National Eisteddfod Welsh Learner of the Year inspired by love of languages
27 September 2022
A Modern Languages student received the prize of Welsh Learner of the Year at this year’s National Eisteddfod in Ceredigion after his passion for languages sparked an appetite for Welsh.
Joe Healy, originally from South London, had never planned to pursue languages but once he started, knew he did not want to stop, culminating in winning this prestigious accolade.
Joe, who studied Spanish (BA) with Catalan at the School of Modern Languages, initially started learning Welsh after being inspired by a partner who was fluent, then an immersion in the culture and arts accelerated a desire to learn.
As well as utilising programmes such as the university’s Welsh for All courses as well as apps and online tools like Say Something in Welsh, Joe maintains that he has learnt Welsh ‘on the streets.’
He said: “95% of my learning, particularly with spoken Welsh, has just been from socialising with people in the language and asking questions.”
Adding listening to music and watching children’s television programmes to his list of tools, he said: “Doing things you enjoy is always going to help a lot more than learning out of a book, in my opinion. There needs to be a mix of things you do all at once, particularly with Welsh, as the language is incredibly varied across locations and situations. It takes time to realise that there’s not one correct way to use it, but lots of different ones, and the more you expose yourself to it, the more you realise that!”
With his dedication to languages leading him to his current PhD studies looking at contemporary Spanish and French politics, Joe agrees that each language he learns helps facilitate his command of the next and he applies skills developed at university to assist this process.
“My university lecturers once described the grammar as the Christmas tree, and the vocab as the decorations. You can’t put the baubles on without the tree. So, every new language I learn I try as quickly as possible to reach a point where I can make sentences- it’s not pretty but it’s fundamental. Then, you can use the language to describe things and chat to people, which is when you can start to have fun with it.””
Following his studies, Joe would like to pursue a career in languages and continue to improve his written and formal Welsh, making it a crucial part of working life in the future. Until then he continues to use at least two languages daily and advocates multilingualism to broaden the mind. “The wonder of languages comes from the varieties themselves, the new worlds that they reveal, the historical and cultural backdrops. You simply can’t get that if you stick to English, or any other language for that matter. Languages help us to celebrate the beautiful complexity that the world offers, and to surround ourselves with it.”