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Welsh Learner of the Year finalists announced

07 Jun 2024 5 minute read
Welsh Learner of the Year 2024

The four finalists for this year’s Welsh Learner of the Year competition have been announced today.

Judges received 45 entries for this year’s competition held at the Rhondda Cynon Taf National Eisteddfod, and this is the highest number ever to enter the Eisteddfod’s main competition for learners.

The competition is jointly organised by the Eisteddfod and the National Centre for Learning Welsh.

Learners from Wales and beyond have entered this year’s competition, and the name of the winner will be announced at a special ceremony on the pavilion stage on Wednesday 7 August.

The final four were chosen following the semi-final held last month, and judges, Bethan Glyn, Cefin Campbell and Mark Morgan, will have another chance to chat to the finalists on the Eisteddfod Maes before deciding on the winner.

The fab four

So who are they? Here’s a little bit of their history and their Welsh language journey over the past few years.

Joshua Morgan has been learning Welsh for a year and a half. He moved to England from Wales when he was seven, before returning to study at Cardiff University.

Sketchy Welsh – Josh Morgan

He realised he could learn Welsh when he started studying isiXhosa when he lived in South Africa for two years. He created a book ’31 ways to Hoffi Coffi’ for family and friends, and it became popular among learners.

Then, Josh started illustrating his Welsh learning journey, and by now more than 10,000 learners use ‘Sketchy Welsh’ illustrations and lessons.

Josh has worked with Amgueddfa Cymru on a guide on how to discuss art in Welsh and has appeared on ‘Prynhawn Da’ to offer advice on how to start drawing.

He works as a teacher at Greenfield Special School, Merthyr Tydfil, and has helped his class to create a Welsh learning book called ‘Lles’. He also creates a weekly video with his class to teach Welsh to the rest of the school.


Antwn Owen-Hicks uses Welsh in his work with the Arts Council of Wales every day, and has been supporting and promoting Welsh artists for years.

He grew up in a non-Welsh speaking household – his great grandmother was the last Welsh speaker in his family.

Antwn Owen-Hicks

He became interested in his roots and the language as a student in London. He started learning when he returned to Wales and has completed several courses over the years including obtaining an A-Level in Welsh.

Welsh is the language of the family home in Sirhowy, and his daughter is the first language Welsh speaker in the family for four generations.

He is a founding member of Welsh folk band, Carreg Lafar, which has recorded four albums and performed across the UK, Europe and North America.

He also launched a series of informal acoustic concerts, ‘Y Parlwr’ with his wife Linda, providing a platform for Welsh artists mostly.

Celtic connections

Originally from Scotland, Alanna Pennar-Macfarlane lives in Cardiff, and has completed at least one Welsh lesson a day for over 2,400 days (almost six and a half years) on the Duolingo app.

Alanna Pennar-Macfarlane

She uses Welsh completely naturally without letting her dyslexia stifle her learning.

Alanna has inspired her family, with her sister-in-law and her mother now learning Welsh.

She has also developed resources to help other learners on their Welsh journey.

She launched her ‘Dyddiadur i Ddysgwyr’ (Learners’ Diary) in November 2023, selling over 200 copies to learners all over the world.

She is currently working on a guidebook to help with mutation rules, as well as an academic diary aimed at new Welsh speakers.


Elinor Staniforth started learning Welsh about four years ago, and now shares her passion for the language with other learners. She grew up in a non-Welsh-speaking household in Cardiff and studied fine art in Oxford before returning to Wales.

Elinor Staniforth

She started learning Welsh before COVID, to meet people and help her find work in the arts and was immediately attracted to the language and culture.

Learning Welsh has changed her life and given her far more confidence. She is now a Welsh for adults tutor, inspiring others to learn Welsh.

In the future, she hopes to link her interest in learning Welsh with art, by holding art courses for learners and confident speakers, bringing people who don’t use their Welsh regularly together through visual arts.

The winner will be announced on the Pavilion stage, on Wednesday 9 August, and will receive the Learner of the Year Trophy, presented by Menter Iaith Rhondda Cynon Taf and £300, donated by Lowri Jones and Rhuanedd Richards, to thank their parents for learning Welsh as adults, and to thank everyone else who has learned the language, or made sure their children receive Welsh medium education even though they don’t speak Welsh themselves.

The other three in the final will receive a trophy, donated by Menna Davies, in memory of her father, Meirion Lewis, former head of Ysgol Gymraeg Ynys-wen, her mother, Clarice Lewis and her sister, Mair, and £100 each, given by Lowri Jones and Rhuanedd Richards.

The Learner of the Year sessions in Maes D are supported by Cwmni Cyfieithu Nico.

For more information on the Rhondda Cynon Taf National Eisteddfod, visit, and for more on the National Centre for Learning Welsh and to find a Welsh course which works for you, click

The Rhondda Cynon Taf National Eisteddfod is held at Parc Ynysangharad, Pontypridd from 3-10 August. Programmes online from 14 June.


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