This month, the Welsh Language Project celebrates its 20th anniversary, with the Welsh language initiative going from strength to strength since its introduction in 1997.
Promoting and developing the Welsh language in the Chubut region of Patagonia, Argentina, the project is funded by Welsh Government, The Wales Argentina Society and British Council Wales; all eager to continue adding to the network of Patagonian Welsh language tutors in the region.
According to the organisation, every year three Language Development Officers from Wales spend from March to December teaching in Patagonia, developing the language within the Welsh-speaking communities that reside there. Reporting year-on-year progression, a 2016 report revealed that there were 1270 people learning Welsh in the area; an increase of 4.1% from 2015 and the highest number on record for the project.
Jenny Scott, director of British Council Wales, which manages the project, said:
“The continued growth in the number of people learning Welsh in Patagonia is testament to the hard work that has gone into the Welsh Language Project over the last 20 years. We look forward to seeing further growth, boosted by the expansion of Welsh medium education in the region.”
Rhisiart Arwel, academic monitor for the project, said:
“2017 is a very important year for the Welsh Language Project as it reaches its 20th anniversary. Back in 1997 few would have predicted the success of this unique project, which is funded by Welsh Government, British Council Wales and the Wales-Argentina Society.
“At the project’s inception, only 573 learners were registered for Welsh classes. Since then, thanks to the commitment and enthusiasm of everyone involved with the project, that figure has risen to 1270. This is the highest figure in the project’s history, signifying a rise of 121% over 20 years. This is a huge success story.”
While a wonderful milestone, this is very much just the beginning for this incredible project, with the future of the Welsh language in Patagonia being secured by the new Welsh-Spanish school in Trevelin, Ysgol y Cwm. Opening in March 2016, the school hopes to teach Welsh to an additional 150 pupils.