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TikTok: Welsh speakers use social media to teach others

TikTok: Welsh speakers use social media to teach others

Welsh speakers are turning to TikTok to promote the language and teach it to others.

The social media platform is helping to connect lovers of the language with new learners.

“I think the one thing with TikTok that’s different is the videos are short and sweet. You’re able to engage with people,” said one creator.

Bethany Davies from Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, has about 44,000 TikTok followers and has made a career out of sharing the Welsh language and culture.

The 23-year-old history graduate grew up speaking Welsh, and says she feels “privileged” not to have known life without it.

“I am one of five children and when my two eldest siblings were young, [my family] moved to this area and at the time the best school in the area was Welsh,” she said.

Having made the decision that her children would have a Welsh-medium education, Bethany’s mother threw herself into learning the language.

“She went to night school, while my sisters were really small. Five kids all under the age of 10, while learning this new language. So to me she’s this massive inspiration,” said Bethany.

“I never knew anything different. I went to a Welsh cylch, like a creche, a Welsh primary school, a Welsh secondary school.”

She continued: “After I left school, I went to an English college, and then I went to university. It’s not that I lost my Welshness, it’s just that it kind of went on the backburner.

“That sense of pride in my Welshness, it kind of went, and I think that happens for so many of us Welsh speakers.

“When I started my TikTok, it was during the pandemic and I was stuck in university in lockdown with my husband, who is not a fluent Welsh speaker.

“I was missing speaking Welsh with people, face to face. It just made me realise how much I took for granted.”

‘It’s brought it back to life’

Looking to reconnect with Welsh after beginning to feel “rusty” was also the main motivation for TikTok creator Nicky Gamble from Tonyrefail, Rhondda Cynon Taf, who also has more than 40,000 followers on the platform.

“I have grown up speaking Welsh, just through education. I went to a Welsh nursery, a Welsh primary school, a Welsh secondary school. So everything we were taught – history, maths, science – it was all done in Welsh,” she said.

“My parents don’t speak Welsh. It was something I mainly associated with school and friends.”

The 33-year-old continued: “I’ve always been really proud of the fact that I can speak Welsh, and I’ve always been proud that, as a country, [we] have our own language.”

Nicky, who works full-time in recruitment, joined TikTok with her two stepdaughters, as a hobby during the pandemic.

She’s found that being able to share her Welsh language skills has spurred her on to keep it up.

Screenshots from Nicky's TikTokIMAGE SOURCE,NICKY GAMBLE
Image caption,

Nicky Gamble started her TikTok with her stepdaughters during the pandemic

“I wanted to make it fun, I wanted Welsh to seem cool,” she said.

“I started making TikToks with some Welsh in there, and just kind of made it a bit cheeky as well, and I think that’s what attracted a lot of attention.

“After school, I didn’t really speak a lot of Welsh, so I found TikTok really useful, it’s brought it back to life for me.”

‘It’s for everyone’

While both Bethany and Nicky use a variety of social media platforms, they recognise TikTok as being particularly accessible for people looking to learn something new.

Nicky said: “Facebook is more for people you know, Instagram is quite posey, I think. Whereas TikTok is everything. And you have quite a large audience on there as well.

“I think people judge TikTok and think it’s just for youngsters, and it’s not. It’s really for everyone.”

She added that the algorithm on TikTok helps people to return to what they like watching.

However, she was shocked to attract such a large following.

Nicky Gamble with her dogIMAGE SOURCE,NICKY GAMBLE
Image caption,

Nicky Gamble, 33, does TikTok as a hobby around working full time

“It’s surprising to see how many non-Welsh speakers are interested in what I’m saying. That’s good, they didn’t just scroll past.”

Bethany grew up with social media from a young age, but says joining TikTok let her “start a fresh” as a content creator.

“With TikTok, I didn’t tell anyone about it. I really carved this name for myself as this Welsh girl, and I am proud of that and I will happily wear that with honour,” she said.

“I think the one thing with TikTok that’s different from any other app is the videos are short and sweet. You’re able to engage with people, I feel, on a better level.”

Screenshots from Bethany's TikTokIMAGE SOURCE,BETHANY DAVIES
Image caption,

Bethany Davies from Llanelli says she hopes to “correct” any misconceptions about the Welsh language

Bethany became a content creator after illness forced her to pause her planned masters degree studies.

She too has been surprised by the large and diverse interest in her Welsh content.

“Definitely in the beginning it was younger people,” she said. “I tend to utilise a lot of TikTok trends, and I incorporate Welshness into it.

“But, at the same time, I’ve been surprised by how many older people I have engaged with.

“They grew up speaking Welsh, but maybe unfortunately their family don’t anymore. So it’s nice for them to have someone to speak with and for them it represents their community, their childhood and all those things that make them who they are.”

Bethany believes there are a lot of “misconceptions” about Welsh.

“I grew up in this bubble where Welsh wasn’t even questioned. The status of the language, whether it is alive or dead. And then I went to university it was ‘What do you mean you speak Welsh?’, ‘What is that?’, ‘I thought that was a dead language?’

“It really just shows there is a world outside my little town. Being on TikTok showed me more of people’s misconceptions so I am now on my little mission to correct that.”

Image caption,

Bethany says she is proud to be known for her Welsh content

She continued: “I think as Welsh speakers we have a responsibility to make the language as accessible as possible.

“One thing that I never really thought of as a Welsh speaker was other people’s perceptions of Welsh, and how difficult it is for them to learn it.

“I can’t do everything, but I can make a community that is non-judgmental and wants to help people.

“It should be a happy thing, you should want to learn it and it should be a fun thing. It shouldn’t come from a place of feeling bad or that you should.”

‘It will survive this blip’

On the future of the language, Bethany added: “It’s an ancient language, it’s one that has survived many campaigns against it. So I think it will survive this little blip as well. I have faith in the language, I have faith in my people, and I have faith in us to keep it going.”

Nicky said the decline in Welsh speakers was disappointing, but it motivated her to encourage others to learn the language.

“TikTok, it’s free, and you can hear someone speaking Welsh.

“So I think it’s easier to access, perhaps, and that pushes me to continue wanting to do Welsh content.

“I’d like to see the numbers rise again and people take an interest in the language. It’s a part of who we are, our story. I just feel if we lost the language we would lose our identity.”

To anyone interested in learning Welsh, she said: “Just give it a go, take it slow. You’re not in a competition with anyone. Utilize all the different tools that are out there.”

Bethany added: “For any language the best way is to immerse yourself in it as much as you can.

“Just start listening to some Welsh music, watch some Welsh TV or Welsh films. Engage with Welsh media.

“It’s meant to be fun, so don’t put too much stress on yourself.”

Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-64027345



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