Monday, 2 November 2009

Welsh learners shine

Dedicated administration assistant Anne Wilkins has been named Welsh Language Learner of the Year at the force’s first ever Welsh Language Awards Ceremony.

The force began its in-house Welsh language training in September 2008 as part of its commitment to building even stronger relationships with its bilingual residents.

Now more than 70 staff and officers of all ranks have completed varying levels of Welsh language training which they will use in their roles.

These first graduates received certificates at a ceremony hosted by Chief Constable Barbara Wilding and John Griffiths, Welsh Assembly Government Deputy Skills Minister.

And student Anne, a Learning and Development Services administration assistant, who is blind, was crowned Welsh Language Learner of the Year.

Anne, who has been with the force since 1972, said: “I’m delighted – it was a real shock.

“I learned Welsh Braille and it was hard work, but I hope it will show other people who are blind that they can achieve the same things as everyone else.

“I grew up in Glynneath and spoke some Welsh when I was a little girl but stopped when I was five.

“I couldn’t remember any of it, so it was all learning from scratch.

“There are more Welsh speakers in the force area now and it’s important to be able to speak to people in Welsh to build up relationships.”

Anne was one of 29 staff and officers who completed the intensive Welsh language training programme, attending classes three days a month, for six months, before passing the external WJEC beginners’ exam.

They will now be able to ask for and give basic information in Welsh, and conduct basic conversations.

A further 42 staff and officers also passed Level 1 Basic Linguistic Courtesy Welsh, enabling them to use Welsh pronunciation correctly and say basic Welsh greetings, names and places as well as have an awareness of Welsh police terminology.

Chief Constable Barbara Wilding said: “Level 1 Welsh is very basic but it will ensure our staff and officers can use Welsh pronunciation correctly and say basic Welsh greetings, while the intensive training allows students to conduct basic Welsh language conversations.

“During the last 20 years South Wales has seen a revival of the Welsh Language, and we now have over 170,000 Welsh speakers within our force communities.

“The 2001 Census showed that 40.8% of young people between the ages of 5 – 15 speak Welsh, with research suggesting that this figure will increase dramatically at the next Census.

“The students who have passed include all ranks, including neighbourhood officers, a roads policing officer and front desk clerks.

“This initial Welsh training is at a basic level but it will help our officers and staff build even stronger relationships with our bilingual residents for the future.

“We recognise we need more officers and staff who are fluent and many of the students will now progress to further training to become more proficient.”

Deputy Minister for Skills John Griffiths said:

“It is fantastic to see so many employees within South Wales Police achieving a Welsh Language Award which recognises their commitment and hard work in developing their Welsh Language skills.

“This is an excellent example of an organisation’s commitment to the continued training and development of its workforce, congratulations to Anne and all the Welsh learners on their achievements.”

Roads Policing motorcyclist PC Simon Brisco-Richards who passed the intensive Welsh training, said: “Being able to use Welsh helps you set up a rapport with people.

“We are coming across a lot more Welsh speakers now, not just in the West of the force, but right across.

“I’ve stopped drivers during stop checks and said “Bore da” and asked how they are in Welsh.

“Immediately you’ve started up a mini conversation, they feel they can relate to you and there’s more respect there from the start.

“My Welsh level is only very basic but it really does help break down barriers and build a relationship.”

The Force’s senior command team, including Deputy Chief Constable Peter Vaughan, Assistant Chief Constable David Morris, Director of Finance Umar Hussain and also Assistant Chief Constable Colette Paul and Assistant Chief Constable Nick Croft both English-born, also showed their commitment to Welsh, by passing Level 1 Basic Linguistic Courtesy Welsh.

Priority for training is given to individuals who have regular contact with the public.

19 per cent of the South Wales Police force is currently Welsh speaking.


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