Mam Cymru was recently contacted by Sian Cartledge, a young Mother from Carmarthenshire, who told us about her desire to learn Welsh and her passion to create resources to help other parents to learn Welsh. We were keen to learn more and arranged an interview. We started by asking Sian about her own childhood here in Wales…
I was raised in the Swansea Valleys. My grandparents spoke Welsh but my parents didn’t so I was raised in an English household and never really had the opportunity to learn Welsh.
What inspired you to learn Welsh?
My son! After giving birth to my Maxwell in 2014, I realised that giving my child the opportunity to learn Welsh was one of the best gifts I could give him. Wales is a bilingual country and if you can speak both languages it gives you more opportunities and it allows you enjoy everything our country has to offer. I wanted to learn Welsh alongside Max as I knew it would also benefit me personally and allow me to enjoy a bilingual life with him.
What are the benefits of learning Welsh alongside your child?
You are learning together and that’s both special and exciting. It also makes it easier.
Why did you decide to send Max to a Welsh school?
If you live in Wales, I don’t really understand why you wouldn’t want to send your child to a Welsh school. Giving your child a Welsh education and a bilingual upbringing can only be a good thing. As they get older they’ll have more opportunities and if you can speak two languages it’s even easier to learn more languages, so it’s better to give them this gift from the start. The fact that I’m learning Welsh alongside him means that I’ll be able to help him with his homework and get more enjoyment out of his school life. To me, it’s a no brainer.
How have you been learning Welsh?
Mainly from books and from socialising with other Welsh speaking parents and Welsh learners. I discovered lots of good Welsh and bilingual books for children, and they really did help us to learn the words and pick up the basics, but I was really disappointed to discover the lack of other interactive resources for children and families who want to learn Welsh, especially ones that look good. As a graphic designer, I decided to create my own!
Tell us a bit more about these resources?
I set up my business ‘Max Rocks’ in 2017, I wanted Maxwell’s name on it as he’s my driving force and my inspiration to learn Welsh and help other families to do so. I started out by designing flashcards on themes such as numbers and colours, I thought that having fun and contemporary designs would appeal to both parents and children and they were a fun way to learn Welsh words. I’ve now got flashcards on various themes such as travel, animals and so on as well as Posters and a larger pack of cards which mark the baby’s first milestones.
Have they been successful?
Yes! I shared the initial designs on Facebook and the response was overwhelming! I sold 250 packs through Facebook alone and parents told me that they loved the modern designs. They have been popular with parents who want to learn Welsh with their children and also with Welsh speaking families. I now sell them on Etsy too and I have 11 stockists all over Wales.
Is it difficult to juggle family life and the business?
Yes! I work 30 hours a week as an employed graphic designer and return home to be a Mum. Once Max has gone to bed at 7 I work on Max Rocks until 9 every night. I also have to work on Saturdays, which means that Max has more Daddy time, but I’m strict in the fact that I keep Sundays for family time, this is really important. At the end of the day, I’m doing this for Max so he can be proud of me and proud of the way I’m helping other families to learn Welsh. The fact that his name is on it keeps me going, and I also really enjoy it.
What tips do you have for other parents who are thinking about learning Welsh?
If you live in Wales and if you’re raising a family in Wales, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t want to learn the language! Once you’ve decided to do it, stick at it and work at it. Children soak it up like a sponge, it’s amazing to see. It isn’t so easy for us grown-ups, but it’s worth it and learning together makes it more fun. Learning Welsh really does open doors for you and your family and you’ll soon have a new circle of friends.
Mam Cymru would like to thank Sian for giving up some of her precious free time to talk to us! She’s also sending us some free samples of her Max Rocks products in the post for our readers to review and share their opinions here on the blog in the next few weeks! In the meantime, check out the Max Rocks Facebook and Etsy pages.
By Heulwen Davies, Mam Cymru
*Copyright Mam Cymru