The first night of Welsh class is always inspiring. Every year, people come with hope and yearning, expressing an intangible connection to Wales. Some, because they were born there. Others have Welsh parents or grandparents from Wales. Others, a connection by marriage. Some have simply spent time working in the country. Whatever their reasons, people come wanting to learn the language.
Yet, as familiar as the first class of 2015 was, it also felt different.
I’m going to tell you.
We threw away the printed course books last year and piloted using SSiW audio lessons as our ‘official’ course materials. Incredibly for the first time, we had hardly any attrition among our learners. At the end of the first term, they were still there, and at the end of second term. All through, winter, work and personal crises they kept coming. Iestyn from SSiW had told them they could learn to speak Welsh.
They believed him.
My job was simply to facilitate conversation.
To some, this may seem like a lazy option, to essentially step back and let others teach your class. It does however mean those, like me, who are only a hundred metres ahead in the language acquisition race, can act as tutors. At times, this was pretty scary. I had to wrack my brains to think of new and exciting ways to use the materials. I learned not to pack too much into a lesson, to o go with the flow when things were working. I had looked forward to putting my feet up this year and repeating what I’d learned with a new group of beginners.
This was not to be. At the pre-term planning meeting, our longest serving tutor said:
‘That group likes you Liz. You’d better go up to intermediate with them.’
Gulp. Like, that’s a lot of extra laminating (and they’ve heard all my jokes). But here’s the thing about this year. One of our other tutors, a Welsh speaker from North Wales, will take the beginners. She has familiarised herself with the SSiW lessons. Watched the Bootcamp videos. Caught the passion. She’s going to use level one of the NEW Northern course as her class materials.
‘Err…’ I said, ‘do you realise the NEW second course is still under construction?’
‘Yes, but I read on the website it will be finished soon.’
That’s the thing about the SSiW. They say stuff and people believe them.
We took a punt using SSiW audio lessons as our official course materials. It was an experiment. We weren’t sure how it was going to work in the class room. This year we know it works. We have last year’s group and a world wide network of language learners as evidence.
But…this year’s beginners are going to need the level two NEW SSiW Northern course by the end of the year. So, Aran Jones, if like me, you’re only a hundred metres ahead, you’d best get pedalling. 🙂