Last August, I was a guest speaker at the North American Festival of Wales in Washington D.C.
It was an incredible event. They’d pretty much taken over the Hilton in Alexandria, and there was so much energy and enthusiasm – and Welsh! – everywhere, it was like being in Wales – but a more confident, more optimistic, prouder version of Wales.
It was an eye-opening, attitude-changing week for me – and I found myself promising over and over again that SaySomethinginWelsh was going to do more to support the Welsh community in north America.
Two things surprised me more than anything.
First up, the sheer passion.
Other people I knew who were over from Wales kept commenting on it – ‘I’ve just spoken to a guy who’s been here for 50 years and he still sounds as though he lives in the middle of Deiniolen,’ said Emyr Gibson to me one night.
And there were people – like Court! – who didn’t come from Wales, weren’t even sure if there was any family connection – but were just in love with Wales.
Yes, that’s it – not just passion, but LOVE.
The second thing was how they felt about the language in particular.
In Wales, there are really only two settings for people speaking Welsh – either it’s normal (you’re in the Eisteddfod, or Caernarfon, or talking to friends or family) or it’s challenging – you’re not sure if it’ll be okay to speak Welsh, or you just don’t use it in case you make someone feel bad, or you actually get TOLD to speak English.
In the Alexandria Hilton in that week last August was the only time I’ve ever experienced – well, the only time I’ve ever even imagined! – being treated like a rock star for speaking Welsh.
Complete strangers would hear you in the lift – or in the bar, fairly often, I’ve got to be honest – and just be obviously delighted.
‘Oh, don’t stop!’ said one woman, when I finished a phone call. ‘I don’t speak it myself, but it makes me SO happy to hear it.’
I’ve been a language activist for 15 years, and a teacher for 10 – but I’ve never felt so confident or proud about speaking Welsh.
It was like rocket fuel.
So what CAN we do to help?
What ARE we going to do?
As a first step, I’m hoping (cash-flow permitting!) to be able to take the SSiW staff team over to this year’s NAFoW – in Milwaukee (which I probably would otherwise never have visited, to be fair…;-)).
But beyond that – there was an utterly fascinating thing in Washington.
A lot of people were concerned about the age profile of NAFoW people – that there was a need to get more young people involved.
But I was noticing something different – they already HAD a younger age profile happening – and it was the people who had come BECAUSE they were learning Welsh.
So if we can help more people in America learn Welsh, that WILL bring more younger people into the NAFoW family.
How do we do that?
I’m not entirely sure yet.
We’ve tested a few ads to American audiences, and lost a chunk of cash – it’s hard to find the right people in such a big country.
But there’s one thing that might work, even at this early stage (and yes, I’ve got other ideas bubbling away in the back of my mind).
If you live in America, and you comment on and like this post on Facebook, then Facebook will let us pay to show you what we’re up to – what courses or other ideas we’ve got going on.
If enough people in the US comment on and share this post (on Facebook), then Facebook will also let us pay to show what we’re doing to ‘people who seem like you’ – it’s all a little hazy and algorithmic, but it seems to be the best chance of reaching a wider audience of people in the US who are interested in Wales.
And also – as we get more people from America signing up to our structured courses (our 6 month or 6 minute a day courses) we’ll be able to provide more and more video group support at the right times of day for you.
So… shall we start a new wave of learning Welsh in the U.S.?
Join in at http://www.SaySomethinginWelsh.com/6min…
Or help make it happen by commenting on this post on Facebook (how about telling us where in America you are?) and sharing…
…and let’s see how many extra Welsh speakers we can bring to the next NAFoW…:-) ❤