Student Journeys

Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (My Father’s Old Country)

Speaking Welsh is like being able to do the Worm – you might impress a few people at a party, but it has very little practical use in real life. It’s an odd, rough language but poetic and lyrical too; to me, it perfectly represents the country in which it is spoken.

I come from a small town in south Wales called Cwmbran, where very few people speak Welsh – the 2021 census has it that less than 10% of people in Torfaen, the county in which Cwmbran is situated, can speak some degree of Welsh.

I was fortunate enough to have been taught Welsh from the moment I learned how to talk and read. My father was passionate about raising me on Welsh literature, and he would take every chance he could to discuss it with me. As a result, I attended a Welsh primary and secondary school. However, Welsh language schools can be oppressive places. If we were caught speaking English, our teachers would punish us. I remember my drama teacher once caught me speaking in English and began yelling at me, calling me a disgrace to Welsh society, culture, history, and anything else he could think of.

As a teenager, I never enjoyed doing things that my teachers forced me to do. Before I moved to London, I used to hate the fact that I had received a Welsh education. I felt that I was at a disadvantage compared to my peers because all our classes, except for English, Spanish, and French, were taught in Welsh. Even now, I only have a basic understanding of Maths in Welsh because it was the only language I was taught in. Recently, I discovered that “rhannu” means “to divide” in English.

Moving to London for university provided me with a new perspective on life and made me realize that being able to speak Welsh is a privilege that I should be proud of. Firstly, I realized that my education was made possible due to the efforts of those who fought for the right to learn the Welsh language. Their struggle spanned several decades, and I am grateful for their sacrifices.

Secondly, moving to London exposed me to various languages, dialects, and cultures that I would not have experienced otherwise. This made me appreciate the strong connection that people have with their culture and language, which I previously resented. I have started making more of an effort to speak Welsh wherever possible, including at parties, where people appreciate it when I can pronounce complex Welsh words like

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. I have come to appreciate my homeland, y hen wlad fy nhadau, and feel lucky to call it home..

Ethan Jones

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