SOPHIE ROBERTS is the perfect example of how adult learning can broaden horizons and inspire future generations to follow in your footsteps.
Sophie, from Trelawnyd, began learning Welsh with Coleg Cambria just four years ago when she joined an intermediate class in nearby Holywell.
The mum-of-two, who runs a busy dairy farm with husband Emlyn, made swift progress in a short space of time.
So much so that Sophie won the Learners’ Chair at this year’s North East Wales Eisteddfod, followed by the Learner’s Chair at the National Eisteddfod held in Gwynedd over the summer!
To mark Adult Learners’ Week, she encouraged others to follow their dreams and not let anything stand in the way.
“I’d learnt some Welsh in school whilst growing up in Pembrokeshire but soon lost the language as we spoke English at home and I then spent 10 years living in England for university and work,” said Sophie.
“Upon moving to North Wales with my husband, I decided to brush up on my Welsh as something for myself and to meet new people.
“The class was so lovely, everyone was friendly and welcoming and my tutor Eilir Jones made learning so much fun and helped me to gain lots of confidence. Eilir is such a fantastic tutor and I’m so grateful for his support.”
She added: “In 2020 I started the Advanced 1 Welsh course with Cambria but this time online, with an amazing tutor called Non Lewis Edwards. It was a lovely group, and it was wonderful to have a class to attend weekly during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I learnt so much over that year and made new friends from all over Britain and even one from Spain! It was such a supportive class, and we were encouraged to share new ways to use our Welsh for enjoyment.
“This spurred me on to use my Welsh every day by listening to Welsh podcasts, reading books and by writing creatively in Welsh too.”
Sophie went on to complete a Proficiency Welsh class online with tutor Catrin Jones and has even started two new Proficiency classes, all with Cambria.
She is delighted how far she has come in such a short space of time but never imagined she would go on to win such prestigious Eisteddfod titles.
Her inspirational poem Glannau (Shores) was lauded by TV presenter and renowned poet Ifor ap Glyn for using the ocean as a metaphor for mental health.
“It was so much fun to go to the Eisteddfod and a pleasure to meet Ifor,” said Sophie.
“I still can’t believe all of the wonderful things he had to say about my poem during the ceremony, it was a fantastic experience.”
She added: “I’m so glad that I decided to learn Welsh with Cambria and I have gained much more than just a new skill.
“I’ve made some amazing friends and met passionate tutors who I would love to thank for their support and for making learning so enjoyable. I have also found a new passion in writing in Welsh.
“It’s thanks to all those wonderful people, and the love and support from family and friends, that I’ve had the confidence to share my writing in Welsh.
“Two of my poems have now been published in Ffosfforws (Cyhoeddiadau’r Stamp) and I’ve had a short story published in Curiadau (Barddas).
“I have felt so welcomed into this wonderful community of Welsh speakers and can’t wait to keep on learning more with Cambria.”
Adult Learners’ Week is coordinated by Learning and Work Institute in partnership with the Welsh Government.
Throughout September, the annual campaign will encourage people across Wales to discover their passion and never stop learning.
On the Working Wales website there will be hundreds of free online and in-person events, tasters, courses, and resources on offer with advice and guidance on available pathways and support such as retraining, Personal Learning Accounts, childcare, and redundancy.
Cambria will be holding drop-in sessions for anyone interested in adult learning throughout this week: Tuesday at Pengwern Community Centre in Llangollen from 10am-12pm; Wednesday at Gwersyllt Community Resource Centre from 12.30pm-2.30pm, and Brynteg Community Hall on Thursday from 2.30pm-4.30pm.
For more information visit the website.