the language. Along for the ride were three of Emily’s students who also took us through their journey so far from learning at the Wrexham Enterprise Hub to learning online.
Growing up in Wrexham, Emily noticed early on that there was a distinct lack of the Welsh language being used around the town and even within her own school. This struck a chord for her that something wasn’t right so when the opportunity arose, Emily decided to attend university at Aberystwyth and strengthen her own Welsh skills so that upon returning to the town she would be in a position to help improve the situation for the better.
“In Wrexham we’ve been seen as being too close to the border so therefore we have a lack of Welsh community but actually we’re very much a part of that and we have thriving Welsh culture that we should celebrate” – Emily
True to her word when she arrived back in town, Emily set up her company Cymreictod which provides Welsh translation services and lessons for a mixture of age groups and learning levels. This was done with the hope that she could connect with anybody who had indeed been feeling as though they had a diminished Welsh identity or had not been given the chance to engage with the Welsh language previously.
While speaking to some of Emily’s students it doesn’t take long to see that her instincts were right about the gaps that people had between being Welsh and their culture. Alison grew up in a situation where various family members spoke Welsh but she wasn’t around it all the time so was unable to learn. She then found that it wasn’t on the syllabus at either her primary or secondary schools and by the time she was an adult she felt that she had been hard done by, not being presented with a chance to learn her own country’s language.
For Elaine whose family is mostly Scottish and didn’t speak Welsh, her inspiration came from her son who decided he wanted to attend a Welsh school and enrolled in a immersion course in the Welsh language. On top of that Elaine was also playing Rugby and found that she would play all over the country as well as meeting players from over the world and was both annoyed and slightly embarrassed that she couldn’t speak the Welsh language (other than picking up not so family friendly phrases from the Rugby pitch).
The third student to join us in our catchup was Bethan Jones who actually began taking lessons because of her younger sister Rebecca who had been struggling with Welsh due to the lessons at school not being interesting as well as being part of a class who as a result weren’t engaged in learning. For Rebecca who wants to go into healthcare Welsh was more than just an optional class but a language she needed to get her dream job in Wales, which made learning Welsh equally important to Bethan so that she could support her sister.
Recognising these issues Emily structured her lessons to be practical and with a view in mind that learners can quickly move passed basics to begin practicing actually speaking in Welsh and engaging in conversations. Not only this but her learner groups developed strong bonds of friendships and saw their lessons as a highlight of their week.
“Not only are we learning Welsh but we’re also having so much fun doing it” – Elaine
Not unlike an actual classroom Elaine does also admit that she and Alison had to have a time out during one lesson because they were laughing too hard and just couldn’t stop. Despite being one of the classroom rebels, Alison does cite this sense of fun as one of the most important aspects of their learning.
“Because I’m relaxed I found that I am much more attune and found it easier to learn” – Alison
“We’re not made to feel stupid, you have a laugh with each other which means that we were asking more questions” – Bethan
So was it all just fun & games? Far from it, talking about their proudest moments Alison explains how she now has a much greater understanding when it comes to reading Welsh which is actually helping during her day job. For Bethan she was able to help her sister Rebecca achieve the highest grade possible in her exam and was proud to know that Rebecca actually understood the Welsh in her exam and wasn’t just guessing. As for Elaine she has been able to start switching back and forth between English and Welsh whilst having basic exchanges with the other girls on the Rugby pitch (more than just the rude words).
As for their teacher, Emily’s pride has come from seeing the students grow in confidence week in and week out to the point where they are now keeping her on her toes every week with the amount of curiosity they have and questions they are asking. Not only this but she has seen their sense of identity within themselves and their country continue to grow.
Emily is still running group classes and 1 to 1 lessons via Zoom during Covid 19 and will be physically back in the hub once it is safe to do, if you’re interested in learning be sure to email CymreictodCCTranslations@gmail.com or check out https://www.facebook.com/Cymreictod