When I first decided to learn Welsh, a few years ago now, I looked at the mountain in front of me and it was exactly that. I thought to myself, this will take some climbing.
However, the one thing that I was determined to do was to crack the challenge that lay ahead. For an English speaker, it really is something different.
Although I went to college many years ago to learn Dutch, as it’s a Germanic language, so in the same family as English, it wasn’t as difficult as Welsh.
I’ve been self-taught in Welsh and taken the marathon rather than the sprint approach. Every day I increase my vocabulary and I watch S4C on a regular basis. It’s been a case of inching along and that’s been intentional.
Last (football) season, I did my first interview in Welsh, with Hannah Jones, the media officer at Bala Town. I spent a lot of time looking at the words and making sure I got them right.
Since Leo Smith signed for The New Saints FC this season, I’m now doing weekly chats with him. My contribution is small and I stay on the side of making sure I’ve got the grammar as correct as possible, and that’s where Leo has been a massive help.
I go into the interviews with nothing written down, so it’s all from ‘within’ as such. It’s early days yet and I’m still finding my feet in terms of interviewing in Welsh.
However, I’m proud of myself that I’ve got this far, and there’s definitely more to come as well. The big thing though is that I’m not afraid to speak the language. I’m not self-conscious.
My advice to anyone who is learning a language is be bold. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Learn from them. Let mistakes build you up not bring you down.
People who speak the language will be pleased for you – well, most of them, I’m sure. You’ll get encouragement from the genuine people and they’ll be thrilled themselves that you’re learning their native tongue.
If I could put it simply in three words: Go for it!