WITH 22 branches across Wales, Menter Iaith (Language Venture) is an independent community organisation working to increase and strengthen the use of Welsh locally.

The Mentrau (plural for Menter) organise community events, host activities for children and families, and help businesses and services who wish to use more Welsh. The model itself is thought to be unique to Wales and has attracted interest from across the world with each branch able to signpost individuals and organisations to Welsh services, Welsh language learning classes, and local Welsh events.

Throughout May, Flintshire and Wrexham will be celebrating Welsh On Tour - a campaign now in its 13th year which looks to promote the native tongue through a series of events and prove the Welsh language is alive and kicking in North East Wales.

"The main purpose of the campaign is to promote the Welsh language across the counties of Flintshire and Wrexham in schools, communities, and in the workplace with Welsh speakers, learners and non-Welsh speakers," says Rhian Davies, communications officer at Menter Iaith Fflint a Wrecsam. "The tour is an opportunity for the county's language partnership to work together to raise awareness of the Welsh language and culture.

"Our aim is to bring attention to all the things that happen locally through the medium of Welsh already, launch new things and organise a few extra special events to celebrate the lively Welsh culture and language in North East Wales."

The first Menter Iaith was established in Cwm Gwendraeth in January 1991 in response to demands from the area's communities to strengthen local Welsh community activities. By 1998 five Mentrau existed, and from seeing the success of these early initiatives grew the demand for similar initiatives in communities across Wales. In the years that followed, volunteers from other communities came together to form their own Mentrau.

Mentrau Iaith Cymru was established in 1999 as a national body to support the local Mentrau. Today, 22 Mentrau Iaith exist across Wales, as well as two that operate as projects in specific areas, one at Bangor in North Wales and the other at Patagonia in Argentina.

"The beauty of every Mantrau Iaith is it evolves to suit each area," continues Rhian, who was born and brought up in Mold. "A lot of people have the misconception that this is a very English area because you don't really hear Welsh spoke on the street but it's almost like a secret society - you might know someone for years until you know they can speak Welsh!"

The 2011 Census results show 16,659 people in the county of Wrexham are able to speak Welsh, which corresponds to 12.46% of the population. Flintshire fares slightly better with 19,463 Welsh speakers corresponding to 12.76%. Overall, the census determined that 19.01% of the population of Wales could speak Welsh and 14.57% could speak, read and write in the language.

"The Welsh government has set a target of a million people, about a third of the population, being Welsh speakers by 2050," says Rhian. "It's not a number that's going to be reached magically overnight, so communities and societies like ourselves are needed because it's not just a case of it being learnt in school - it needs to be a living, breathing language that you can use every day in your work, socially and with your family."

When it comes to the benefits of speaking Welsh, Rhian points to the fact there are now 420 primary schools providing Welsh language education to almost 67,000 learners, and 49 secondary schools to almost 35,000 learners. Welsh is a language of the future.

"Being able to speak more than one language is a gift," she says. "We're actually in a minority compared to the rest of the world in so many of us only speaking one language. It gives you the best of both worlds and provides the opportunity to experience two different cultures, two worlds of experience.

"I think you actually feel like a slightly different person doing things through the medium of Welsh - I heard someone once say if you do something in your mother tongue it's like doing something wearing you slippers, whereas if you do it in your second language, it's like wearing high heels."

There are even health benefits suggests Rhian, who adds that speaking Welsh keeps your mind fit, when you consider the cognitive benefits to being bilingual. Recent research also shows that being able to speak and write in both Welsh and English can give you an important advantage whether you're looking for a job or wanting to further your career.

"Quite simply speaking Welsh opens up more doors," she says. "Parents are now actively seeking Welsh education for their children because they want them to have a set of benefits they didn't have. Historically, a number of generations have not learnt Welsh and it has not been passed down or skipped a generation but now we're getting cases where grandchildren are conversing with grandparents in Welsh, which I think is beautiful."

Last year, the Welsh government's language minister, Eluned Morgan, recalled how during her childhood, stones were hurled at her school bus because people objected to youngsters being taught in Welsh.

"It goes back as far as Victorian times and the 1847 report that concluded the Welsh as a race were 'ignorant', 'lazy' and 'immoral', and that one of the main causes of this was the continuing use of the 'evil' Welsh language," says Rhian. "From that you had the use of the 'Welsh Not' - a piece of wood inscribed with the letters WN which resulted in a flogging for whoever was wearing it at the end of the day. It was a horrible punishment and we've come a long way since then.

"Now with globalisation I think people want to rediscover their culture - you don't have to speak Welsh to be Welsh but it does give you those roots and feeling of belonging. Stand in that stadium when Wales play football and listen to that passion when they sing the national anthem - I'm sure three quarters of them don't know what they are singing but it is fantastic to hear after years and years of suffering."

For more information or to receive a paper copy of the Welsh On Tour Month calendar, contact Anna or call 01352 744040. An electronic copy can be downloaded at