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Liz Sykes

February 2012 – The West Midland regional ASA president reveals why she couldn’t speak English until she went to school – and that she’d like to change the ‘them and us’ culture in swimming.

Nobody knows this, but…

until I went to school I didn’t speak English. I was born in Neath, South Wales, in quite an Anglicised community. However, all my family spoke Welsh and so that was my mother tongue.

I was fortunate that my first teacher spoke Welsh, but I do remember being rather confused when I was being taught to read in both English and Welsh simultaneously – phonetically in English and being taught the Welsh alphabet – similar to the English phonics but with a few subtle changes.

My maiden name was John, which is quite common there (remember the Welsh rugby union fly-half Barry John).

I spoke Welsh fairly regularly until about 10 years ago when my mother died – there was then no-one left with whom to converse in Welsh on a regular basis.

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