THE number of people speaking Welsh is falling – but sailor Sarah Hattle is bucking the trend.
The 32-year-old is not only mastering Welsh but has been given first prize for her skills on a TV show.
The Royal Navy Lieutenant spent a week with nine others learning the language.
She said she had not expected to win, which secured her a further week’s training and a painting by a local artist.
‘It was brilliant – absolutely amazing,’ she said.
‘I’m learning sort of on my own here, obviously there aren’t very many Welsh speakers around.
‘So just spending a week with nine other learners was amazing.’
She spent four hours a day being taught Welsh at Manorafon camp, near Tresaith and Llangrannog in Wales.
Tutors Nia Parry and Ioan Talfryn taught the 10 each day in an effort to improve their skills for the S4C show.
Despite admitting her Welsh wasn’t the best, Sarah was voted the winner by her fellow competitors at the end of the show, called cariad@iaith.
Sarah, of Redmill Drive, in Lee-on-the-Solent, added: ‘When you add Ioan and Nia – they’re just incredible tutors.
‘The whole crew speak Welsh so there’s lots of people to practise with. I started learning 18 months ago.
‘I had much less Welsh than everyone else at the start.
‘What I’ve learnt I knew well, but I realised going there I don’t know very much.’
According to the 2011 census, only 562,000 people speak the language.
But Sarah’s motivation is understandable – she and navy husband Lieutenant Commander Prideaux Hattle are moving to the country.
Daughter Mali, five, along with sons Iolo, two and Otto, eight months, will all learn the language at school.
Sarah said: ‘We’ve bought a place up in north Wales.
‘We will be living there when we finally leave the navy, so I guess it’s just to integrate properly.
‘The children are going to be learning as all the education in that part is in Welsh.
‘I just felt I wanted to stay a step ahead of the children.
‘I don’t want them to have some secret language I can’t communicate in.’
Sarah wants to hear from Welsh speakers in the area on firstname.lastname@example.org
On our video, hear Sarah speak in Welsh and then translate her words into English