Elizabeth Jane Corbett

writing her way home

Dysgwr y Flwyddyn – Welsh learner of the year

It started with flattery. I received an email in my in-box entitled: our big hitting, superstar successful learners.

It went something like this:

Come on, folks. It’s Dysgwr y Flwyddyn time, and we’ve got a bunch of people with the skillz. I’d like to see entry forms landing chez @Lee @Ioan @Elizabeth_jane @Penny @Sion @Pierre @SueEllen @Lucy @Growler (names changed to protect the innocent).

Welsh Learner of the year – I knew this competition was linked to the National Eisteddfod and won by clever, almost fluent, people who knew the gender of each noun and never mixed up their mutations. I had idly dreamed of entering, one day, when my Welsh was much better. But at this stage, my name didn’t belong on a list of big hitting, superstar successful learners.

Flattery is a powerful motivator. I kept following the thread on the SaysomethinginWelsh forum. l learned that the Dysgwr y Flwyddyn competition is open to anyone who has been learning Welsh less than ten years. To enter you simply had to write a two page application talking about why you learned Welsh, and how speaking the language has affected your life.

Hmm…a writing task. I don’t consider myself big, hitting, or super. But I do like writing.

One evening, quite without intent, I found myself drafting an application. I worked on it the next night, and the one following. I showed it to a friend. Made corrections. Re-wrote sections. At which point, it began to dawn on me that I had done too much work to waste the document.

No. I didn’t need this in my life I told myself. I had my mum’s aged care transition to organise, a novel to redraft, an overseas working holiday to plan. Far too much stress thank you very much. Yet all the while the words big, hitting and successful ran like a refrain in my head. The request had been phrased in humourous, flattering terms but I knew it was genuine. The people who had given me twenty six free audio lessons and literally opened up this whole big language adventure, had asked me to enter.

And…I had already written the application.

In a moment of devil may care, I sent the thing off. Then I started to tremble.

The next stage would involve a Skype interview.

I had no hope of winning Dysgwr y Flwyddyn. Or even going onto the final round. But I did want to get through the interview without disgracing myself. Or letting the team down. But how to prepare? Effectively? When my ignorance could fill an ocean?

Fortunately, the sender of flattering messages is also a font of language learning wisdom. He gave me some tips. From this, I have devised the Elizabeth Jane Corbett interview preparation schedule:

  1. Listen to familiar Welsh patterns spoken at double time for twenty minutes a day (in case I ever meet a Welsh chipmunk).
  2. Spend at least twenty minutes a day listening to BBC Radio Cymru
  3. Do a complete SSiW lesson every day
  4. Create and use flash cards for all the dictionary words I ‘cleverly’ used in my applications
  5. Organize as many Welsh language Skype chats as possible – any takers?
  6. Speak, listen to, and think only in Welsh on the day of the interview.

Fortunately, my Skype interview is scheduled for late Saturday night as I doubt my library colleagues would have appreciated the inconvenience of step six. Meanwhile, if you do happen bump into me on the street, don’t be alarmed if I speak in garbled half English, half Welsh sentences. (I amused my Welsh class last Tuesday night by saying ‘a week yn ôl’ instead of ‘a week ago,’ though I was definitely trying to speak English).

Oh, and things might go a bit quiet on the blog for a while.

Just saying. 🙂



Changing Patterns by Judith Barrow


Language – some thoughts on accent, context and comprehension


  1. Well done you! I know you will do an amazing job, whatever the outcome and you should feel fabulously proud of yourself for giving it a go. I am overawed by the things you manage to do. I’m cheering you on from the sidelines. Go Liz! (or however you say that in Welsh.)

  2. Earl Livings

    All the best, Liz. I’m sure you’ll do well. Cofion cynnes, Earl

    • ejcorbett@yahoo.com.au

      Thanks Earl. Can’t wait to hear about your time at Stiwdio Maelor.

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