Thursday, October 23, 2008

Ginny Grove: How to be in two places at once

This week the intermediate and advanced classes (level 2 and level 3) met as one, since the level 2 teacher, Elis Owens, wasn't able to attend. Rather than my bouncing back and forth between the two groups, I decided to combine them in a "dosbarth i gyd" - a class of the whole. I provided a handout containing some conversational topics and sentence templates, and went through it first with the intermediates. Then I spent some time with the whole group, asking questions to individuals in Welsh and getting answers in the same language - simple things like "what did you do over the weekend?" and "how was the weather yesterday?" After everyone was warmed up, I split the class into two groups (each containing intermediates and beginners) and let them get on with having Welsh conversations among themselves, while I moved back and forth monitoring and sometimes contributing.

Everyone seemed to have a good time, and I think trying to help each other speak and understand broke down somewhat the nervousness that attacks anyone who's the focus of attention when the teacher asks them a question. One of the intermediates suggested afterwards that I set the groups up next time so it's the less experienced people who get to ask the questions, and the others who have to understand what they've heard and answer -- a good idea, I think. (I'm writing it down here partly to help me remember it!)

For a bilingual version of this post, see my blog.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Elis Owens: Language Instructor - Language Student

Why do I teach Welsh? To put it simply, "I teach Welsh to study Welsh!" I was fortunate to grow up in Brecon/Aberhonddu Wales in a bilingual family. Although there was a fledgling Welsh language school in Brecon at that time, it was a primary school (grades 1 - 5) and I was about to enter 6th grade when we moved to Brecon. I was however able to study Welsh in high school, eventually obtaining an "O Level" certificate in Welsh. After obtaining a Ph.D. in Microbiology from the University of Wales in Cardiff I moved to America. For my first 10 years in America, Welsh was simply something I spoke when I went back to Wales to visit my family who all speak "Yr Iaith".

However, when I moved to Denver in 1999, I began to look for ways to meet people and make friends. A few months after my arrival I saw an announcement in the Denver post for the Colorado Welsh Society - St. David's Day celebration - I went and met Trefor. That fall I began to attend the language classes and the following year became instructor for the advanced class. Since that time the classes have grown, and we now teach at three levels. Trefor does an excellent job with the beginners, while this year Ginny Grove and I will be handling the intermediate and advanced students. It was a delight for me to have Ginny join the classes last year; having another speaker who can carry a conversation has not only helped me but also helped the whole class. We can start a flow of words and they seem less intimidated about joining in. So far this year I have been working with the intermediate students, Alexandria, Debra and Richard, to review what they covered last year with Trefor and build their confidence with using what they already know before we add new tenses. We are also working on what I call aural comprehension skills - being able to understand what is being said without seeing it written down.

So why do I say I teach Welsh to study Welsh? During my involvement with the class I have realized that my own Welsh skills have become sloppy as a result of only speaking it with my family. As with many spoken languages, the spoken form has much looser use of grammar etc. By teaching the class I have had to go back and review much of the grammar and I know now that my Welsh is stronger than it has ever been. Thank you Colorado Welsh Society and the language class students. Gobeithio byddwn ni'n parhau am byth!

-Elis Owens

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What we're doing now - the advanced class

Last night the advanced class read and translated another selection from "Sgyrsiau Dros Baned" by Elwyn Hughes, a collection of humorous short essays in Welsh designed to provide topics for conversation. Unfortunately the book is out of print, or we'd do more with it. The language is intentionally slanted towards North Wales idioms and constructions, and some people found it harder going than usual on that account, but I think they agree that the more different forms of Welsh we're exposed to, the better. The piece we read was "Problemau Iaith" - Language Problems - and in the associated conversation it was fascinating to hear how many different languages people had studied. The general consensus seemed to be that Welsh is harder than French, but perhaps easier than German!

I gave a couple of the class over-achievers an additional assignment: to write a few sentences (in Welsh) about why they're studying the language. If they follow through, that should be on next week's blog. And in the meantime, we should have a piece from Elis soon about what the intermediate class is up to.


Monday, October 13, 2008

What we're doing - the advanced class

Two weeks into our fall term already! Last week the advanced class was doing reading and translation (easy beginner materials, to get us going again after the summer) and discussing the readings and other topics in Welsh, with some English mixed in. We have decided to press on with "Pedair Cainc y Mabinogi i Ddysgwyr" by Alun Ifans, which we began last spring, and I've ordered copies for everyone from the Welsh Books council site, With six students in the class besides myself, everyone gets plenty of opportunity to use their Welsh during the hour and a half long class!

For a brief post in Welsh (with translation) about the weather in Denver this last weekend, see my own blog here.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Welsh Language Classes Started Sept. 30

Almost every Tuesday evening between October and the end of May, a group from the Colorado Welsh Society gathers in Denver to study "Cymraeg."

It's fall and that means a new session of the Colorado Welsh Society Welsh Language Classes is beginning. Once again this year the Society language classes will meet in rooms on the campus of the Archdiocese of Denver, at 1300 S. Steele St., which is conveniently located on Louisiana St. between University Blvd. and Colorado Blvd., a few blocks north of I-25.

There are several forms of Welsh and our classes focus mainly on the modern spoken language, although comparisons with the older literary or biblical forms of the language are made. We try to keep the classes fun with the aim of getting students to try to speak the language rather than emphasizing grammatical perfection.

Classes are offered at three levels: beginners, intermediate (last year's beginners), and an advanced class. We meet on Tuesday from 7 to 8:30 pm. At 8.30pm, all three groups come together for a social time or "Te Bach" before heading home.

Classes are free to all members of the Welsh Society. Class members also take turns bringing a treat such as cookies for the "Te Bach."

For more information on CWS Welsh language classes please leave a comment on this blog or contact Elis Owens at (303) 427-7188.

-Elis Owens