Improving the course over decades

Cadw Sŵn was founded by Welsh-to-adults tutor and author Colin Jones BSc with one aim; to produce the easiest, most enjoyable Welsh course possible.
Colin had been teaching Welsh to adults professionally for a number of years after learning Welsh himself, and had been interested in accelerating the learning process. He noticed (as have many others) that playing certain pieces of classical music in class lead to a more relaxed, informal atmosphere. This, in turn, meant that students were apt to take in new information more easily, and also ‘perform’ better when speaking Welsh in class. The idea of making learning both more relaxing and more productive struck a chord.
Here’s a taste of how the course came to be, and how we’ve been perfecting the course for over 15 years.

  • Colin meets the Scottish-Canadian artist William McClure Brown, who expresses an interest in learning Welsh. With very little Welsh, William seems the ideal pupil to try out the course. Colin has been planning to write some stories to record over classical music which will teach people Welsh in an interesting and easy way. 
  • William and Colin soon become good friends, with Colin writing the story each week and tutoring William at his home in Bridgend. 
  • The time spent working with William proved exciting and fruitful; William seemed to be progressing in leaps and bounds, but was this down to the course, or was William simply a ‘model pupil’? Colin needed to find out more.
  • To see if the course would work in a group environment a pilot class was set up in Bridgend, where it became something of a talking point. 
  • ‘An advert had been put out in the brochure containing details of all the Welsh-to-adults classes in the area, and the local newspaper had run a very short article on it. On registration night there were simply far too many people to fit in one class, I ended up having to turn people away.’ Remembers Colin.‘There was a real buzz; I’d got there very early, only to find a group of people already waiting. When I’d finally got the 20 pupils into one room I explained what I’d be trying to do, and how the course might be different to what they’d expected. Some people had just come for a ‘normal’ evening class, and I was partly hoping to get the numbers down. 20 adults in one class is quite a lot, plus I wanted to give people the chance to take a more traditional class if they wanted. No-one left.’
  • 1999 - A TRIP TO PRAGUE
  • Finding music for the course took a little time. Record companies were asking for large amounts of money, at one point things looked hopeless. But one kind record company employee happened to mention a Czech company, Supraphon Records. Colin phoned them up and mentioned that he was visiting Prague that summer on holiday. They suggested a meetup, and a deal was struck. 
  • After finding the classical music he needed for the course Colin locked himself away in the studio, recording and synchronizing the 20 Aberarthur stories over the classical and Baroque music to produce a mammoth 10 CD package.
  • Cadw Sŵn is launched at the National Eisteddfod in Llanelli. William and Colin share a stand, where Colin talks about the course and William exhibits his paintings and prints, dropping easily into Welsh when needed.
  • 2002 - A NEW COURSE BOOK
  • The course book originally started as a series of sheets in a ring-binder, but finally a beautiful course book was printed using William Brown’s iconic painting of Aberarthur as the cover. It’s remained pretty much identical since then.
  • 2008 - RE-RECORDING                         
  • Ten years after starting work on the course Colin began re-recording sections of the recordings; 
  • ‘The original music was fabulous, but I needed a slightly more flexible arrangement which allowed me to sell the CDs as digital audio files, so that the course could be duplicated on a single DVD. I want to make Cadw Swn easier and cheaper to buy.’ 
  • The course audio is made available on a data DVD, a reasonably-priced way of distributing the 10CDs worth of audio to learners. Unfortunately, it probably only appeals to a small minority who are happy transferring audio files to their computers and onto their iPods. It’s a stepping-stone, but a lot of work still needs to be done if Cadw Sŵn is to appeal to everyone.
  • Cadw Sŵn is finally made available on Blu-Ray and video DVD – the ideal format for most people to use in their living rooms. 
  • “I honestly think we’re there now,” says Colin, “we’ve got the huge storage space, convenience and pristine sound quality of Blu-Ray and DVD. It’s really easy to use, and encourages people to learn Welsh in a comfortable environment.” 
  • “Cadw Sŵn contains many years of experience, research and teaching condensed into one beautiful Welsh course. I believe its the best home-study Welsh course available today, at the best possible price.” 
  • We hope you agree.
  • JAN 2018 - FINISHED - AGAIN!
  • Many people are used to streaming music to their phones and tablets these days, and copying from a computer disk can be too much trouble. 
  • All versions of the course now include unique download codes for the 10 audio albums, using Bandcamp’s mature and flexible audio framework. They can be streamed to the Bandcamp app, backed-up to a computer, streamed to Sonos speakers or played from a web browser. 
  • After organising the digital downloads version of the course, we started thinking about the plastics we use in the packaging for the dvds. Frankly it didn't make sense. So after much sketching, designing and very many cups of coffee, Colin re-designed the dvd packaging for new cardboard cases.
  • Ah, now most people would have stopped there, but not Colin. 'I just wondered, since we were cutting down on the packaging, could we possibly afford to put both the TV DVD and the Computer DVD in the same package, as well as the download codes?'
  • 'Some people might like to listen on their tv, others might like to pop a disk into their computer. Others might even like to stream to their phones and tablets. Let's keep everyone happy by putting all versions into the same box.'
  • A lockdown in Wales gave Colin plenty of time to think how best to celebrate 20 years of Cadw Swn. An online Zoom course over the summer made him realise that there was still a call for the course, but could he make it greener and (much) cheaper?
  • Up until now the audio downloads required individual codes for each album, which needed to be inserted into each course book individually. He'd also noticed that people were generally happier with the downloads by now, although the special codes could be tricky to redeem. 
  • The disks were fast becoming redundant; if the process of getting the audio could be streamlined and simplified, maybe they could be stopped entirely, saving plastic, duplication and postage fees, which could then be passed on as a lower cost.
  • What about making the audio free to download for all (or to stream for a very small fee), and making the book available worldwide from amazon? 


If you have any questions please use the form below to get in touch. You're welcome to write in Welsh or English.

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