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

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