Starting Out - Welsh Beginner Award Winner
Nominated by: Learn Welsh Glamorgan
Sponsored by: The Open University in Wales and National Centre for Learning Welsh
Steven Wright moved from Australia to Wales, he’d been a fashion designer before starting a career in teaching and moved to take up a job as a lecturer at the University of South Wales, where he progressed to his current position as Head of Subject for Fashion Marketing and Photography.
Steven said: “I had previously visited Wales a few times before, so I knew I loved the country. When I got offered the role at the University of South Wales, the school’s ethos immediately appealed to me. I loved the idea of nurturing talent locally and it felt like more of a challenge to take myself to a country that had such a distinct culture.”
The move did come with challenges, he says “I moved to Wales just as we came out of Europe, moving to the Valleys took some adjusting, and at first, I felt like I didn’t belong. I found myself becoming quite critical of the language and I didn’t really understand its importance.”
When the first national lockdown came because of Covid 19, Steven decided to use it as an opportunity to learn more about the history of Wales. “I knew that to learn more about Wales, I needed to embrace the language too. I’d also recently met my partner who is a first-language Welsh speaker and a huge champion of the language, so I signed up to an online course with Learn Welsh Glamorgan. Learning Welsh has helped me understand the people, the culture and the country a lot more. I’ve got a new-found appreciation of what it’s like to feel at home in Wales, and I feel immensely proud to live in this country.”
Steven has been learning Welsh for three years and has credited his Welsh language skills for the progress he has made in his career. In his current role, he looks at ways the University of South Wales can connect with schools, the Welsh Government, and local initiatives. Steven continued: “In the three years that I have been learning Welsh, I have seen how my students and colleagues thrive when Welsh is integrated into what we do.”
A few years ago, he created a Clwb Ffasiwn, a club for 14 – 17-year-olds to design and create fashion items, meet and socialise in Welsh, and learn the trade through the Welsh language. Because many courses are in English it provided a space for them to combine their first language with their passion.
Steven said: “Lots of jobs in Wales see the Welsh language as a desirable skill and having now had lessons, it has made all the difference. The key to learning is to give it a go and not be afraid to get it wrong. Learning Welsh has helped me make meaningful connections with people that I wouldn’t have necessarily spoken to before, but because they have heard me speak the language, they feel more at ease and willing to delve into conversation with me. Learning Welsh has changed my life and I’m excited for the future.”