A new report shows the Welsh language is going from strength to strength in Patagonia with a 19% increase since last year in the number of people taking Welsh language courses and an increase of 54% in the number of adult learners.
The 2014 Annual Monitoring Report of the Welsh Language Project, which is run in Patagonia by British Council Wales, demonstrates the growing popularity of the language in the region:
An increase of 19% in the number of people learning Welsh (from children to adults), from 985 in 2013/14 to 1174 in 2014/15, representing a 39% increase since 2011.
A significant increase in the amount of adult learners with 268 adults attending courses, an increase of 54% this year and 135% since 2011.
As well as a record number of learners, 2014 saw the highest number of Welsh classes in the history of the project, 90 classes in all, up from 83 in 2013 and 79 in 2012.
Gareth Kiff, academic monitor for the project and author of the report, said: “The increase in the numbers of people of all ages learning Welsh during the last three years is a testament to the hard work of all involved in the project in Patagonia and Wales. Numbers are growing in all age categories and by 2016 we should reach a situation where there are three bilingual primary schools.
“The work of the project is to ensure that local people have ownership of such initiatives and ensure that there is a long term future for the Welsh language in Patagonia. This is happening and considering the small amounts of money available to us the project is an example of cost effectiveness in a time of economic hardship.”
Jenny Scott, director of British Council Wales said: “This year sees the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the Welsh settlers in Patagonia and the report clearly shows how the Welsh Language Project is helping the language thrive in the region. We hope the year of celebrations will encourage more people in Welsh Patagonia and here in Wales to learn the language.
“The British Council project Connecting Classrooms is also helping build links between Wales and Patagonia with a partnership in place between Ysgol Pentreuchaf, near Pwllheli, and Ysgol yr Hendre in Trelew, Chubut. Ysgol Feithrin y Gaiman, Chubut and Ysgol Gymraeg Aberystwyth are also creating a partnership and we have interest from another pair of schools.”
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.