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A novel for learners, by a learner: a traditional song triggers a novel for new Welsh speakers

An author who himself learnt Welsh has written a novel to help other learners. Ewan Smith's novel was inspired by the traditional song 'Hen Ferchetan'. Ewan, who lives in Colwyn Bay, writes pocket novels and romantic and crime stories for women's magazines, The People's Friend and My Weekly, but this is his first novel in Welsh. Why, then, did he turn to the language and start learning enthusiastically?

'At first, it was a matter of respect. Anna, my wife, and I were moving to a country with its own language. It seemed right that we should try to learn at least the basics. But we quickly discovered that learning Welsh is a very pleasant and friendly calling. The classes were full of fun and the tutors were so encouraging. Also, learning a new language as an adult is a fascinating experience. You learn so much about how language works, and you start to see why language is such an important and personal part of people's identity.'

Ewan came across this old song while reading Bethan Gwanas' novel, Blodwen Jones a’r Aderyn Prin. In the song, Lisa o’r Hendre is disappointed in her boyfriend, thus resulting in heartbreak. She longs to have a family and tries her best to make that happen. She’s driven close to despair but she doesn't give up. With the help of her friend, Llinos, she takes control of her life and one day, she goes to Ffair y Bala...

The author has put together an entertaining and witty story and given new life to an old song. Hen Ferchetan is suitable for Intermediate learners and there is a glossary on every page and at the end of the book. It’s part of the exciting 'Amdani' project for learners commissioned by the Welsh Book Council.

The author says:

'The Welsh language is much more than a language – it is a whole culture, and learners want access to that culture. So it’s important that there are books for Welsh learners to read from the very beginning of their journey [...] I wanted to write a book for learners myself that was i) a good story ii) full of life and iii) simple to read (no long sentences!) And so, Hen Ferchetan was written.’


Ewan Smith won a poetry competition for Welsh learners at the National Eisteddfod in 2021, took part in the Reading Festival for Learners and was featured on the dysgcymraeg.cymru website. He has lived in Scotland, Canada and England. Now, he lives with his wife by the sea in North Wales. He’s also worked as a journalist, carer and teacher. He won Cosmopolitan magazine's Young Journalist of the Year award in 1978, and he was a part of the 'From Now On' project by Artes Mundi (Latin for ‘arts of the world.’) in 2021. The colourful cover was created by Twm Morgan, an artist from Aberystwyth, who is one of the bookshop managers at Siop Inc in town.

Hen Ferchetan by Ewan Smith is out now (Y Lolfa, £5.99)