5th March 2008
From Dolgellau to Cwm Deri, round the world and back again - there was a sense of adventure at the Big Welsh Challenge Welsh Learners' Day in Coleg Meirion Dwyfor on St David's Day. Actress Gillian Elisa gave an overview of life on Pobol y Cwm while local author Bethan Gwanas entertained her audience with tales of her travel adventures across the globe.
More than a hundred people came to the event in Dolgellau where experienced tutors from the local Welsh for Adults Centre brought fun to the morning classes with role play and plenty of opportunity for a chat, in Welsh of course.
After lunch, learners had a chance to put some questions to the guest speakers - and learn some useful words. Gillian Elisa explained about the importance of continuity in TV drama and made sure they had all learnt the Welsh for it, "Dilyniant".
And while talking about her travels, Bethan Gwanas came across an old friend. Welsh learner Mary Howell was teaching English to children in Ávila in Spain in 2004 and had taken them to look round a local church when Bethan arrived with a film crew. When the two met again on Saturday in Dolgellau, Bethan was able to show Mary that she had even mentioned the her in her book.
BBC Radio Cymru presenter Rebecca Jones told learners about her show - and the challenge of going to work every day in the early hours of the morning. And the station used the occasion to launch its new podcast, Pigion. It is presented by Rebecca and includes highlights from shows specifically selected for learners.
There was also a chance to try out the BBC online resources for learners, including the Big Welsh Challenge interactive course which uses soap-opera style dramas to give beginners an introduction to the language. The session went down well with the visitors. "I was an English tutor," explained one of the learners. "The website you showed us today is at least as good if not better than any English teaching sites I've seen."
Peter Gilbert from Llanafan near Aberystwyth started learning Welsh about 15 years ago. He said the event has encouraged him to take up learning again. "I've been to Sadwrn Siarad courses but this day was better because of the BBC involvement. The tutor was excellent and the mix of workshops in the afternoon was good too. The whole programme worked really well," he said.
His friend Stuart James has been learning for less than a year and for him the highlight was hearing the language around him. "It was fantastic to be surrounded by Welsh. Rebecca Jones especially was very good at speaking slowly and explaining the language."
And for a traditionally Welsh finale to the day, Gillian Elisa took to the stage to lead the crowd in a rendition of favourites including Sosban Fach, Ar Lan y Môr, Calon Lân and of course Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau.
"Sosban Fach was sung with gusto," said learner, Huw Jenkins. "Having learnt the translation it makes me chuckle at what the average English person might think it all means. As for the national anthem, it felt as though the roof was going to lift."