FLUENT Welsh speakers helping learners attempting to grasp the language will be an important part of the plan to have one million Welsh speakers by 2050.

As part of the plan to increase the figures the Welsh Government has set out its timetable for expanding Welsh-medium education.

It aims to have an extra 200 Welsh-medium primary teachers and 400 secondary teachers by 2021.

In Powys, extra provision is being made for Welsh medium schools, with the new Ysgol Gymraeg Y Trallwng in the vanguard, providing Welsh medium education in Welshpool, a town where only nine per cent of people are Welsh speakers.

But for the ambition to be achieved, more needs to be done to drive the number of Welsh learners up, not just through schools but adult learning classes.

Across Powys and the rest of Wales, groups of learners come together to speak Welsh in a relaxed atmosphere.

One of the groups run by Menter Iaith Maldwyn meets regularly at the Glanhafren Cafe on Thursdays to chat about the latest topics over a cuppa.

Last Thursday, the group met again in Newtown, with people from Machynlleth to Llanfihangel all coming together for a convivial chat.

Psychiatric nurse Tony Corden, who lives in Machynlleth, originally comes from Penzance in Cornwall.

He pops into the group sessions on occasion to keep his language skills fresh.

He said: “I was born and brought up in Cornwall.

“Due to the lack of hearing Cornish being spoken I was surprised to find that Welsh was spoken so widely.

“I found it helpful when dealing with people with mental health issues, it was a way to communicate and I even learnt a lot from them.

“These days I don’t get the opportunity to speak as much, which is why I enjoy coming here.

Nicky Dixon from Llanfihangel, near Llanfyllin, has been learning Welsh in classes at Welshpool.

She said: “It’s important to practice your Welsh so that you gain the confidence to be able to speak it. I’m enjoying the chance.

“No-one is judged, no-one tells you ‘that’s not the correct way of saying something’ or ‘you’re not using the right mutation’.

“I have some friends through the mixed choir in Llanfyllin who speak Welsh and it’s great to be able to speak to someone who slows down so that you can understand and relax into the conversation.

“At times fluent speakers talk too fast, they need to slow down to help learners.”

Miriam ‘Miri’ Collard from near Arddleen used to travel all the way to Machynlleth for lessons.

“I just don’t get enough of a chance to practice my Welsh with people.

“I feel it’s always a big hit to your confidence when Welsh speakers just turn to English straight away.

“I phoned up a shop recently and was trying to order something while using my Welsh, the owner just said ‘hello, is that you Miri?’ and turned to speaking English.”

Nia Llywelyn of Menter Iaith Maldwyn, who runs the group, said: “We used to have the sessions in the office, but I think it’s important that the people in Newtown actually hear Welsh being spoken.

“It also gives the chance for any Welsh speakers to also join us for a chat.

“The plan for the future would be to try and get all the chat groups together more and look to create more social occasions where we can get together for quiz nights and have a much more social setting.

“We have discussed book clubs or a cookery evening, we need to try and find social occasions where we have a mix of people.”

Elgan said: “I really enjoyed chatting to the group. I’ve been guilty myself in the past of turning straight to English when talking to a Welsh learner.

“It’s important that fluent speakers support those who are taking the time and effort to speak Welsh. And in future I’ll try and slow my speech down!”