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Language is a superpower

31 May 2022

Two young women sit talking to each other

Three students from the School of Journalism, Media and Culture’s Digital Documentaries (MA) course have created mini documentaries exploring the theme of bilingualism in support of a play called Petula.

The play, which was produced by National Theatre Wales - Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru and August012, combined dark comedy and adventure with a script by Daf James that mixed Welsh, English and a little French.

A young person wearing a hoodie looks up through binoculars
Petula - Adapted and Translated by Daf James

In order to celebrate the play’s bilingualism, the National Theatre challenged Dewi Morris, Deio Jones and Rhiannon Jones, all Welsh speakers, to scour Wales for stories of individuals who use two languages in their everyday lives.

When Dewi met Joseph

Dewi Morris, from West Wales, visited Oasis in Cardiff - a charity for refugees and asylum seekers where he met Joseph Gnagbo, a refugee from Ivory Coast who’s turned his language skills to teaching.

Dewi Morris' video about bilingualism

Dewi said, “I enjoy showcasing different subcultures through my documentaries. I wanted to interview Joseph to celebrate multilingualism, to bring people from different cultures together and to reinforce that refugees are welcome in Wales.”

When Deio met Owain and Gwilym

Deio Jones, from Anglesey, explored the role that language plays in making music with classical singer Owain, from Llandeilo and Ifan, lead singer of band Gwilym, also from Anglesey.

Deio said, “I wanted to share this story to demonstrate the opportunities that become possible when you speak other languages. Interviewing Owain and Ifan opened my eyes to thinking about the role language plays when making music. Language becomes almost a science when you’re creating music in different languages.”

When Rhiannon met Francesca

Rhiannon Jones, from Maesteg, took her inspiration from Francesca Elena Sciarrillo, winner of the National Eisteddfod’s Welsh Language Learner of the Year award 2019. Francesca, from Ruthin, discussed the impact language has on her identity and sense of belonging.

Rhiannon said, “I wanted to discuss language in a personal way. I’ve been reminded that people’s relationships with languages are unique and made me think about my connection with the Welsh and English language, and how they contribute to my identity.

“I'd like to help people realise that languages have a personal and emotional value, that you can't put a price on.”

Director of Digital Documentaries, Dr Janet Harris added, “Documentaries are uniquely suited to exploring old and new subjects imaginatively and in depth. A documentary maker doesn’t know how, where or when the story will end. Building the story is part journalism and part creative filmmaking.

“Our school’s location in the centre of Cardiff facilitates opportunities like this and highlights that students don’t just study here, they live and work alongside the creative industries of Wales’ capital.

“Dewi, Deio and Rhiannon have created unique stories that explore a superpower to which we all have access – language.”

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Documentaries are uniquely suited to exploring old and new subjects imaginatively and in depth.