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16 October 2014
the Big Welsh Challenge

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Mentoring : Learners this way

Colin Charvis

The celebrities test their Welsh in a series of exciting challenges. We'll be setting you challenges too, designed to make learning fun. At the start of every month there'll be news of your new task on the bottom of this page. Please let us know how you get on: message board

So you're learning Welsh - but how often do you get to use it outside the classroom? Do you sometimes feel the need to practise in a relaxed setting - and to spend time trying out all those words and phrases you've learnt in your lessons? After all, you'll only build confidence in using a language by speaking it.

The celebrity learners in the BBC Wales Big Welsh Challenge TV series had their very own Welsh-speaking mentor, to offer them help, support and reassurance when they need it, and also to put some of the laughter back into learning. And why struggle alone when you too can have that sort of personal help by becoming part of your own partnership.

The aim is for you to meet your partner at a time which suits you both on a regular basis, for the chance to use some of what you've learnt in an informal environment. You can meet for a drink in a café or bar - or how about taking up a new activity together? Wherever you choose to go, the key is to do what the Welsh language was designed for - talking.

But just to add a bit of excitement to the learning process, there's another element to all this. The Big Welsh Challenge involved the celebrities putting the skills they've learnt to the test in a series of stimulating situations - like singing a traditional Welsh song in front of a large crowd.

We can't offer you a big audience, but we will be setting you challenges too - which give you the same chance to try out your Welsh, whatever your level of learning. There are details below of activities for every month. They'll test your language in a fun but ambitious scenario. And of course your mentor will be there to help you prepare and give you the advice you need.

Here are a few tips for you:

  • Decide what you want to achieve
  • Set yourself realistic achievable targets
  • Decide where, when, and how often you'd like to meet
  • Don't worry about making mistakes
  • Don't be afraid to ask your mentor for advice
  • Try to attend Welsh language events together - after the event maybe you could talk about what you understood
  • Listen to Welsh language news and read Cymru'r Byd then discuss it
  • Why not answer your telephone bilingually?
  • Use Welsh as part of everyday life, even if your friends and family can't understand you - they'll learn too!

Points of contact
If you're interested in finding a mentor contact one of the following organisations:

  • NORTH WALES WELSH FOR ADULTS CENTRE: 01248 383928 e-mail:
  • MID WALES WELSH FOR ADULTS CENTRE: 0800 876 6975 Email:

25th January is Santes Dwynwen Day - she is the Welsh Patron Saint of Lovers. You can use the occasion to suprise your loved one with a special Dydd Santes Dwynwen card and message. Ask your mentor to tell you a bit more about Santes Dwynwen and to help you with any of the words you need. You might like to find out about some traditional Welsh love stories, like the tragic tale of Rhys and Meinir of Nant Gwrtheyrn

Get ready for St David's Day on 1st March and have a go at cooking with Cerys Matthews' recipe for Welsh cakes. Cover up the English and see how much you understand of the instructions in Welsh. Go through the words with your mentor then have a go at following the recipe on your own. Happy cooking!

Introduce yourself to three new people. You can adapt this task to suit your level of Welsh. Start by giving your name and some details about yourself and ask the other person a few questions - where he or she comes from, job, family, pets etc. The language you'll need is contained in our online course. More advanced learners can take this a step further - perhaps pretend you're in a speed dating scenario or do a bit of role play. You could answer as if you're one of the Big Welsh Challenge celebrities - read through their profiles to give you some ideas. If you can't find enough Welsh speakers to help you, ask your mentor to pretend to be different people.

Playing games can help you improve your language skills. "Who am I?" is a good one and can be played with almost any level of Welsh. Players give each other a secret identity. Your task is to ask questions about your age, gender, where you come from etc to try to work out who you are. The catch is the other players can only answer "yes" or "no". You continue to ask questions until the answer is "no", then it's the next person's turn. Why not use the identities of some of the Big Welsh Challenge celebrities? Alternatively, you can be a thing instead of a person, perhaps a fruit or vegetable or a household object.

Now the weather is improving, how about taking your mentor or other Welsh speaking friends or family on a walking tour of your local area? It doesn't have to include major landmarks - a trip around the local shops and amenities or a tour of places important to you (where you grew up, your school, workplace) will be just as good. It will help you practise your directions (on the left, on the right etc) as well as building your vocabulary.

Discussing Food and Drink: Meet a group of learners or Welsh speakers in a local bar or café for lunch or dinner. Get a menu and tell them, in Welsh, what's available. Note down what they'd like to eat or drink. If the staff speak Welsh, order the food from them. If not, try to explain the order in Welsh to another member of your group, pretending he or she is the waiter. When the food and drinks come, tell the members of your group what it is and hand it to the correct person. Check whether everyone's happy with the food - and whether they've got what they expected!

Shopping Trip: Work with your mentor on the Welsh words for different types of food and units of weight or quantities. Go together to a local shop or supermarket. Get a basket or trolley. You have two minutes to fill the trolley with twelve items which your mentor will ask you to get in the correct quantity.

Booking a Holiday: Collect travel brochures and sit down with your mentor. You take the role of a travel agent and your mentor is trying to book a holiday. He/she will give details of the sort of trip he/she is looking for and the facilities required. Listen carefully and try to pick out a suitable deal. Describe what you can offer and discuss travel dates, mode of transport etc. Try swapping roles so that you become the travel agent.

Autumn leaves: Look through the Welsh names for some of the more common trees. Go with your mentor to a local park. He or she will give you a list of leaves to find. See how many you can collect in a given time. Also make use of the chance to talk in Welsh about any birds or animals you see there.

Reading aloud: Reading out loud is a good way of practising your pronunciation and comprehension. Find a young child in your family or among your friends who speaks Welsh or is learning the language at school. Find a simple book in basic Welsh and read through it. When you feel comfortable with the words, read it aloud to the child, concentrating on the pronunciation but also remembering to think about what you're saying as you go along so you can put some expression into it. If you want to take this task further, discuss what you've read afterwards with the child.

Christmas list: It's nearly that time of year again so why not make like easier for yourself and begin preparations early? Make some lists of what you need to do - presents you need to buy, food you need to organise - only this time write it down in Welsh. As you go, remember to write down what you've bought and how far you've got with arrangements - again in Welsh. Ask your mentor for help with words you might need.

Why not write some of your Christmas cards in Welsh? You can even ask your mentor for help to write a personal note inside each one as well as the usual "Merry Christmas" message.

We also have a couple of Christmas jokes which you can practise with the help of your mentor:

Joke 1:
Cnoc Cnoc
Pwy sy 'na?
Iorwerth pwy?
Iorwerth mewn preseb!

Joke 2:
Beth ddwedodd Santa Claus pan gyrhaeddodd ei simne olaf?
Ateb: Jyst un corn-eto

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