The anger of being deprived of Welsh – and the shame that too often goes hand-in-hand with it – lead to the biggest single block.
The fear of getting started.
People who’ve learnt other languages – wherever they come from – often find this puzzling. Why would a Welsh person be afraid of starting to learn Welsh?
But it’s all too real.
I had it myself.
I can still remember, vividly (because of the riot of emotions I was experiencing) the day I walked into the old Aberystwyth university offices in Laura Place and said ‘I want to learn Welsh, please’.
Now, I don’t know if this is true for everyone who’s afraid of getting started – but I can tell you exactly where my fear came from.
It was the fear of shame (with a side order of fury).
As long as I didn’t say anything to anyone about Welsh, as long as I just ignored its very existence, I didn’t have to face up to my own shame at not speaking Welsh.
I didn’t have to face up to my own sense of being incomplete – and it was a painful, shameful and infuriating incompleteness.
I didn’t want to think about it – and God knows I didn’t want to admit it to anyone else.
If anyone had ever told me that I wasn’t really Welsh because I didn’t speak the language?
It would have been messy.
[Tears of rage stuff, probably, more than blood on the streets messy – I can be a bit bad-tempered, but I’m not a violent bloke].
It mattered to me.
It mattered so much that I could barely bring myself even to look at it out of the corner of my eye.
Walking into those offices, admitting that I wasn’t entirely who I wanted to be, made me feel naked, humiliated and angry.
Not exactly a great combination for the learning process, to be honest.
Good for creating memories (thanks, amygdala!) – I could draw a picture of the layout of the office, and this was nigh on 20 years ago – but not much help for creating memories of, you know, actual VOCABULARY.
So how do we get around this?
How do we help more Welsh people take that first, all-important step?
I think two things need to change.
I think we need to make it a more private experience – and thanks to the internet, that’s possible now.
And I think we need to emphasise the enormous value of even a single word.
Every single word you learn is a kick in the teeth for the societal structures that deprived you of Welsh in the first place.
That’s why we’ve changed our approach at SaySomethinginWelsh.
The first thing we do – and it’s free – is to teach you a SINGLE sentence.
And we do it in a way that – even that early on the journey – gives you the ability to start making up your own, different sentences – from the very beginning.
If all you ever learn is this ONE sentence, you’ll still find that it helps reduce your pain and anger.
As someone said to us on Twitter yesterday, ‘I get my soul back incrementally now by dysgu Cymraeg’… ❤
That single sentence is at: