Fire and Rescue Service rewards its 2012 Welsh Learner of the YearPosted
North Wales Fire and Rescue Service named staff member Sarah Roberts as their Welsh Learner of the Year during a presentation ceremony on the Eisteddfod yr Urdd maes at Glynllifon this week.
Sarah, who heads up North Wales Fire and Rescue Service's Information & Communications Technology team, won the 'Welsh Learner of the Year' award after being nominated by her peers.
She has been living in Wales since she was three years old, but only started learning Welsh about eight years ago. Using North Wales Fire and Rescue Service's Welsh language oral CD learning programme for staff, Sarah passed the Level 1 and 2 tests and moved on to successfully complete her Level 3 and 4 courses and oral exams.
Sarah, who lives with her husband Wyn in Tal-y-Bont in the Conwy Valley, said: "I have heard the Welsh language spoken by others most of my life because both my mother and my husband are Welsh speakers. My father's first language is English and although he tried to learn the language when he moved toWalesfromYorkshire, English was always spoken at home. I was involved with the Urdd when I was in junior school in Conwy, but I didn't study Welsh in secondary school because it would have meant dropping a science subject. I wanted to be an engineer and join the Royal Navy. We didn't have computers and smartphones in school in those days!"
"When I was working for North Wales Police, I realised that I too wanted to be able to communicate with people in Welsh. I was inspired to learn the language and after joining North Wales Fire and Rescue Service six years ago I continued with my learning, using CDs and classes to reach Level 4."
Sarah feels that having heard the Welsh language spoken around her it has helped with pronunciation issues but she hopes to continue improving her language skills: "I've had to put a lot of time into practicing and revising but I know that exposure to the Welsh language has helped me with my learning."
"I'm always trying to learn more from my Welsh speaking colleagues and practice with them at every opportunity. I had picked up a few odd words over the years but I now have the confidence to string a few sentences together. I chat and send basic emails in Welsh to colleagues in the Fire & Rescue Service as well as people working for other organisations."
"My mother developed Alzheimers when she was in her late 50s. Being able to speak Welsh with her makes it easier to communicate because it is her first language. It's also a novelty to be able to speak Welsh with other members of the family, although I sometimes get the dialects mixed up because the Welsh side of my family are from Ynys Môn and my husband's family are from Gwynedd!"
Dawn Docx, Deputy Chief Fire Officer presented Sarah with her award. She said: "We live in a bilingual community and as a Service we believe that it is extremely important to be able to recognise the importance of our Welsh culture and heritage and that as many of our staff as possible can converse with residents in their chosen language.
"We have established a group of Welsh Language Champions within the Service to help our staff learn Welsh and to provide additional mentoring and support at our locations across North Wales and Sarah benefitted from this initiative.
"We thoroughly agreed with the nominator of this award that Sarah showed real commitment and determination to learning the language - hopefully it will encourage others to do the same and use their Welsh language skills in the workplace. Many congratulations and well done to her."