A vegan linguist from Penarth has won the Welsh Learner of the Year prize at this year's National Eisteddfod in Wrexham.
Kay Holder, who is a tutor in Spanish, French and German, began learning Welsh at the 2008 Eisteddfod in Cardiff.
Ms Holder, who now lives in Dinas Powys, Vale of Glamorgan, originally went to the event to promote her vegan lifestyle.
But she said she "discovered a new language, culture and world" there.
"My upbringing was completely English, so I left Wales believing south Wales, like me, was non-Welsh speaking," she said.
"I'd not had experience of meeting anyone who spoke Welsh in the south.
"I am a linguist but I didn't think it was important to learn Welsh."
She said it was only after she began to learn Welsh that she realised "how ignorant I had been" about the language.
"When I travelled around the world and people said 'oh, you come from Wales, you must speak that wonderful language,' I would laugh and say 'oh, nobody really speaks Welsh, it's a language that's died," she added.
"I still didn't realise how much people were using Welsh to live their daily lives. I am now a Welsh-speaking Welsh person."
This year's Welsh learners competition was sponsored by Croeso: beginners' Welsh from the Open University.
The Open University's director in Wales Rob Humphreys said: "Congratulations to Kay Holder, who is a great example of lifelong learning and fully deserves the accolade of becoming this year's Welsh Learner of the Year."
This year's National Eisteddfod continues until 6 August.