Five months or so ago, I embarked on a language learning adventure. I decided to learn Welsh. I'm not Welsh, I don't live in Wales, and I'm not planning on moving to Wales any time soon. Not that Wales isn't a lovely place, but it's not currently part of my plans.
It started as a bit of a joke. My partner's daughter, Lulu, started at Cardiff University last autumn and has the option of taking free Welsh lessons as part of her course. She scoffed at the idea, "Everyone speaks English! Why would I need to learn Welsh?". I explained that it might not be necessary, but why not take advantage of a free route to learning another language, but to no avail.
I can't say I blame her; I'd always been dismissive of the minority languages of the United Kingdom: Welsh, Gaelic, Cornish. They're dying out, aren't they?
Well, yes and no. Cornish is down to just a few scores of speakers and Gaelic has only around 50,000. But Welsh is a bit different. Welsh is still used. And it's still used by young people, for some of whom it's both a native and a first language. In fact, following a decline in the first half of the 20th century, Welsh is actually thriving somewhat, with the aim set by the Welsh Assembly to get one million speakers by 2050.
So back to Lulu. Every time we spoke following her enrollment at university I would ask her "Learning Welsh yet?" and every time she'd say "no", getting increasingly fed up with me asking, until one day she snapped, "If you love Welsh so much, why don't you bloody learn it?!". I saw that as a challenge and tentatively started looking for resources online.
My first port of call was Babbel, which I'd used in an aborted attempt to learn Spanish before, but alas they offer no Welsh course. I then found some excellent YouTube videos from WelshPlus, but they focussed entirely on familiarisation with the Welsh alphabet and pronunciation. Then someone suggested DuoLingo. DuoLingo courses are run by volunteers, who use the DuoLingo platform tools to create content to teach others. And DuoLingo has a Welsh course. And it's free. I signed up and dived into Cymraeg!
So, I'm now a Welsh learner, or Dysgwr Cymraeg, and I intend to chart my Welsh odyssey here.