Copping a top award for learning to speak Welsh was a bittersweet moment for a finance chief from Shropshire.

Chartered accountant Kate Jackson, chief finance officer with the team supporting North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones, felt that learning Welsh would be a big help in her job.

She has now been crowned as Welsh Learner of the Year at North Wales Police’s annual awards.

Kate’s only regret is that her late father-in-law, a Welsh-speaking former police officer called Gwyn Jackson, did not live to see her master the language.

She still attends Welsh classes at Coleg Llandrillo and has just embarked on an intermediate level course.

Simultaneously, she has been doing Welsh the Welsh courses organised by North Wales Police and gained 98 and 97 per cent respectively in her last two tests.

Kate, who has been with the PCC’s office for four years, is originally from Newport in Shropshire, where she still lives with her husband of 17 years, Alun, and their 14-year-old son, Thomas.

She has spent most of her career in local government finance roles and studied to become a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy at the University of Wolverhampton while also working. Over the years she had gradually added to her qualifications.

At one stage Kate spent three years with an aerospace design company in Munich and during that time decided to learn German.

She said: “I got an O Level in German when I was at school but it took a good 12 months before I became fluent in it while I was in Munich.

“Having lived abroad, I know how much it is appreciated when one makes the effort to try to communicate with people in their first language.

“North Wales is of interest to me because my husband’s family is from here.

My father in law was a police officer with North Wales Police and, although Gwyn was first language Welsh, I didn’t learn any Welsh at that time.

“He died in 2010 so I was sorry that I didn’t get to speak to him in his first language.

“It was a requirement of the job that I would try to learn Welsh when I was appointed.

“I really do enjoy learning Welsh I do go to my course regularly and I do my homework.

“My colleague, Angharad Jones, has been particularly helpful – she started teaching me important words like paned o de (cup of tea).

“When I was preparing for exams she brought in children’s book from home to improve my pronunciation and intonation and to sound more fluent.

“I really enjoyed it when I went to live in Germany and I went from having a very rusty O-level  to becoming fluent. I’m not quite there with Welsh yet but that is my aim.

“It’s really useful when people phone up and their first language is Welsh and it obviously puts that person at ease if you’re able to get some way in the conversation in Welsh.

“People are very understanding when they realise that I’m learning Welsh.

“The fact that they are prepared to slow down and make allowances for somebody who is only learning I think is great because they get to speak in the language they want to, and at the same time they’re doing it at a pace that a learner can keep up with.

“The other thing is that so many people in the office do speak Welsh as a first language and there is a lot of Welsh spoken between members of staff so it’s great being able to understand and to contribute where needed.”

Commissioner Arfon Jones said: “I am very proud of what Kate has achieved.

“Many of us in the office daily work through the medium of Welsh and the more of us who can do that the better we provide the service to the people of North Wales.

“Many people, particularly on the western side of this force area, speak Welsh as a first language and they rightly expect us to provide a service for them through the medium of Welsh.

“As a fluent speaker myself, I would expect all public authorities in Wales to be able to provide a service in Welsh which is becoming increasingly important.

“Many companies in the private sector see the benefit of conducting their business bilingually.

“It should be part of the DNA of every public authority in Wales and we should do everything naturally through the medium of both languages.”