A Welsh minefield

by Richard on February 14, 2012

I hesitate to raise this. An Englishman in Wales must tread carefully. But this Welsh headteacher has issues with the way the Welsh language is taught in English-medium schools. My own experience as a parent of two suggests he might have a point. This BBC package seems to confirm it.

Why do I feel like I’ve put my head above the parapet?

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1

GOGLEDD 02.14.12 at 11:50 am

OH you’ve done it now!

2

lionel 02.14.12 at 1:41 pm

keep raising it, you are completely correct. The standard of second language Welsh teaching in English medium schools is a shocking disaster, which almost makes you wonder if it’s worth the bother. The so called ’short course’ is an insult to our children and serves only to create unnecessary antagonism towards the language

3

Richard 02.14.12 at 10:25 pm

Sadly, I think you’re right about short-course Welsh. My daughter is taking it. After having Welsh in school since nursery, she still claims to be barely able to string a simple sentence together. She’s pretty bright and well-motivated, but she hasn’t been ‘grabbed’ by Welsh at all. I don’t think the language is being done any favours by the present system.

4

Pam 02.15.12 at 9:17 pm

A quick thought before I rush off for the day.

Much is made here about the need for Aboriginal people to retain their culture and language. But I read this week about a Jesuit priest who has made efforts to learn some (there are lots) Aboriginal language - to show respect and understanding to the people he’s working with. He’s not alone, but very much in the minority. I think it would be a good idea for our school children (indigenous and non-indigenous) to be taught an Aboriginal language….but the curriculum is already over-burdened and a considerable investment i.e. money, would need to be made. Lots of money is already thrown at our first people but, often in the wrong direction, and what they really need is empowerment in other directions.

5

Richard 02.15.12 at 10:15 pm

That’s a useful perspective Pam. I wouldn’t suggest that the Welsh have had to endure as much as the Aboriginal peoples of Australia, but there has been persecution of Welsh-speakers in the past, and efforts were made to eradicate the language. I don’t have a problem with the promotion of welsh language and culture at all, but clearly something is going wrong with the way it is being done in schools. I don’t know what the answer is.

6

Mark Byron 02.18.12 at 9:41 pm

I had to quickly bone up on Welsh politics; the current government seems to be a Labour government but one that needs at least one member of the opposition to vote on stuff since they have exactly half the seats. The last government was a Labour-nationalist (Plaid Cymru) coalition before Labour got its 50% result last year.

It might be that the government leans towards pumping up Welsh in order to keep those soft Plaid Cymru voters on board; Labor picked up seats from PC in the 2011 vote.

I may be extrapolating what I know of Quebec politics onto Wales, but placating nationalist sentiments is often a coping mechanism of federalist parties. Also, bilingual ed in the US is often captive to Hispanic politics not wanting kids to get too Anglo and thus not learning English as well as they could.

I can see where you might want to tread lightly.

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