Technology helps teach Welsh

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    By Emily Stout

    Of all the things that come to mind when thinking of Brigham Young University, the Welsh language is usually not one of them.

    BYU is well-known for its language department and the number of languages taught on campus. Welsh, the language of the people of Wales, is one of the many languages taught at BYU. Professor Ronald Dennis of the Spanish and Portuguese Department teaches the class. Because Welsh is not commonly spoken outside Wales, it can be enlightening to look at a language that is Celtic instead of Romantic (based on Latin, the language of the Romans) or Germanic.

    But Dennis is not satisfied to simply teach one of the rare Celtic language courses found at American universities. He plans to use modern technology to improve the course before his impending retirement.

    Dennis plans to take advantage of Internet and other technology to “make available materials for the rank beginner to learn Welsh.”

    “We do not assume anything,” he said. “It is good if a person has previous experience with language because then it”s not a mystery, you don”t walk into it cold or blind, you understand how much work it is to learn another language.”

    The project centers on video clips of native Welsh speakers speaking on various subjects, which Dennis traveled to Wales last summer to obtain.

    Several of Dennis”s former students from his Welsh class have helped him and will continue to help him on the project. Two of them are Melanie Dew, a junior majoring in elementary education, and Rose Card, a sophomore majoring in film.

    “The reason why it”s important to have the video is because there are little idiosyncrasies that speakers of every language have,” Dew said. “To see them instead of just hearing them allows you to be able to pick up on those, allows you to see their mouth shape, how their mouth is moving and allows you to see to form the words better.”

    “Another important part with having the ability to hear the native Welsh speakers talk is that listening to somebody from here speak the language, even if they speak it really well, is a lot different than talking to somebody who has spoken the language all their life,” Card said.

    Dennis offered a warning to those who think they can learn any language, and especially Welsh, quickly.

    “My favorite phrase is ”to pick up Welsh.” You won”t pick up Welsh. You can pick up your toothbrush or something, but you cannot pick up a language. It”s very serious business.”

    The completed materials can be found online at http://hlrc.byu.edu. Additional materials will be posted as they are finished.

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