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This project was commissioned through research funding of £35,000 by Welsh Government in 2010. One third of all adult learners of Welsh attending advanced level provision took part through questionnaires and focus groups. Underpinning the research was an attempt to ascertain whether learning in a Canolfan Gymraeg (defined as a centre where classes for learners are combined with activities for Welsh speakers in the community as well as various other facilities) affects the potential Welsh language social networks available to adults by comparing learners who had studied in a Canolfan Gymraeg and those who had not had this opportunity.  There were four main research questions:

  • What opportunities are available to maintain social networks in Welsh?
  • Are these opportunities greater or equal if learners study in a Canolfan Gymraeg;?
  • Are there any strategies that could be implemented in order to extend and expand the Welsh medium social network of these new speakers of Welsh?
  • Do patterns or strategies exist in other language communities that could be adapted to the efforts to integrate adults who have learnt Welsh?

A main finding of the research was that adult learners of Welsh in non-Welsh-speaking areas of Wales were indeed able to access wider Welsh language social networks when they studied in the environment of a Canolfan Gymraeg. A major recommendation was that there was a need to establish more Canolfannau Cymraeg in particular in the less Welsh-speaking areas of Wales.

The research findings and recommendations were published and released in an event sponsored by the Swansea East AM, Mike Hedges at the Senedd on 10 July 2012. This was followed by an open meeting to discuss Canolfannau Cymraeg at Swansea's own Canolfan Gymraeg - Tŷ Tawe - at which a number of speakers involved in running or setting up current Canolfannau Cymraeg were present as well as those planning to establish new ones. The AM for Llanelli at the time of the launch, Keith Davies (also chair of the cross party group on the Welsh language) noted in his blog that "...specialists had drawn attention to the positive affect of Canolfannau Cymraeg on their local communities and how the relationship between the language and its community run hand in hand...".  The model of the Canolfan Gymraeg had taken hold and in December 2014 it was announced that the government would be allocating £70,000 to set up a Canolfan Gymraeg in Llanelli (Y Lle).

On 6 August 2014, the First Minister Carwyn Jones announced that an investment fund of £1.5 million would be used to set up Canolfannau Cymraeg and on 4 November 2014, he announced further funding of an extra £1 million, connecting this with the Welsh Government's commitment to promote the use of the Welsh language in Wales outlined in 'Bwrw Ymlaen'. These newly funded Canolfannau Cymraeg have opened in Carmarthen, Cardiff, Wrexham, Bangor and Pontardawe (in collaboration with Academi Hywel Teifi at Swansea University). A report commissioned in 2015 to evaluate the economic impact of a wel-established Canolfan Gymraeg in Merthyr Tydfil came to the conclusion that in the preceding year, it had contributed around £608,000 to the local economy and estimated that the total economic impact within South Wales was £1.3 million.

All images courtesy of Chris Reynolds.

Heini Gruffudd, Steve Morris, Mike Hedges AM (Swansea East) sponsor of the launch and Aled Davies, director of the South West Wales Welsh for Adults Centre based at Swansea University