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Friday, 9 August, 2002, 16:46 GMT 17:46 UK
Language prize winner's Welsh love affair
Alice James and family
The Welsh language is a family affair
A 27-year-old London woman who moved to west Wales after falling in love, has been named as the National Eisteddfod's Learner of the Year.

Alice James, who now lives in Crymych, Pembrokeshire, hopes her achievement will encourage other young mothers to take up the Welsh language in a practical way.

Eisteddfod pavilion
Learner of the Year is awarded at the eisteddfod

She began learning Welsh after meeting her husband, Rheinallt, at a protest against opencast mining in the Neath Valley.

They are now raising their three children - Iolo, five, twins Mirain and Cellan, eight months - with Welsh as the language of the home.

Recalling her first visit to Wales as a 16-year-old, she said: "I still have my notebook from that day in Cardiff where I'd written down all these Welsh place names."

But the catalyst for her passion for the language happened when she met her husband.

"I was amazed at how little regard the local children had for the language", she said.

"So I starting learning from a book and got very serious about it when I moved down here permanently.

Alice James
Alice wants her award to inspire others

"I have been speaking Welsh now for about seven years and feel I've been fluent for about three.

"But I can always do with some improving. It feels horrible and strange if I have to speak English to the kids."

Alice speaks Welsh in the distinctive dialect of north Pembrokeshire.

She uses words such as "crwt" and "croten" for boy and girl instead of "bachgen" and "merch".

She now wants her award to serve a purpose and is very forthright in her views.

"I am pleased to win and my husband is very proud.

"But I would like to be an ambassador for the language, to encourage others to pass it on.

"People need to understand that it is more than a language, it is a way of life.

"There's no point just learning in a class - you've got to get out there into the community.

Support

"The language has enabled me to forge a new identity for myself.

"The people in the area have been absolutely fantastic to me."

Alice does admit, however, her connection with Wales did start rather earlier than her visit as a teenager.

She said: "My first boyfriend was Welsh.

"We were both six year-olds in primary school and his family had just moved to London."


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05 Aug 02 | Wales
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