AmeriCymru: Hi Dafydd and many thanks for agreeing to this interview. Care to tell us a little about your background
Dafydd: Shwmae / S’mae pawb. Pleser o’r mwyaf yw e i fi ateb eich cwestiynau ar wefan americymru.
Hello everyone. It’s my great pleasure to answer your questions for the AmeriCymru website.
My name is Dafydd Roberts and I was born and brought up in a village just outside the town of Wrexham (Wrecsam yn y Gymraeg) in north-east Wales about ten miles from the border with England.
I graduated in Welsh and the History of Wales from Cardiff University in 1978. Since then, I’ve taught Welsh to first language speakers and learners for over 40 years.
As well as teaching the language, I have worked as a subject expert for the Government and Qualifications Wales; marked and set papers for the Welsh Joint Education Committee; chaired and served on countless panels and forums and have written materials specifically designed for learners of the language.
I’ve been living in the west Wales town of Llanelli, Carmarthenshire (sir Gaerfyrddin) since 1997 and have been semi-retired for the past four years. At the moment, I teach Welsh for Adults classes (ranging in ability from total beginners to first language speakers who wish to improve their grammar); give private tuition to first and second language speakers at all levels both face to face and online; translate professionally; proof-read in both langauges and write in both Welsh and English for websites, magazines and other media. I am also the media coordinator for our local history society (www.llanellich.org.uk/20-misc/3-llanelli-community-heritage) and have made several TV appearances following the installation of blue plaques and interpretive panels.
AmeriCymru: How did Darllen a Deall, your regular column on Parallel.cymru, start?
Dafydd: One of the publications I write a regular article for is IAW – the Urdd magazine for Welsh learners at secondary school level (www.urdd.cymru/en/projects/magazines/iaw/).
I’ve known Neil Rowlands (Parallel.cymru) for the past few years and he asked if I would write a series of articles for the website. The articles you see on Parallel.cymru are based on the material in IAW but are adapted and updated to suit adult learners.
Each series of articles has a different theme:
Ardal Arbennig (A Special Area) is the current theme. I’ve chosen particular areas of Wales and written about their history, geography, famous sons and daughters, events and attractions. Future themes will include Digwyddiad Arbennig (a Special Event), Mudiad Arbennig (A Special Organisation), Gweithle Arbennig (A Special Workplace) and Y Mis Yma yn Hanes Cymru (This Month in the History of Wales).
AmeriCymru: What learning level does one need to be at to fully benefit from 'Darllen a Deall'?
Dafydd: A good question. Based on the Welsh for Adults National Curriculum ( https://learnwelsh.cymru/media/2136/saesneg-final.pdf), I would say that the articles are most suited to learners at the Foundation and Intermediate levels, although learners at Entry level will be able to understand much of the content. I make the articles learner-friendly by using familiar syntax and vocabulary. On the other hand, the material is not patronising and content has in no way been dumbed down. Each article includes a vocabulary section containing words which I think could be unfamiliar to the learner. Readers are able to hover the mouse over a highlighted word in order to obtain the English translation (diolch Neil). Also included with each article is a language section which revises a particular element of grammar arising from the text.
AmeriCymru: What, in your opinion, is the best and most productive way to expand your Welsh vocabulary?
Dafydd: From my experience, vocabulary acquisition comes naturally as the grammar is mastered. For me, sentence construction and syntax is the most important aspect of language acquisition. Once a sentence pattern has been mastered, that pattern can be adapted by the learner to suit a myriad of scenarios. The learner will then naturally acquire vocabulary relevant to him or her by using those patterns.
Rote learning of vocabulary has its merits but unless the newly acquired words are used in a context relevant to the learner, they tend to be forgotten.
AmeriCymru: Many of our readers are Welsh learners. I imagine that most of them of them would love to be able to read Welsh fluently. 'Darllen a Deall' is perfectly suited to assist with that. How much of a gap is there in your opinion, between being able to read fluently and speak fluently?
Dafydd: When we are acquiring our mother tongue as infants, we learn to understand and copy what is being said. Reading and then writing skills develop much later. When I teach my adult beginners, ‘siarad a gwrando’ (speaking and listening) takes up 75% of our time. The reading material we use is based on the oral work. We write very little initially, but as learners progress, writing takes on a greater significance.
The articles in Parallel.cymru use patterns and vocabulary that learners will have encountered orally at their particular level.
Reading aloud is good practice when acquiring a second language. We are fortunate in that Welsh is a phonetic language and, as long as one is familiar with the alphabet, the vast majority of words are said as they are written.
As well as reading out aloud, other valuable techniques to aid understanding include looking at the pictures, punctuation, proper nouns, times, days and dates and numbers. Scan and speed reading and highlighting familiar (or unfamiliar) words and phrases is something that we all do when reading in our mother tongue and will help the reader to get the gist of the passage. It takes a while to understand everything, but keep in mind that when we read in our first language, the more difficult words and phrases rarely prevent us from fully comprehending or enjoying a piece of writing.
AmeriCymru: There are many online initiatives to help people learn Welsh at the moment. How much of a role can these sites play in preserving and extending knowledge of the Welsh language?
Dafydd: First of all it must be emphasised that there is no substitution for immersion in the target language. An intensive course in a centre such as Nant Gwrtheyrn, one of the Urdd camps or those organised locally by Welsh for Adults is worth countless hours of on-line learning. http://nantgwrtheyrn.org/
Having said that, the ever increasing pool of on-line resources can be an invaluable aid to language acquisition. The resources being developed by Welsh for Adults at every level ( https://learnwelsh.cymru) are invaluable when reinforcing work covered in lessons.
The online resources and courses available are too numerous to mention here and I wouldn’t like to recommend one over another. Suffice to say that if you were to type the necessary key words into your browser, you’ll come across pages and pages of them and you’re bound to find one suited to your needs.
For advanced learners and fluent speakers interested in language usage and dialectology, please join Guto Rhys’s group ‘Iaith’ on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/groups/413517082015337
AmeriCymru: Any final message for the readers and members of AmeriCymru?
Dafydd: Yes - ‘Daliwch Ati’ (Keep it Up). Whatever level you’re learning at, we in Wales really appreciate the support and encouragement for the language from our friends in other countries. We have a saying in Welsh – Yn ara deg mae dal iâr (through stealth one will catch a hen). Learn at a pace and level comfortable to you.
Don’t worry if you feel that you haven’t the time or the inclination to take up the language. I often think that support for the survival and development of the language is just as important sometimes as the willingness to learn.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or are interested in taking up regular or ad hoc online lessons . My email address is:
Mwynhewch y darllen a hwyl fawr am y tro. Enjoy the reading and bye for now.
Cofiwch / Remember – Cenedl heb Iaith, Cenedl Heb Galon (A Nation without a Language is a Nation without a Heart)