The Welsh Language Project in Patagonia is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year and the latest report shows that it continues to go from strength to strength.
The 2016 report found that a total of 1270 people were learning Welsh in the region during the year, an increase of 4.1% from 2015 and the highest number on record for the project.
The growth in the number of learners was generated by the further development of Welsh medium education in the region. The report notes a 202% increase in the number of primary school children and a 14.5% increase in the number of teenagers learning Welsh.
The future of the Welsh language in Patagonia is being secured by the new Welsh-Spanish school in Trevelin, Ysgol y Cwm, which opened its doors in March 2016. Fifty nursery age children were welcomed into the school, which hopes to eventually teach a further 150 pupils.
Ysgol Gymraeg y Gaiman has also experienced growth as a result of its new building, which opened in 2015, and the project has celebrated 10 years since establishing Ysgol yr Hendre in Trelew.
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."
The Welsh Language Project has been promoting and developing the language in the Chubut region of Patagonia, Argentina since 1997. Every year three language development officers from Wales spend March to December teaching in Patagonia. They develop the language in the Welsh speaking communities through teaching and social activities.
There is also a permanent teaching co-ordinator from Wales based in Patagonia, who is responsible for the quality of teaching.
The project includes a network of Patagonian Welsh language tutors in the region. The tutors visit Wales and attend Welsh language courses and participate in school observation visits, to help the project maintain teaching standards and ensure up-to-date methodologies are used in Patagonia.
The Welsh Government, the Wales Argentina Society and British Council Wales fund the project, which is part of the British Council’s International Education Programme. The Chubut government also helps with funding for Welsh language teaching.
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