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Celebrity Team

Gareth Kiff

Gareth Kiff

Gareth learnt Welsh as an adult after coming back to live in Cardiff and has been teaching the language now for 17 years. Also took part in the last series of The Big Welsh Challenge as an on-screen expert.

21st February 2008

After watching a preview of the celebrities taking their final challenge

As a Welsh tutor I was delighted to see familiar faces from very different backgrounds undertaking the second series of The Big Welsh Challenge. I know from the many comments from learners in my classes and also from people who haven't yet taken up the challenge of learning Welsh how important it is to see well known people providing inspiration (and the occasional laugh) to present and would be Welsh learners.

Congratulations to all the mentors and learners. They ALL succeeded in achieving quite difficult tasks. Learning a language isn't a race; we all learn at different speeds and our personal circumstances are different. Therefore llongyfarchiadau (congratulations) to them all.

The presenters watch the learners
The experts meet for the last time to discuss how the learners have coped

Simon Weston of course withdrew from the series due to his sadness at the untimely death of his mentor, that great patriot Ray Gravell. I hope that Simon will continue learning Welsh and that he isn't too critical of himself whilst doing so. His Welsh was a lot better than he gave himself credit for and I look forward to seeing Simon speaking Welsh in the future as I'm sure he will.

The last programme of the Big Welsh Challenge in a way summed up the series quite perfectly. Di Botcher did a fantastic job - acting in the Welsh drama series for children - Rownd a Rownd. Di worked so hard throughout the series and her hard work certainly paid off. She passed every challenge with flying colours and I hope that she will continue learning and look forward to seeing her in Welsh language dramas in the not too distant future. Her relationship with mentor Glyn Wise was a joy to watch and Glyn showed some excellent teaching skills. If the media work dries up Glyn has a future in Welsh teaching!

Lowri Turner found the tasks more difficult than the others partly because she lives in London and lacks any regular contact with the language and her mentor Iolo Williams. Lowri attempted to learn everything phonetically rather than mastering the true meaning and rhythm of the language. Although this may appear easier at the beginning in the long term language is meaningless if you don't know its meaning!

Her case highlights how important it is for Welsh learners to use any spare time they may have in an increasingly hectic world. By learning a few words or phrases a day, reading for five minutes, putting Welsh stickers on everyday objects etc. it is possible to learn more than people realise. However she did learn a lot more Welsh than she probably thinks and I believe that when in Wales she will try out that which has learned during the series. As I said learning isn't a race or competition.

Rhod Gilbert was the naughty boy of the class and his relationship with his mentor Cerys Matthews is one of the highlights of the series. Rhod always claimed (slightly tongue in cheek) that he found the tasks difficult but he always produced the goods and his performances during the Twmpath dance calling (Programme 2) and his stand up performance (Programme 4) are excellent.

Colin Charvis was the dark horse of the bunch. Quiet, almost shy at first, he applied himself admirably and was excellent and ably assisted by his mentor Rebecca Evans. The sight of huge Colin being told what to do and say by the petite Rebecca is great TV. As in his rugby career Colin put in the 'hard yards' by practising his Welsh as often as possible. His self discipline paid off and the reaction he has had from Welsh speakers, as he said himself, has been wonderful.

Colin after all is an icon of Welsh rugby and the fact that an adopted Welshman who has proudly represented the people of Wales on many occasions is now learning Welsh will inspire and hopefully encourage others to do the same. And that after all is the whole purpose of the Big Welsh Challenge!

25th September 2007

The latest challenge, calling a Twmpath dance, combined various skills. The celebrity learners had to combine the learning of difficult commands with learning the steps of an unfamiliar dance. Whilst difficult, what it did is show that learning Welsh can be - and indeed should be - fun.

The presenters watch the learners
The presenters discuss the learners' and mentors' progress

So many adults think back to their school days and think of learning complicated verb tables and mutations. Understandably many are too nervous to take the challenge of learning Welsh. However modern Welsh language lessons are taught in a user friendly way, where learners are encouraged to use the language they have learnt in real life situations. You still have to learn the structures of the language but this is done in order for you to use it in a relevant, useful way. Thousands of people take The Big Welsh Challenge of learning Welsh but there are many thousands more who would if they could only take the first step. Therefore watch The Big Welsh Challenge and contact your local language centre - whole new world is waiting for you.

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