College joins language drive

A college in one of the most anglicised parts of Wales is to become one of six dedicated language centres for the teaching of Welsh to adult learners.

Coleg Gwent is the only further education college selected by the Assembly government. The other five centres will be in the universities of Cardiff, Glamorgan, Swansea, Aberystwyth and Bangor. They are being set up under Iaith Pawb, the national action plan for a bilingual Wales.

This commits the government to taking a co-ordinated approach to the teaching of Welsh to adults.

Geraint Wilson-Price is the man who will head Coleg Gwent's language centre, at The Hill education and conference centre in Abergavenny, already the focal point for Welsh teaching within the college.

"This is a wonderful vote of confidence in Coleg Gwent and in all the hard work that has already been done in our area teaching Welsh to adults," he said.

"The growth of the Welsh-medium schools has stimulated interest from parents who are keen to keep up with their children. This is going to be a busy time but also an exciting and challenging one."

The new funding, part of an extra pound;4.6 million from the government, will pay for the recruitment of five full-time development officers, each serving a local authority area. They will organise classes and also do some teaching.

Mr Wilson-Price said: "Although Gwent is now an anglicised area, it was a bastion of the Welsh language in the past.

"You only have to go back a generation or two in most families to find a granny who spoke Welsh. People in this area are keen to rediscover their roots and re-connect with the Welsh language.

"We already run a lot of classes in village halls, community centres and even the odd pub or rugby club. We will set up a class wherever there is a demand. We also want to organise more social activities."

One of the college's part-time tutors is Stuart Imm, from Cwmbran, who won the title of Welsh learner of the year at last month's National Eisteddfod in Swansea.

"Stuart is proof that it is possible to go from speaking no Welsh at all to being totally fluent," said Mr Wilson-Price. "A lot of our tutors are ex-learners who understand how hard it can be at times."

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