A Canadian therapist has been praised for going the extra mile to learn Welsh so that she can communicate better with patients.
Originally from Vancouver in Canada, Art Psychotherapist Manuela Niemetscheck spent time learning Welsh through community classes and courses at Welsh language centre Nant Gwrtheyrn before taking up her post in Bangor’s Hergest Unit.
Manuela, who has learned five languages including French, Catalan, Spanish, Welsh and English, said following moving to Wales she wanted to immerse herself into the community and learning the language was an important part of that.
She said: “I was living in Caernarfon when I first moved to Wales, which has a high number of Welsh speakers so I immediately wanted to learn.
“I joined some community classes as well as attending Nant Gwrtheyrn twice to help with my learning. It was a great experience, I learnt so much and I also had a great community to practice my new language skills with.”
Manuela uses art therapy in her role as a medium to address emotional issues, which may be confusing and distressing. She says being able to speak Welsh has allowed her to hold bilingual sessions in the workplace.
“It’s really important that we are able to provide a bilingual service and as my role is always about creating a safe space for our patients, being able to hold discussions in Welsh is vital for some of our patients.
“It’s important to have the Welsh language alive in our sessions and treatment.
“Learning Welsh can be challenging, but like learning anything, it takes time and perseverance, and it pays off.
“It was important to me to learn the language of my new country and community – I have felt the huge benefits and I am glad to be able to use my skills with patients.
“We have a great Welsh Language Team in our Health Board who are there to support us with learning the language – it does take time and a lot of practice but is a lot of fun along the way and it makes me feel much more part of the community,” added Manuela.
Manuela was also crowned this year’s Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board Welsh Learner of the Year at a ceremony earlier in the year.
The Health Board employs a full time Welsh Language Tutor, Beth Jones who provides Welsh language courses and chat groups for the staff across North Wales.
She said: ‘’We are so proud of our staff who make the effort to learn Welsh and then use their skills to provide a bilingual service to our patients. Manuela has mastered the Welsh language; and it’s fantastic to see her use her Welsh from day to day at work and in the community - she is an inspiration to others.
“Llongyfarchiadau/Congratulations to Manuela for winning the Health Board’s Welsh Learner of the Year Award back in March 2022. The competition is a great way for us to celebrate our Welsh learners and to encourage more of our staff to start learning Welsh.’’