Summer in New England is an event long anticipated among its sun-starved denizens, a season of riotous color, long evening walks and a good-natured good riddance to winter’s last vestiges. After all, winter returns quickly; it is best to part on good terms.
WSWNE hosted a weekend of summer gatherings that refreshed our minds and spirits. On Saturday, June 9, members and newcomers to the society took part in our first organized Welsh language classes. Thirteen students full of nervous excitement greeted Professor Robert J. Jones from the St. David’s Welsh Society of the Capital District in Albany, New York. In addition to French, German and Spanish, Prof. Jones occasionally provides a cwrs cymraeg for his students at Fulton- Montgomery Community College in Johnstown, New York. We are immensely grateful that he gave us the same privilege.
Prof. Jones’s students in WSWNE’s Welsh classes come from a variety of backgrounds, ranging from Welsh expatriates interested in reconnecting with their roots to people who have visited Wales, heard the language and are keen to know more. Saturday morning in Hartford, Connecticut’s Town and County Club rang with a chorus of ch’s and ll’s as student wrapped their tongues around Welsh vowels and consonants. In no time at all introductions were flying to and fro between the tables, followed by names and refrains of da iawn. By the end of the first day’s course, students were able talk about where they were from (dod) and where they live now (byw).
Afternoon festivities consisted of a Welsh Tea, where students from the morning’s class were joined by other WSWNE members and guests. Old friends caught up and introduced each other to newcomers over a splendid array of dishes served with beautiful china that sparkled in the afternoon light. And the welshcakes! I have no fond memories of welshcakes (such was my luck in Wales), but these cakes, prepared by WSWNE board members, destroyed all of my former hesitations with cacen gri.
The presentation during the tea, entitled “Welsh Gardens and Estates,” was provided by Prof. Jones, who showed and described pictures from his visits to various lands managed by the National Trust. Views of the Laburnum Arch in Bodnant, the intricate woodwork at Plas Newydd in Llangollen and ancient yews in Powis held the attention of attendees as Prof. Jones described his journeys and his impression of the estates.
The following morning, Sunday, June 10, the Welsh class reconvened and delved further into more complicated grammar and phrases. Students grew increasingly familiar learning with both the language and each other under Prof. Jones’s instruction, and the overall sentiment at the end of the weekend was determination to improve on the progress already made in learning Welsh. A learners group is forming in Western New England – join us as we siarad cymraeg!