Business Spotlight: SaySomethingin
Nick Prichard is NED at SaySomethingin (SSi). With family coming from Pontypool and Cardiff, Nick is now based in Devizes. SSi is a Bangor-based, language e-learning specialist that has developed a high intensity language learning methodology that lets anyone build a real understanding for, and confidence around, learning a second language.
SSi joined the GlobalWelsh for Business membership programme in 2021. We had a chat with Nick to find out more about the company and its plans to take Cymraeg to the world…
"As a patriotic Welshman, Aran wanted to give the Welsh people a greater voice in their mother tongue. While he set up the company with only Celtic languages in mind, Aran’s methodology has now been applied to other languages."
What is your role at SaySomethingin?
Interestingly, my role at SSi is something that GlobalWelsh introduced me to through its MyMentor programme. SSi’s CEO Aran Jones, was looking for some advice on possible partnerships and marketing ideas for this rapidly growing company. As I have worked with large organisations like FIFA and Cirque du Soleil and have my own partnership consultancy, I was introduced as a mentor.
So, over the course of a tumultuous year, I mentored Aran and moved from being a mentor into a non-executive director role with a focus on developing partnerships and marketing strategies.
Can you give us a brief history of SaySomethingin?
The company was set up by language teacher Aran Jones around 13 years ago. As a patriotic Welshman, Aran wanted to give the Welsh people a greater voice in their mother tongue. While he set up the company with only Celtic languages in mind, Aran’s methodology has now been applied to other languages, with indigenous and endangered languages being the focus.
The initial aim was to offer just Welsh courses for free, however, with time, SSi realised how creating bespoke technology could deliver a far better experience for more people. Plus expansion to other Celtic languages such as Cornish and Manx.
Success with Welsh learners over the next 10 years led to a close partnership with the National Centre for Learning Welsh, helping with their ongoing Welsh language programmes. Other projects have followed, including building a module for Arabic, Pashto and Dari asylum seekers and refugees to learn Welsh directly from their mother tongue and a pilot in Welsh secondary schools.
Whilst Welsh is core, the SSi methodology is suited to all languages. There is a long-term goal of creating courses for every language, especially indigenous or endangered ones. This has seen SSi piloting language schemes in Sri Lanka around Tamil and Sinhala in partnership with charities to help empower local rural communities.
"When I first joined I took advantage of our free courses, including the one on the Welsh national anthem and I now have a greater appreciation for the language than ever before."
What’s different about SaySomethingin’s methodology?
I’d say the main thing that differentiates us from traditional teaching, and that is carried out in schools, is that we concentrate on spoken Welsh, not grammar. Many of us find, myself included, that we study languages for years in school but after our exams we can only speak a fraction of the language. SSi builds memory for a language.
For example, most people know terms like “Cymru am byth”, you have a memory for it. We build similar memories for phrases and words that build sentence structures and confidence for the spoken word. We also remove the users ability to continue to repeat the same phrases over and over, as we push you forward to build a mental muscle memory for the language.
Learning a language is an intensive process. I always use the analogy of skiing, the first time you try it you think you’ll never get the hang of it but eventually you do. The SSi approach encourages learners to make mistakes and then reiterate that you’re not going to know the language after a few sessions, however, over time you will gain an appreciation for the language.
When I first joined I took advantage of our free courses, including the one on the Welsh national anthem and I now have a greater appreciation for the language than ever before.
"Welsh people are everywhere and people love to find out more about it’s language and culture. Everyone should be able to connect back to their roots or be part of Welsh culture, which is something SaySomethingin can help with."
What language trends are you seeing?
Lots of people want to learn languages but they don’t give it enough time and attention. The pandemic definitely helped increase the number of people wanting to learn a language and sites such as Duolingo which have millions of users prove the market interest. The main issue is that people forget that it’s not easy to learn a language and they go through the initial motions before deciding it’s too hard or it’s not for them.
That being said, there has definitely been a positive shift towards the Welsh language. The Welsh football team making it to the World Cup in 2022 really sparked interest, especially when they conducted press conferences and interviews in Welsh. The purchase of Wrexham by Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney has also put Wales on the map for new audiences, especially for Americans, demonstrating that there is something beautiful about Wales and its language.
If you look back just a few generations, Welsh people were physically disciplined if they spoke Welsh in schools. My parents and grandparents generations were actively encouraged to only speak English – Welsh was seen as “ignorant”.
I think the overall view is far more positive now. There are multiple Government initiatives, plus Welsh is heard far more through Welsh rappers, singers, footballers, actors and celebrities. We are excited about the direction things are going and keen to continue creating a buzz and interest in the language.
Why do you want to Connect with the Welsh diaspora?
You don’t want to limit Welsh speaking just to Wales.
If people feel an affinity for Wales then everyone should have access to learn the language. Our technology is available to learners globally and whilst we’re based in North Wales, we have employees based in Australia, the USA and Europe. Being Welsh is more than just the location you live in.
A few years ago I was presenting in a remote part of Mexico and looking for a memorable way to start I said “Hi, I’m Welsh” in Spanish. Someone in the audience shouted out that they were too and Welsh/Wales then proved to be a theme throughout the conference. Welsh people are everywhere and people love to find out more about it’s language and culture. Everyone should be able to connect back to their roots or be part of Welsh culture, which is something SaySomethingin can help with.
"Through these, and future initiatives, we are hoping to help the government reach the goal of one million Welsh speakers by 2050."
What are your plans moving forward?
Internationally, I’ve just become aware of a UNESCO initiative going on called ‘the international decade of indigenous languages’ and we would love to work with them. Initial conversations have gone well but there is a long way to go. The Sri Lanka pilot will continue to help ease the communication barrier between people speaking Tamil and Sinhala.
In Wales, we are also building on our work with the National Centre for Learning Welsh, we are very excited to be working in the secondary schools as well as encouraging more adult students to learn Welsh in a sustainable and enjoyable way. Through these, and future initiatives, we are hoping to help the government reach the goal of one million Welsh speakers by 2050.
Connect with Nick and SaySomethingin via Connect >>
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