Welsh medium

(172 Posts)
SmilingMakesMyFaceAche Mon 04-Mar-13 14:21:57

Anyone with any experience of welsh medium education? Come tell me your experiences! Neither DH or I speak welsh but I did gcse and I m willing to learn if we choose welsh medium for DS.
Advice and comments welcomed smile

learnandsay Mon 04-Mar-13 16:20:49

I went to Welsh speaking primary and secondary schools in Pembrokeshire many moons ago. I loved them both. What specifically were you after? I don't think it's necessary for the parents to speak Welsh but it'll certainly do no harm. I think the willingness to try speaks volumes about you, I really do. Your son should love it.

PolterGoose Mon 04-Mar-13 17:02:39

Dp's parents' first language is Welsh. He went to a Welsh medium unit for primary but not secondary. Their feeling is that as you advance through education it can limit access to certain resources as not everything is translated.

SmilingMakesMyFaceAche Mon 04-Mar-13 17:26:25

Thanks for the replies.
I like the school because of the cultural presence it's got, the kids get involved in the urdd and lots of sport etc. its viewed as the best school in the area. I want DS to have the best opportunity for everything and I think that welsh wouldn't hinder him, I think he'd gain. I just worry that with gcse science etc when he's older I'd struggle to help him. I'm an English teacher in a comp so I'm not worried about English gcse! smile

TwllBach Mon 04-Mar-13 19:16:00

Whereabouts are you OP? I think it can only be a positive thing really - although as a teacher in a bilingual school I would say that my experience is that there are less resource in welsh at the moment. I'm in primary though, and only an NQT so my experience doesn't count for much grin

LingDiLong Mon 04-Mar-13 19:24:07

My children are in Welsh primary and are very happy there. I've been learning as they learn and can now converse reasonably well - I can certainly keep up with my 8 year olds reading books and homework. All homework is sent home with an English translation though. Remember that by the time they get to secondary they can easily translate for you and back again. My nieces and nephews are in Welsh stream of a bilingual comp and the only time they need help from a proper welsh speaker is when they are doing Welsh homework.

I've no idea about the lack of resources at welsh comprehensives though...the view round here is that the english comps have a bad reputation and sending your child to a welsh primary means you have a larger range of comps to choose from.

I do love hearing my two speaking welsh and now my eldest is in the juniors there are loads of urdd related activities she can join in with which is great!

SmilingMakesMyFaceAche Mon 04-Mar-13 19:41:40

I'm in the valleys wink
I taught DS to say dere 'ma earlier and it was funny to hear his little voice in welsh
I think I'm going to ask if I can meet with someone from the school, they must get this all the time. I know he's only 2 but I will start him at meithrin if I'm definitely going to send him to wm
It's such a hard decision! I just want to give him good opportunities in life soppy mum emoticon

TwllBach Tue 05-Mar-13 07:02:23

Some people think that there's no point learning welsh because its a dying language - but if your DC wants to live and work in Wales then you are certainly giving him the best start in life! I'm not a fluent welsh speaker and over the last few years have found it increasingly difficult to find a job on any sector, as the vast majority specify bilingualism as essential.

Plus, I'm sure I've read that being bilingual makes becoming trilingual easier, so that could be doubly useful later on! Don't quote me on that though...

SmilingMakesMyFaceAche Tue 05-Mar-13 22:49:23

I've just ordered some welsh language stuff from amazon for me and DS
It's happening! smile

Houseworkprocrastinator Wed 06-Mar-13 10:40:01

I have mixed feelings about this. I did look into the welsh school by us as it was viewed as a better school. I think as someone mentioned earlier that to live and work in wales it is a good advantage to speak welsh as a lot of jobs do ask for it and even if they don't they view it as an advantage.
However, i have taught in a college (English speaking) and some of the students have struggled with the move from welsh medium to English because all there learning is in welsh and some of the specific words that they use in school but not in everyday life they do not know in English. But i also have friends who went from welsh school strait to welsh speaking university so didn't have that problem. I have many friends who chose the welsh school and are very happy with it.
I decided on English medium in the end because they do an awful lot more welsh than they did when i was young and my 4 and 6 year old are able now to speak more than i did at gcse level. I also didn't like the thought of not being able to help them with work, (i tried to go back as an adult and learn it again but found it so hard)
Good luck.

Jonno94 Wed 06-Mar-13 15:21:07

I think the Welsh medium schools do better than other schools in Wales. However I think we will stick to English medium and if that fails....Eton!

Startail Wed 06-Mar-13 20:08:36

We had Spanish exchange post grads at university, they always said that speaking good English was the most important skill they could acquire.

It also saved them money as translated academic books, if they even existed, were very expensive.

Speak good English and the World is your oyster, speak good Welsh and you get a few very pretty hills.

(They are very pretty hills and I miss them, but I will never go back)

Takver Wed 06-Mar-13 21:33:58

"Speak good English and the World is your oyster, speak good Welsh and you get a few very pretty hills."

A child whose first language is English won't stop speaking it just because they are in Welsh medium education, though.

Smiling - my dd is in yr 6 at a Welsh medium primary. For background, in her year of 16, I think that 2 children have parents who are fluent Welsh speakers, and none speak Welsh at home AFAIK - which is pretty typical of the school as a whole.

I would say that there are advantages and disadvantages. DD has some specific dyslexic/dyspraxic type issues, and I do think that working entirely in Welsh for KS1 didn't help with these (in particular because she was reading fluently in English by the time they started using it in school in yr 3, and so got no English phonics at all). I think if your dc have any ALNs then working in a second language - and a language which realistically in many parts of Wales they are unlikely to use outside of the school setting - adds an additional layer of difficulty.

Moving on into secondary, there are other issues - in theory dc may be fluent, but if they have only spoken the language in school then they won't have the range of vocabulary that you would expect. And it is hard to expand that vocabulary since the resources easily available in Welsh are pretty limited (even at KS2 try helping your dc find the vocab for a piece of homework talking about how chamelaeons change colour). Too often I would say dd writes a piece of work to the words she knows, rather than to her true ability.

The overwhelming obvious advantage of course is if they stay in Wales then it will help with employment. So often two people I know go for an interview, and the Welsh speaker gets the job, of course this is going to happen if there are two equally qualified candidates, why would you not choose the one who can speak to your customers in their preferred language.

We are now at the 'welsh stream or english stream' question for 2ndary. DD isn't going to the welsh medium secondary despite its stellar results - we don't think it is right for her partly because of the school, but largely because of the Welsh (though also tbh I think a lot of the very traditional attitudes are closely linked to Welsh culture in this area). She has the option of streams in the other school, ideally she would do just a couple of subjects in Welsh, which used to be allowed, but seems not to be the case now . . . a big dilemma for us.

AnameIcouldnotthinkof Wed 06-Mar-13 21:55:43

I went to a welsh medium school and I was really proud of it. Neither of my parents spoke welsh but my mum did pick it up as me and my brothers went through school. It is very helpful for getting jobs in Wales.
It also helps if your DCs decide to learn other languages because of the different verbs and the language structure.

It is a bit awkward in higher education my DN 18 (another who has had a welsh education) went to a welsh college after being in a welsh primary and secondary school. She found the language difference hard to get used to but she is glad she has done it now rather than getting to uni and having to work through it there.
The resources for welsh schools are getting much better and the GCSE text books are being translated. I imagine by the time your DC gets to secondary school the resources shall all be translated.

I have decided to send my DCs to a welsh medium primary school and they love it there.
I do work on their english at home in order to improve their reading and make sure they aren't behind just because they went to a welsh school. We also speak english at home and it is our DCs first language.
The school suits our family well and the school has very good resources and activities and the DCs get to join in with the Urdd etc, so I don't think they are disadvantaged by being there.

IwishIwasmoreorganised Wed 06-Mar-13 22:04:01

Our 2 ds's are in a welsh primary.

DH speaks welsh and I am in my 4th year of learning, so I can help with their reading and spelling but I don't converse with their teachers in welsh (yet!).

90% of children at school come from non-welsh speaking homes. That isn't a problem.

The results that our school gets are excellent and on a par with our catchment English speaking primary but our school is much smaller. It's a friendly place with a real sense of belonging and community.

As far as I see it, speaking welsh will not close any doors to our ds's but it will open lots. What's not to like about that?!

Startail Thu 07-Mar-13 15:15:20

It still seem very odd to me that you would go to all this trouble to educate DCs in a language that is only any use to them in a tiny corner of the world.

I went to school in Wales and consider it home, but I hate how it's become almost racist in it's attitude to outsiders.

Jobs only for Welsh speakers is surely against all the European freedom of movement rules. If I was polish or Spanish I could learn English at my local college, but not Welsh. Likewise my DDS can learn French or even Chinese, but Welsh would be far harder.

Worst still insisting on Welsh for employment discriminates against many many born and bread Welsh people. My generation did Welsh as a MFL a few lessons a week and most of us gave up at 14. We do not speak it. My Welsh friends parents and grandparents in mid Wales didn't speak it.

My DSIS can't speak it, although she can copy type bilingual stuff and don't get her started on how much money that wastes when the local council are making job cuts.

Welsh has been imposed by the Cardiff intellectual and political classes, somehow they have brain washed the wider population into believing it is vital to their cultural identity. It isn't, but making it necessary for high paid local government and teaching jobs sure as hell protects their livelihoods and those of their children.

They have been very, very, clever and I am not criticizing parents who have chosen Welsh medium education. I know my DSIS best friend has because that was the best funded and most supportive school for her DCs.

I am criticizing the officials that have made it so because I think their motives have far more to do with getting and retaining power and very little to do with Welsh cultural identity.

adeucalione Thu 07-Mar-13 16:57:01

The last census showed that the number of Welsh speakers has fallen, to 19% of the population - there is no data on how fluent or otherwise these speakers consider themselves to be. This is apparently due to demographic changes, including fewer children and an increase in older adults.

So, that's about 500,000 in the entire world who can speak some Welsh.

If your ambitions for your child extend to spending the rest of their life living in Wales, and working in local government, then I would say that WME is a great idea. If not, I would choose EM and, if desired, take a GCSE in Welsh.

adeucalione Thu 07-Mar-13 16:57:35

Sorry link to census here

SmilingMakesMyFaceAche Thu 07-Mar-13 18:10:08

Adeucalione - that's a bit rude, my ambitions for my son are that he is happy and succeeds in whatever he wants to do. If that involves him living and working in Wales for the rest of his life then that's up to him. I sense a sneering attitude where you say that. You sound rather 'anti wales / welsh' tbh. I'm a successful and experienced teacher, I know how the education system works thanks. I was just keen to hear others' experiences.
Thanks for all the replies. It's really been food for thought.

adeucalione Thu 07-Mar-13 18:40:34

I suggest you read my comment again - not rude or sneering at all, perhaps I have touched a nerve?

I merely offered my honest opinion, based on recent census statistics and my own experience of living and working in Wales.

SmilingMakesMyFaceAche Thu 07-Mar-13 18:53:09

No nerve touched, you just sound odd. I don't need to read it again thanks.

SmilingMakesMyFaceAche Thu 07-Mar-13 18:53:56

Would like to reiterate my thanks for those who have given me some constructive comments and advice to consider.
Thanks again.

Llareggub Thu 07-Mar-13 18:57:54

I've just moved back to Wales and I think there is far more Welsh around than there used to be. My DCs are in an English medium school but if they'd been younger when we moved back I would have considered welsh medium. What's not to like?

My lack of welsh didn't prevent me finding a job; far from it. Got the first, well paid part time job I applied for.

Oh, they speak welsh in Patagonia too.

adeucalione Thu 07-Mar-13 19:53:26

Brilliant, I'm rude, sneering, anti-Welsh and now odd too, I've excelled myself grin

LingDiLong Thu 07-Mar-13 20:03:03

See, this bizarrely negative attitude to the Welsh language is exactly why so many laws have had to be written to protect it. Is there any other country in the world where the idea of people wanting to speak their native tongue would be dismissed as some kind of political conspiracy or a lack of ambition?! Is there any other country in the world where it would be seen as acceptable to complain that you actually need to speak the language to get a job there?

There are millions of languages the world over, many of them spoken by very few people. And of course it's true that English is a kind of global majority language. But would you also argue that we should just get rid of every other language and only speak English the entire world over?!

Why is it apparently so difficult to believe or understand that some Welsh people actually want to speak Welsh?

And, you know what, not every single choice I make for my children is about what will get them the best possible job. I want them to live a life that is culturally rich. Why not start with their own native culture? Learning a language - any language - can only help them broaden their horizons and outlook. Thank God, they won't grow up to be monoglots, convinced of the superiority of the English language above all others, bellowing loudly at other nationalities in English because they can't be bothered to learn another language. They have learnt from a very tender age about the value of bilingualism.

moondog Thu 07-Mar-13 20:07:59

It is monolinguals who are in the minority-sadly for them.
This is a great article by the wonderful Elizabeth Woodcock of Twf which lists the myriad benefits of bilnigualism.

gaelicsheep Thu 07-Mar-13 20:12:16

They do a lot of Welsh in mainstream schools so I can't really see a point in Welsh medium. In Scotland we considered Gaelic medium because that is the only DS was going to learn any Gaelic at all, but decided against it in the end as we felt it was overkill.

Llareggub Thu 07-Mar-13 20:16:32

There is definitely a point in Welsh medium education; how else can people be educated in their first language? I know people who couldn't speak any English at all until they were 6 or so. They lived in Welsh communities and spoke Welsh all the time.

My little English son has been in an English medium nursery in Wales and is already using a smattering of Welsh. He says "popty" instead of bakery and tells me that it is heulog instead of sunny. I'm pretty sure he'll never be fluent, which is a shame.

gaelicsheep Thu 07-Mar-13 20:21:39

I find it hard to believe that anyone under the age of 80 would seriously consider Welsh to be their first language. Don't get me wrong it's really good for children to learn a second language at an early age, and it sets them up well for learning other languages, which is why I don't mind too much having so much Welsh at DS's school.

LingDiLong Thu 07-Mar-13 20:27:25

'I find it hard to believe that anyone under the age of 80 would seriously consider Welsh to their first language' - then, gaelicsheep, you are fundamentally ignorant about the Welsh language and the people who speak it. Sure, the majority of parents at my kids Welsh medium school speak English as their first language. But there is a SIGNIFICANT minority who are FIRST language Welsh. Not 'speaking Welsh to annoy English people' or 'speaking Welsh to make a political point', they actually speak Welsh the majority of the time. They speak it with their entire extended family, their husbands, their children, their school friends. All the time.

PolterGoose Thu 07-Mar-13 20:28:06

gaelic my dp's family (ages from 7ish to 80ish) all speak Welsh as their first language. As I said earlier dp's parents felt that having a secondary education in English would give more choices for higher education, however, they speak entirely Welsh at home so dp was able to maintain his bilingualism. We explored raising ds bilingual but it would have been nigh on impossible far from Wales and with only 1 Welsh speaker at home.

Dp gets a letter, in Welsh, every week so his dm can ensure he retains the language grin

gaelicsheep Thu 07-Mar-13 20:32:33

No I know very little about Wales, you're right. Is it really good/necessary for a child to be first language Welsh, really? Bilingual sure, but surely that's achievable in a regular school with Welsh at home?

LingDiLong Thu 07-Mar-13 20:37:10

What do you mean it is good or necessary?! Is it good or necessary for someone to be first language in any language other than English or perhaps Mandarin then?!

They speak Welsh because they are Welsh and it was the language their parents spoke to them. Like people in Spain speak Spanish or people in Moldova speak Moldovan or people in Japan speak Japanese.

Takver Thu 07-Mar-13 20:38:15

"If your ambitions for your child extend to spending the rest of their life living in Wales, and working in local government,"

I think it must depend where you are. Here in north Pembs, I think most employers given two equally qualified applicants would choose the Welsh speaker - a large proportion of the population here does use Welsh as their day to day language of choice (the primary school catchment is a bit of an anomaly because the town itself is historically English speaking, & the children from the Welsh speaking surrounding area go to a different school), so whether you are running a shop or whatever you will tend to choose someone who can provide the best service to your customers.

(And for those who don't believe that people actually use Welsh, one of my friends is a builder & in the firm he works for Welsh is the working language on site 100% - he's English, has recently joined them, and is getting rapidly fluent in building-site-Welsh grin )

gaelicsheep Thu 07-Mar-13 20:42:41

Wales is a part of the UK and the UK speaks English. Even Scotland recognises this, hence Gaelic and Scots are not shoved down the throat nearly so much as Welsh is down here. Of course it is culturally important, but I for one would love to here a physics or biology lesson taught exclusively in Welsh.

LingDiLong Thu 07-Mar-13 20:46:03

No, Wales, Scotland, England and Northern Ireland are part of the UK. In England the language is English, in Wales the language in Welsh. It's not that difficult a concept surely? How is people speaking their own language in their own country 'shoving it down people's throats'? What IS so threatening about this language that is apparently so pointless I wonder...

Startail Thu 07-Mar-13 20:46:16

I don't mind schools teaching Welsh, but to me WM education seems very fake.

Welsh is not and never will be the first language of most Welsh people. I've heard Polish and Chinese in Cardiff, but never Welsh.

Quite simply, the multi media world our DCs live in is predominantly in English. Nothing the Welsh government do can change that.

Whether educated in EM or WM when they grow up DCs are going to use English at work. Many will go to English universities or even further afield. For very many Welsh will be as much a childhood thing as playmobil. A warm memory, but not something used everyday.

Whatever the benefits of bilingualism I just don't see how Wales can afford both the money and the teaching time for WM.

gaelicsheep Thu 07-Mar-13 20:47:29


The latter point being the very reason why we disn't pursue Gaelic medium in Scotland. Neither language is relevant in the modern world. It is important to keep them alive culturally - for the stories and the music and the placenames and the descriptions of the landscape. But making up Welsh/ Gaelic sounding words for modern concepts and making every blooming document bilingual, that is not necessary IMO.

Naoko Thu 07-Mar-13 20:53:56

I live in North West Wales and there are certainly very many first language Welsh speakers here, from tiny children to the very elderly. The language is alive and kicking. My neighbour shouts at her kids in Welsh, the woman in the corner shop addresses me in Welsh, the bus driver talks to people in Welsh, and the receptionist at my academic department answers the phone in Welsh. I can't speak Welsh, and I really wish I could. Of course there should be Welsh medium education in a Welsh speaking environment!

Besides, I'm not British. I come from a nation about the size of Wales, albeit with more inhabitants (nothing like the population of Britain as a whole, though). My native language is spoken by at best 20 million people worldwide. Never held anyone back. Speaking more than one language is an asset, not a burden, even if you never actually use the language beyond ordering lunch while on holiday. It teaches you to think differently, to think about language, to apply what you know about one thing to figure out another, to express yourself. How can that possibly be a bad thing?

Llareggub Thu 07-Mar-13 20:59:14

When I walk into the petrol station in New Quay in West Wales I get greeted in Welsh. There is an assumption that I will be a welsh speaker.

My mate is first language Welsh and when she lived in France her answer phone was French first, Welsh second. English didn't get a look in because she knew that anyone calling her from home would expect to hear welsh.

I don't hear so much here in Swansea but having left for 10 years there is definitely more around then there used to be. For me, that it is good thing. My grandmother was fluent until she moved to Swansea and it was only when she got to 100, just before she died, that she reverted to welsh only. It confused the hell out of us but I would love to know what she was saying.

Takver Thu 07-Mar-13 20:59:36

The thing is, Cardiff is Cardiff, isn't it - its a bit like judging England by London.

I guess to me it doesn't seem that odd. Before we came to Wales, we lived for many years in Spain. Depending on where you live, your children might be educated in Basque, Catalan (including regional variants) as well as Castillian.

gaelicsheep Thu 07-Mar-13 20:59:58

What is the Welsh for computer? Motherboard? Resistor? Semi-conductor? Capacitor? Space shuttle?

I am intrigued as to how these concepts are taught in Welsh.

IwishIwasmoreorganised Thu 07-Mar-13 21:03:11


gaelicsheep Thu 07-Mar-13 21:04:26

And the thing is that like it or not large parts of Wales are no longer Welsh speaking, if they ever were, so it does feel like political manouevring and social engineering at the taxpayers' expense.

Llareggub Thu 07-Mar-13 21:04:43

I've no idea, but I am pretty sure that other languages manage perfectly well to teach subjects in a language other than English.

Llareggub Thu 07-Mar-13 21:05:22

It was English social engineering that eradicated the Welsh language.

Takver Thu 07-Mar-13 21:06:03

Well, I guess its very much the same as Spanish or French taking English words and then making them 'fit'.

Do you speak any other languages than English, gaelicsheep? That's not a snippy question, its just that my experience is that all languages have to come up with an answer to 'what do you call a motherboard', and that often involves taking a word from elsewhere (something of course that English does par excellence).

<<OT, I know, but I'm rather sad that English doesn't lose the boring 'microwave' and adopt 'popty ping' as an improvement >>

moondog Thu 07-Mar-13 21:06:08

Gaelic, do you assume there is such a thing as English?
There isn't really-it is an amalgame of many different languages-hence its success. It is the great borrower.


Shall I go on?

gaelicsheep Thu 07-Mar-13 21:07:57

And Cornish, and old Cumbrian, and any number of old regional languages. Should there be education provided in all of those too, as a "first" language?

Takver Thu 07-Mar-13 21:10:45

This of course is all rather veering off the question of 'should I choose Welsh medium education for my child'

Despite my love of multilingualism, if I had to answer the question 'would I choose Welsh medium primary again were I deciding for my child' then it would be hard for me to give a definite answer.

However, my negatives are clouded by specific problems in dd's school (very poor to deal with any non-average pupils in either direction, and completely thrown by someone who should probably be on both the SEN and G&T register, plus years 3-6 being taught effectively by NQTs). Would this have been better in an English medium school? Probably not directly, but I suspect it would have been better in a larger school with a less traditional approach.

What ling di long and Moondog said.

gaelicsheep Thu 07-Mar-13 21:11:34

Of course not moondog. I've no appetite to continue this now, I feel crap and grumpy. I have nothing against Welsh per se. I would - and have - said the same about Gaelic. I think these languages are brilliant as second languages, but that's what they are.

gaelicsheep Thu 07-Mar-13 21:21:13

Where I live the council have taken the bizarre decision to make the local 6th form Welsh medium, for the benefit of about two students as far as i can tell. Meaning that everyone else now has to send their children miles away to.complete their education. Where is the sense in that, I ask you?

SmilingMakesMyFaceAche Thu 07-Mar-13 21:23:14

Good lord what a bizarre attitude some people have. I'm actually getting quite cross now and disappointed about the attitudes of some posters, especially those who seem convinced that nobody speaks welsh anymore! Have a bloody biscuit biscuit

moondog Thu 07-Mar-13 21:28:38

It doesn't make me angry when people say things about Welsh that are short sighted or ignorant (in the true sense of the word). It is hard to understand from a non Welsh speaking perspective.
Like many languages, Welsh and Welsh speakers have been dismissed, persecuted, harassed and oppressed to such an extent that fairly robust measures are noe needed to safeguard the language.
I am not one for meddlesome laws and heavy handed government involvement in society, but the turnaround in the status of the Welsh language from the 60s, when even the notion of a roadsign written properly (in not an Englsih bastardisation) was anathema to most is extremely heartening.

I am also so glad at the many many good cultured and respectful people that come to Wales and make an effort to learn Welsh and understand the historical context. A stone's throw form where I live, there are Swedes, Americans, Iraqis, Indians and Englsih people who have learnt to speak Welsh and delight in using it daily, as we delight in them.

gaelicsheep Thu 07-Mar-13 21:41:15

I admire the Welsh for protecting their language so fiercely, I do, and I used to wish the Scots did the same for Gaelic. I just don't believe it is best for a child in this day and age to be educated exclusively in a minority language.

MisForMumNotMaid Thu 07-Mar-13 21:41:24

My DC have been through early primary in Welsh. They are both fluent and relaxed in conversation switching naturally between languages.

Homework is fun through the medium of Welsh, you pick up a fair bit of the basics and its amazing how it gets your ear in to being more receptive when out and about.

I think a second language is significantly beneficial for children at a young age regardless of what the language is. I also think that it will take many years for language use statistics in Wales to change, by the current in my opinion aggressive Welsh language supremacy. I think that positive discrimination is essential for its retention and hopefully to reduce its decline but some of the racism that i see in the name of the Welsh language distresses me.

We moved out children from the local Welsh language school to a bilingual one, its rather significantly English language so not quite a happy medium. The school we were at had dire Estyn visits and revisits. One of the comments was about lack of use of Welsh language in the yard. Initiatives were put in place to reward children for good use of Welsh be it in the class or on the yard. All was well then due to various stresses and strains it became punishments for speaking English - the English Knot? My elder DS started reporting missing going out at lunch because he had spoken in English at the table. He's Autistic and fairly straight he certainly doesn't get the politics and doesn't seek out confrontation. This was only a small part of why we moved though.

My experience of one small school (over 1/3 pupils left in one academic year so not just us) does not make me regret the DC learning Welsh fluently. I just wish it were possible to separate out the language politics from the enjoyment of it and the celebration of Welsh culture through any language.

As an aside I believe primary Maths is easier through Welsh. My DS2 still does sums in Welsh and translates. Its all the 1 ten 2 ten business. It makes more sense.

moondog Thu 07-Mar-13 21:43:59

One never is, Gaelic. Kids do English from 7 onwards.
The challenge is to maintain the balance so that English doesn't swamp the child. Certainly not the other way 'round.
The Scottish pride coupled with an almost complete lack of interest in the language has laways intrigued me.
Wales is the other way round-far fewer artefacts, but a strong and proud language.
Cenedl heb iaith
Cenedl heb galon

A nation without a language is a nation without a heart

gaelicsheep Thu 07-Mar-13 21:49:10

In the case of the Scots I think it's because the lowland Scots (ie the majority) were active participants in the suppression of the Highlanders and the Gaelic language. They don't like to mention that too much now, preferring to teach anti- English sentiments instead in the name of nationalism.

gaelicsheep Thu 07-Mar-13 21:51:03

A salutary tale from Scotland regarding the imposition of politics on language. Gaelic roadsigns in "Norse" Caithness. Now that did cause a rumpus.

moondog Thu 07-Mar-13 21:51:12

Yes, definitely a murky and somewhat shameful history. sad

gaelicsheep Thu 07-Mar-13 21:55:28

I do think though find it interesting how the mention of Welsh gets my hackles up in a way that Gaelic never did. It's true I haven't exactly chosen to live here, but I'm afraid the Welsh do come over to outsiders as quite militant. That tale about English speaking kids being sanctioned for speaking English is an excellent case in point. And I too have read Estyn reports criticising a school/nursery for not using enough Welsh. So bloody what.

LingDiLong Thu 07-Mar-13 21:59:06

How are they militant? My English husband and English father wouldn't agree with you. In fact they are both Welsh learners.

Why don't you try and learn a bit more about where you are living? You admitted earlier on in the thread that you knew very little about Wales and the Welsh language and yet you are extraordinarily opinionated and negative about it.

gaelicsheep Thu 07-Mar-13 22:06:46

I live right on the border in a non Welsh speaking part of Wales so I have no need to do so. I came here from Scotland so I find comparison of the two approaches interesting.

SmilingMakesMyFaceAche Thu 07-Mar-13 22:07:35

I'm a little bit in love with moondog

mamapants Thu 07-Mar-13 22:13:28

I can see no negatives to sending your child to a welsh medium school from the beginning of their school life.
As for a lack of welsh resources- I saw that as a positive we would quite often have a lesson in welsh with english resources and therefore be working in both languages at once- we therefore knew the technical science words in english and welsh so no disadvantage for further education.
Being able to communicat effectively in both languages will help ensure your child isn't isolated in different places ie a swimming class where everyone else is a welsh speaker.

And Gaelic you seem to be comparing welsh to gaelic which as I understand is only spoken by older generations in scotland and is now being taught as a second language in schools. Welsh is a living, breathing language spokeclusively in many households. I go to work and speak welsh every day, I go to the doctors I speak welsh, I go to mother and baby clubs I speak welsh, I go to the shops and I speak welsh. Why shouldn't there be schools which allow children to be educated in their FIRST language.

gaelicsheep Thu 07-Mar-13 22:13:38

Militant in the sense of, for example, school inspectors appearing more concerned about the amount of conversational Welsh, in a very un Welsh area, than about the actual quality of education. In the sense of imposing unneeded Welsh medium education on an area thus cutting the choices of the vast majority. One size does not fit all. Not all of Wales is still Welsh-speaking. cf the Gaelic roadsigns example.

gaelicsheep Thu 07-Mar-13 22:18:41

Actually Gaelic isn't being effectively taught as a second language. It's Gaelic medium or pretty much nothing unfortunately. Would that DS could have learned Gaelic in a mainstream primary. I think the Welsh do well ensuring that it is available, with considerable time spent on it, in ALL schools.

Welsh is only a living breathing language in parts of Wales. My objection is that policies made in Cardiff are made to apply universally whether Welsh is spoken or not.

gaelicsheep Thu 07-Mar-13 22:20:44

Anyhow my opinion doesn't matter unduly since I am not Welsh. Just saying it as I see it.

hippo123 Thu 07-Mar-13 22:37:09

We live in north west Wales and I can assure you that the welsh language is very much alive. My dc attend a welsh medium primary, all primaries in Gwynedd are welsh medium. We are English speaking parents and I am amazed and very proud at how my children have picked up the language. I can only see how being bilingual can be of advantage to them, especially socially, to be able to be part of the community and to gain employment in the area. I'm baffled at how people don't think speaking welsh in Wales is important - the clues in the countrys name smile

moondog Thu 07-Mar-13 22:43:34

I wouldn't want kids punished for speaking English any more than I would want them punished for speaking Welsh. It's odd that you focus on that one alleged example Gaelic because I could point you in the direction of many real life examples of people harassed and belittled and mocked for speaking Welsh, and not just back in the year 1860.
I know of a very recent case where an s/lt ( a supposed language and communications expert!) told a Welsh speaking family that they needed to 're examine thier priorities' when they asked for Welsh medium specialist educational provision for their child.

There are many instances of language renewal and revival and/or maintenance. Catalan. The French in Canada.
There are many instances also of practices being established which were at one time seen as fringe causes.
Equal pay. Maternity benefits. Smoking legislation. Seatbelts
How absured they all seemed at the time!

I don't like government inteference and I don't like professional whingers but I can see a clear case for the protection and nurture of what is after all the oldest language in Europe. I remember training as an s/lt in London and all of these right on types gonig on about the importance of providing therapy in every language under the sun.
When I began to talk about Welsh, I will never forget the patronising little wave of dismissal this so called language expert gave.

The new breed of Welsh person is both parochial and cosmopolitan. One does not precluse the other. I grew up speaking Welsh 10 000 miles away from Wales and this makes me extraordinarily proud. Yet in our family, Welsh competes merrily with English, French and Korean and it is great.

gaelicsheep Thu 07-Mar-13 23:03:18

Hippo - sure. I currently live in East Wales and barely anyone round here speaks Welsh at all, let alone as a first language, so it all feels quite false.

ZZZenAgain Thu 07-Mar-13 23:07:58

would have thought Basque was the oldest surviving language in Europe but I really don't know

gaelicsheep Thu 07-Mar-13 23:14:04

Also, again in response to hippo, my DS is picking up Welsh very well too in a regular school. He's won the Welsh certificate twice and I'm very proud of him. But I would have never moved to an area where our only choice was full on Welsh medium. As a non Welsh person that would be a big step too far.

gaelicsheep Thu 07-Mar-13 23:16:13

Which begs an interesting question as to whether such a policy of exclusive Welsh medium furthers the Welsh cause or actually hinders it. I can't be the only.person to find it offputting.

hippo123 Thu 07-Mar-13 23:34:41

I found it really off putting believe me. I really struggled to get my head around the idea and seriously considered moving back to England. However I'm so glad we stuck it out. Half way though reception my ds became fluent, although I admit he did struggle in the first term, well refused to talk either English or welsh, socially he was fine. To be honest I don't think children find it a problem at all, it us as parents that over think things and find issues with it. To live in the area of Wales that we do and not speak welsh would be a huge disadvantage to my children. Swimming teachers, shop keepers, bus drivers etc all speak welsh around here. My biggest regret is not being able to speak welsh, although I am learning. I guess it depends on what area of Wales you live in as to the extent you 'need' the language, but no matter where you live in Wales I think being bilingual puts you at an advantage.

gaelicsheep Thu 07-Mar-13 23:42:15

I guess I have a different standpoint as I can't see us staying in Wales until DS leaves school. I admire you for sticking it out and adjusting. Well done you, and your DS! I suppose my question now is would you still have put him in Welsh medium if an alternative had been available? Given where you are I can see that you might say yes.

bacon Thu 07-Mar-13 23:43:37

Sorry I am not a fan of WAG. I luckily escaped Welsh in school and now my son is being talked to (not much though) in welsh and its pointless. I cant teach him and I have no intention of either. Unless he stays and works for the LA or WAG I cant see it having any benefit and rather the extra time was spent on learning english and maths. I would not consider a full welsh education. Higher ed/university is english. The teachers cant stand doing welsh and the time spent on training isn't acceptable. Welsh should not be compulsory but an option in schools. Does the WAG spend £5m on the language (may be wrong)???

gaelicsheep Thu 07-Mar-13 23:46:05

I don't mind it being compulsory but I think they do a day and a half a week which is far too much imo. I guess (I hope) they are actually learning other stuff at the same time.

Startail Thu 07-Mar-13 23:56:34

The trouble with this debate is Wales is not homogeneous.

The mid Wales of my childhood is not Welsh speaking, in 18 years I heard Welsh spoken once outside school. That was a tourist from North Wales who decided to answer our Geography survey in Welsh. Sadly even my locally born and bread DF couldn't get past "Where do you live?"

To parachute WM education into this area is about as sensible as expecting everyone to do their lessons in Martian. Actually I think there is more chance of meeting a Martian than anyone reading the Welsh side of a leaflet.

Yes, I'm being flippant, but I'm also very serious. None of this comes cheap and rural sheep farming country does not have the resources to run two school systems or translate every tiny thing.

I went 12 miles to my nearest secondary school, I can only assume that DCs who want to choose to EM or WM will be forced to travel even further and as Gaelic sheep says 6th form can be even worse. I simply cannot see how the councils can afford the buses and duplication of staff at a time when rural schools are closing.

hippo123 Fri 08-Mar-13 00:36:17

Gaelicssheep, to be 100% honest I probably would have put dc in an english school if I had the option as it would have been easier for me. School plays etc are quite hard to follow and you sometimes feel a bit of an outsider at the school date as everyone speaks welsh around you ( there not being rude, its just their first language). That said I'm glad we didn't have the option as it wouldn't have been in my dc's best interest, only mine. They need to be fluent in welsh in order to be involved in this community and the best way to be fluent in any language is to be around it as much as possible. I also think they will have an advantage when it comes to learning other languages. I can't speak beyond primary level but I really don't think having a welsh medium education is disadvantaging them at all. That said if we lived in an English speaking part of Wales I wouldn't be bothered about them learning welsh, but I'm surprised at how many welsh people on here don't see it as being important. We plan to stay here, in a very welsh speaking part, so to us it's very important.

Takver Fri 08-Mar-13 09:09:05

"The trouble with this debate is Wales is not homogeneous."

^^ this

Though I would say to be fair in Pembrokeshire the schools do reflect the historical realities. Primaries in the south of the county are English medium, in the north Welsh medium - our town is a bit of an anomaly as a 'planted' english town in the welsh speaking north.

gaelicsheep Fri 08-Mar-13 09:13:01

Well precisely. So wasting money on Welsh medium provision in such areas is really not justifiable. Ditto to having Estyn inspectors comment on the use of Welsh in a school outside of language lessons. It's just political gesturing.

Jonno94 Fri 08-Mar-13 09:21:10

with regards your comments 'I went to school in Wales and consider it home, but I hate how it's become almost racist in it's attitude to outsiders'

I totally agree! We all hate it and we live here. Wales has become very inward looking and nationalistic

Takver Fri 08-Mar-13 10:21:41

"So wasting money on Welsh medium provision in such areas is really not justifiable."
confused - but they don't - as I've pointed out, in the English speaking areas the primaries are english medium. Most secondaries are also English medium the exception being one designated bilingual school (in Crymych, where frankly you NEED to speak Welsh) and a Welsh stream covering 6 subjects for KS3 in one other school.

TBH I would say that in Pembs the schooling reflects the reality on the ground of what people speak pretty well. Maybe the council in your area needs lobbying/persuading that they are making the wrong decisions?

gaelicsheep Fri 08-Mar-13 10:36:06

I have no doubt that our council makes the wrong decisions on many things. But it is down to the Welsh Assembly at the end of the day. And they should not be sending out Estyn inspectors with a Welsh speaking agenda, yet they do.

LutherGravy Fri 08-Mar-13 12:22:27

This is an interesting thread, but I think debating with gaelicsheep is a waste of time, to be honest. Of course everyone is entitled to an opinion and those opinions will be different.

However, more than once on this thread, gaelicsheep has posted something that is simply factually incorrect. This has been pointed out by others (fairly politely, I would say), but gaelicsheep simply doesn't register it.

For example, the assertion: "I find it hard to believe that anyone under the age of 80 would seriously consider Welsh to their first language."

That's just plain wrong, as has been pointed out by plenty of others. But later in the thread, gaelicsheep posts:

"I think these languages are brilliant as second languages, but that's what they are."

So, this is someone who is not going to allow factual accuracy to cloud their pre-determined judgement.

I suggest all those attempting to debate with this person just give it up, switch off the computer and do something useful like have a nice cup of tea.

NK2b1f2 Fri 08-Mar-13 12:55:11

LutherGravy I agree, which is why I haven't posted on this thread. brew

mejon Fri 08-Mar-13 13:51:29

Ditto Luther and NK - others like moondog and the OP have said what I'd like to say far more eloquently than I could. Those wondering why so much is being 'wasted' on Welsh language education would do well to consider why there are now so many oversubscribed Welsh primaries in Cardiff - and not only in the usual middle-class, media-centric areas either.

Amser brew nawr.

MisForMumNotMaid Fri 08-Mar-13 13:52:32

Surely we all have some preconceived ideas based on our own experiences which are factually incorrect? Because they are based on direct experience we stand behind this. However, there is a bigger picture and within that picture lies the truth.

When I lived in Flintshire I rarely heard any Welsh, when I did, it was by very old people in the market. I hadn't done lots of research on the language, i'm an incommer, and assumed (wrongly as it turns out) that the language was essentially dead and WAG were flogging a deadhorse sending out school letters etc billigually.

Now i'm married to an English first language Welsh man. Born in Denbigshire but essentially schooled through English with only English, by parental choice, spoken at home.

Welsh here is first language for many and very much in use.

Welsh assembly priorities and spending in these hard times does all need debating and as such a high percentage of Welsh people are English first language this diversity within the country needs to be recognised, and whilst the Welsh language needs to be supported we only have the one pot of money to support Education, Welsh NHS and Culture.

I'm very concerned by some of the recent statistics being banded around like if you are diagnosed with cancer in Wales your chances of survival and lower, more premature babies die in Wales - in North Wales SCBU is going to be in Liverpool I believe, that doesn't seam right.

Its one pot of money that needs to cater for all. Whilst some money should go towards language, healthy debate and education of each other is far more effective than an expensive WAG initiative on language. I'm sadened that people are staying away from a thread.

I don't find Gaelicsheep overly confrontational but then I'm not Welsh first language.

Jonno94 Fri 08-Mar-13 15:34:21

yes but that is not the point. The Welsh language is fine for those who want to speak it, however for those that don't or can't speak it, still by law, have to speak it in schools.

There should be a choice. I think the kids would be better off learning to read and write first, let alone try Welsh. Don't misunderstand me, I'm born and bread Welsh and have represented my country on numerous occasions and very proud to be Welsh but Wales is becoming highly nationalistic and insular. As for education, its falling behide the rest of the world and well behind England.

I'd rather the kids learnt French then Spanish followed by Mandarin

CecilyP Fri 08-Mar-13 16:34:31

Those wondering why so much is being 'wasted' on Welsh language education would do well to consider why there are now so many oversubscribed Welsh primaries in Cardiff - and not only in the usual middle-class, media-centric areas either.

I'm wondering. Perhaps you would like to tell us.

adeucalione Fri 08-Mar-13 17:20:57

I'd be interested in the answer to that too.

As I understand it there is a huge reorganisation taking place in Cardiff, due to 9000 surplus school places that cost over £3m per year to fund (30 primaries and secondaries with more than 25% surplus, 20 primaries fully or over subscribed). I've looked at the schools involved here but it doesn't appear to be the case that WM schools are oversubscribed whilst EM schools are empty. Indeed I selected a school at random from the list and found that it is in an area of Cardiff where demand for EM education cannot always be met Mt Stuart

gaelicsheep Fri 08-Mar-13 18:10:49

Oh goodness, I'm really not interested enough in this topic to have a proper debate. I thought Welsh people might be interested to know how their country portrays itself to people who are not Welsh. Perhaps that's why the Welsh question gets people's backs up. Do I care if Wales wants to marginalise itself? No I don't.

gaelicsheep Fri 08-Mar-13 18:23:12

I.would also like to bet that the reason WM schools are oversubscribed is because they are better resourced.

gaelicsheep Fri 08-Mar-13 18:28:09

Honestly though, I'm backing out. It really is none of my business. I'm glad DS is getting a second language but I'd be just as pleased if it was French or Spanish or Gaelic. I probably am very ignorant of Welsh issues.

ZZZenAgain Fri 08-Mar-13 18:39:56

Saw this documentary on Welsh medium education in areas where Welsh is not widely spoken a while ago, found it quite interesting to see when the dc actually use Welsh and how they get on communicating with native speakers from North Wales:


I've pretty much always wanted to be able to speak Welsh just because it is our British heritage but I have never wanted the actual work involved in acquiring it. I think it is important to do as much as possible to retain it as a living language. IMO it is definitely worth holding on to it.

gaelicsheep Fri 08-Mar-13 18:57:10

I will just say that I too am very worried about poorer outcomes, health and education wise, in Wales, as mentioned by MisForMum. And now we hear that patients sent over the border are not to be treated quicker than the maximum time limits because the health trusts have no money to pay for it. That is just dreadful. I dread any of us becoming ill in this country. Well actually, DH already is and I have no faith whatsoever in the health system.

Roseformeplease Fri 08-Mar-13 19:15:23

OP interesting to note that you are a Secondary English teacher, as am I, but in Scotland. Pupils who have gone through Gaelic Medium here, about 1/4 of our pupils, only learn Gaelic up to p5 and then begins learning to read and write English. At High School level, we find that this handicaps the English of all but the brightest or those with lots of support /books at home. So, in fact, it is socially divisive in a way. The middle class children or those with brains become fluent in two languages; the weaker children or those with limited support at home have very poor spelling, punctuation and reading skills in English. Many of them test as dyslexic or have trouble with spelling.

My own children have gone through English Medium for this reason. Also, here, GM education ends, except for 4 lessons of Gadhlig per week in secondary. Very, very few schools have the option to study other subjects through the medium of Gaelic and resources are scarce. It is also only the language of a small, sparsely populated part of Scotland and very few pupils speak it at home.

However, it does not seem to open the doors that Welsh does, from reading the posts above. My sister is about to move to Powys so I will watch her progress (no children, yet) with interest.

maishoffwcingras Fri 08-Mar-13 19:56:59

I am under 80 years old, Welsh first language, went to a Welsh medium school then to an English university. I had exactly the same degree results as my English privately educated DH. Surely that is proof that it didn't hold me back.

I now live in SE England & have 2 DDs. I speak to them in Welsh & my DH speaks to them in English. A lot of people would probably think 'What's the point? They don't live in Wales, Welsh is a useless language, nobody speaks it', well I speak it, their relatives in Wales speak it, it's part of them. It would feel completely unnatural for me to speak to them in any other language. My eldest is at school and her (English) reading and writing is as good as any of her classmates.

gaelicsheep Fri 08-Mar-13 21:05:47

LutherGravy - I have registered corrections by yourself and others and I apologise if I haven't overtly acknowledged them. I thought I'd been fairly clear that my views are based on moving to an area of Wales with very little Welsh tradition to speak of. I will admit to being surprised that people really, genuinely speak Welsh as their first language, rather than calling it their first language for political reasons. That does surprise me, yes, and I stand corrected for assuming it is a dying language like Gaelic apart from certain small pockets.

slightlysoupstained Sat 09-Mar-13 01:44:24

Welsh medium schools in the South Wales valleys tended in my experience to have fantastically active parental support, tons of extra curricular stuff organised by volunteers etc.

Frankly, if I had the opportunity to send my DS to a school which would enable him to become actively bilingual, I'd jump at the chance. There is a world of difference between being basically monolingual, "doing lessons" once a week in French, Spanish, Mandarin etc, and being actively bilingual and just knowing what it feels like to think directly in another language. It makes picking up other languages later on so much easier - all the "oooh, it's not useful outside Wales" is just entirely wrong. As www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-17892521 shows, it actually fundamentally changes your brain. Most of the world isn't monolingual, the UK is unusual in this.

Sadly being in England, it's going to be a struggle giving DS what I had easily and naturally just by being immersed in an actively bilingual school environment. sad Your DS is a lucky boy, Smiling.

adeucalione Sat 09-Mar-13 07:00:52

That makes sense soup, it's why I'm always surprised that the take up of a MFL at 15 is lower in WM schools.

adeucalione Sat 09-Mar-13 07:03:03

Lower than in EM schools I mean, and much lower than in England.

CecilyP Sat 09-Mar-13 08:11:39

being actively bilingual and just knowing what it feels like to think directly in another language. It makes picking up other languages later on so much easier

Is there any evidence that bilingual English/Welsh speakers go on to do better at MFL than children who just speak English.

ZZZenAgain Sat 09-Mar-13 09:13:19

don't know about specifically WM schools but there is a lot of evidence to suggest that actively bilingual dc acquire and process MFL more effectively than monolingual dc. It is to do with the way the brain has been wired for more than 1 mother tongue.

CecilyP Sat 09-Mar-13 09:32:47

Yes, the BBC article went into the theory, but I just wondered it there is any evidence in practice, seeing that Wales has a significant group of bilingual children and evidence from GCSE results would be fairly easy to source.

adeucalione Sat 09-Mar-13 09:33:24

So, despite having a definite advantage in learning a MFL, pupils in WM education generally choose not to. I wonder why. Maybe difficult to find good MFL teachers who can teach through the medium of Welsh?

CecilyP Sat 09-Mar-13 09:38:00

Do Welsh speakers not go on to be MFL teachers? If they have the early advantage of being bilingual, the theory would suggest that they would.

adeucalione Sat 09-Mar-13 10:15:19

I'm not sure Cecily, I just thought it might be one explanation for weak take-up of MFL in WM schools but I suppose it doesn't explain why EM schools in Wales also have a lower take-up than English schools - although I was looking at 2011 statistics so that might have changed, I don't know.

It would be interesting to know if those pupils at WM schools achieve higher grades in MFL than their EM counterparts, but I can't find anything.

gaelicsheep Sat 09-Mar-13 12:17:29

Quite seriously, could the low take up be down to quite an introspective view of the world? Also a question, I was given to understand that just learning another language at an early age is good, not necessarily to bikingual standard. Is that not true?

adeucalione Sat 09-Mar-13 12:38:59

Well the reason I didn't take a MFL was because I thought I was already doing English and Welsh, and couldn't be faffed taking a third. I'm not claiming that Welsh students are all as lazy as me btw, but maybe just something like there not being enough options available? So they're already doing two languages, and taking a third would limit their other choices. It seems a shame if they have a natural proclivity for languages. Or maybe they see Welsh as useful and meaningful, and useful actually for employment in Wales, whereas the benefits of learning French or Spanish are not as immediately obvious. Anyway, from what I have read, Estyn are all over it and one would hope for an upswing soon.

gaelicsheep Sat 09-Mar-13 12:47:00

Can someone please reassure me that Welsh GCSE is not compulsory?

MisForMumNotMaid Sat 09-Mar-13 12:48:51

DH is a teacher in a bilingual school and says it is compulsory. Some schools do a short course though, which is less intence.

gaelicsheep Sat 09-Mar-13 12:51:27

What, in regular schools too? Do they limit the other subjects that can be taken? Is there room for the three sciences for example?

MisForMumNotMaid Sat 09-Mar-13 13:12:51

Its all duel science now i believe. The second language is the thing thats typically not opted for so there is a low take up for French, italian, spanish, German etc.

gaelicsheep Sat 09-Mar-13 13:32:09

It's a good thing you can't all hear DH's opinion on this subject!

MisForMumNotMaid Sat 09-Mar-13 13:39:21

Thats why we need Welsh public debate on this. So many systems have been set up and so much of our money committed on various things like Welsh through to GCSE, money has been diverted from some life critical services like the NHS. It feels as though these things are happening too us rather than they are of our choosing.

Reducing budgets for WAG in the coming years are hopefully going to push these issues to the forefront for discussion. Alternatively WAG might use its latest power, to accrue debt, to avoid discussion and dig a big hole for us all to fall into.

weegiemum Sat 09-Mar-13 13:49:22

I live in Scotland so clearly not welsh medium! However my dc go to a Gaelic school (equivalent!). Neither dh or I have much Gaelic though my phonics are excellent, I can read anything!!

My dc are now in p5, p6 and s1 (yrs 4, 5 and 7) in GME. They are all fluent in 2 languages (and dd1 has picked up French at a frankly astonishing rate - she's done it for 2.5 years and was actually chatting in French to a French-speaking African girl at church last Sunday!). They all also are reading etc in English at or above their supposed level, all are doing well in maths and all play 2 instruments (which was one reason we chose GME as bilingualism encourages musical ability - they all play piano, and then dd1 plays accordion, ds drums and dd2 fiddle).

I honestly can't see why anyone who has the option wouldnt go for bilingual education. Which might explain why in glasgow the gaelic school is the largest in the city and they're building another one!

adeucalione Sat 09-Mar-13 13:51:02

A couple of articles to make you froth gaelicsheep :


Daily Post

teacherwith2kids Sat 09-Mar-13 13:56:53

It is only tangentially relevant - but 3 of the (perhaps 15?) linguists at my Oxbridge college had been in Welsh medium education. It did seem that the early bilingiualism - all had English families - had helped them to excel in other MFLs later.

gaelicsheep Sat 09-Mar-13 13:57:56

See, we're currently trying to decide whether to make this relocation permanent or whether to leave an escape route open. The escape route is sounding more and more essential. There just isn't the aggressive political drive behind Gaelic education, and as a result I was much more comfortable with the idea. The reasons we decided against were varied, but included the fact that DS would not be at school with his local peers. The quality of education he would have received was not in doubt, in my mind, although the secondary teacher who posted earlier did throw some doubt on that. I think it is to Gaelic's detriment that there isn't a bit stronger drive behind it, to at least make some Gaelic teaching available in all schools as an option. Wales's approach, on the contrary, I find heavy handed and it makes me want to run away.

DS tells me if they want to go to the toilet they have to ask in Welsh. It is all too much, the WAG needs to focus on what is important and it is plainly failing in every respect. I am regretting this move more every day.

alexpolismum Sat 09-Mar-13 14:01:11

I'm jumping into this debate several pages in, but I just couldn't resist.

Very few Welsh-speaking children have problems speaking English - I have never met even one. And in the OP's case, presumably, as an English speaker she will be speaking to her son in English at home anyway.

I fail to see why Welsh speakers should not have the right to education in their own language - and English speaking Welsh people are hardly lacking for schools!

To those who consider it a waste of time learning a minority language. There are thousands of languages spoken in the world today, a large number of which are minority tongues. Do their speakers not merit attention? Do they all have to be Nobel prize winners before they can be considered worth speaking to?

Incidentally, gaelic, words for modern technology are often borrowed across languages. I am a fluent speaker of Greek, a language that I assure you is very much alive and well, and words like "modem", "router", etc, are all taken directly from English. This doesn't mean that the Greeks are all really speaking English and playing at being Greek speakers, it simply means that Greek, like Welsh, borrows words. English does the same thing. Where do you think the word "problem" comes from? Or "paradise"? Or "flannel"? The list is simply endless.

My children are bilingual (English/ Greek). I consider it a positive thing. If we lived in Wales, I would send them to Welsh medium so they could gain another language, another perspective on the world.

Anecdotally, and may be irrelevant in the greater scheme of bilingualism, but I've noticed that my children have easily picked up a bit of Russian from a Russian speaker I know, where their monolingual friends have been slower. Even my SN son waves goodbye when he hears "da sfidanya!"

alexpolismum Sat 09-Mar-13 14:05:45

And personally speaking, as a multilingual, I find that the more languages I know, the easier it is to learn them! It's not a cliche, it really is true. Your general language knowledge helps you to understand or work out new words you haven't seen before, and grammar just seems to fall into place as you go along.

gaelicsheep Sat 09-Mar-13 14:12:22

alexpolismum - I am more than conscious I am having a disproportionate say on this thread, unfortunately the subject - it turns out - is quite close to my heart for the wrong reasons. It is the compulsory aspect of all this that really really gets my goat. There is such a clear political agenda and I hate it!

gaelicsheep Sat 09-Mar-13 14:14:17

I do feel, though, I'm perhaps having this discussion on the wrong thread, so sorry, it's just an unfortunate time for the subject to come up.

alexpolismum Sat 09-Mar-13 14:16:44

gaelicsheep I admit I don't live in Wales (or indeed even in the UK!), and have no experience of the political agenda. However, I do feel that bilingualism is a positive thing. What's not to like? They gain Welsh, whilst retaining their English. I singled you out in reference to foreign words being used in Welsh, because you were the one to ask what the Welsh for "computer" and a few other modern devices was.

Just as an aside, though, completely irrelevant to the discussion, it is odd that we should call it "borrowing". It's not like we use the word for a few years and then give it back again!

alexpolismum Sat 09-Mar-13 14:17:33

I didn't think Welsh medium was compulsory, gaelic, isn't it a choice?

gaelicsheep Sat 09-Mar-13 14:21:15

That's why I said I'm having the wrong argument on the wrong thread, although the topic has expanded somewhat from the OP.

If you move to deepest darkest Wales then you have no choice but Welsh medium. Hence we would never have done so, not in a million years. In normal schools Welsh is still a disproportionately large and compulsory part of the curriculum.

When my DS gets maths homework like he did this weekend, counting on in tens that took him all of two minutes, I would say that somebody somewhere has their priorities all wrong. Sure teach them Welsh in primary, (but please don't enforce it on them outside of Welsh lessons). Make it optional in secondary or at the very least - please - optional at GCSE. Or you are just wasting kids' time and taxpayers' money.

gaelicsheep Sat 09-Mar-13 14:22:41

And really my point about scientific words was that no serious scientific work is ever going to be done or published in Welsh, so why invent words when there's a perfectly good language in this country that has already done so.

gaelicsheep Sat 09-Mar-13 14:23:27

Sorry, I think my recent conversation with DH has got me rattled.

alexpolismum Sat 09-Mar-13 14:31:31

My previous point still stands regarding the use of foreign loan words. My dh is an electronics engineer, first language Greek. He regularly uses English vocabulary in Greek for various components. Why should he not write a schematic in Greek, simply because some of the vocabulary came from English? I honestly see it as no different from us using the word "problem" in English. Perhaps it won't be long before scientific papers are published in Welsh.

slightlysoupstained Sat 09-Mar-13 14:33:57

That's interesting adeucalione, do you have any figures on how much lower? The only thing I could find with a short bit of googling (not much time here) was an article from 2008 saying entries were 3% lower in WME that year, and they were wondering if it was a blip.

Oh and this, which suggest WME gets better results overall: syniadau--buildinganindependentwales.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/do-welsh-medium-schools-produce-better.html

DS crying now, got to go.

maishoffwcingras Sat 09-Mar-13 14:37:14

gaelic that's quite am imsultimg thing to say that no 'serious' scientific paper will ever be published in Welsh - why ever not?! Are there no Welsh scientists?

maishoffwcingras Sat 09-Mar-13 14:40:08

I do know how to spell insulting despite being educated in Welsh, it's just my farmer hands are too big for my phonewink wink

gaelicsheep Sat 09-Mar-13 14:40:50

I know, I apologise for that and a couple of other comments I just made. RL has intruded on me now, and I should have thought more before typing.

gaelicsheep Sat 09-Mar-13 14:44:58

Although, there is genuine point in there somewhere, and it applies equally to all minority languages. I don't understand why there is a need to publish in minority languages when the target audience all speak another mainstream language. That also goes for publishing council papers in Gaelic btw. That's really behind what I said about scientific language, the same goes for "political" language. It just seems daft to spend money on reinventing the wheel when everyone can read the original version anyway.

alexpolismum Sat 09-Mar-13 14:49:13

gaelic the target audience may well speak many different languages. Translation is hardly a new concept, you know!

A quick glance at my bookshelves - I have academic works in English, Greek, French, Italian. Translated from Russian, Hungarian.

DH has things translated from English, French and German, one schematic was originally in Georgian.

Why limit ourselves to just English?

alexpolismum Sat 09-Mar-13 14:52:11

Why should translating a paper from Welsh into English be viewed any differently from translating one from Russian or Greek into English? I assume you wouldn't expect the Russian or Greek scientist to just write directly in English?

gaelicsheep Sat 09-Mar-13 14:54:48

I see what you are saying, but I think Welsh is a different case, but I am not Welsh and will stop digging now before I get lynched.

TeddyBare Sat 09-Mar-13 15:05:52

I'm a lecturer at one of the Universities in Wales. We get a fairly large minority of native Welsh speakers, most of whom came through Welsh medium schools, but almost all of the lectures in my department are in English. I have never heard of any of the native Welsh speakers struggling with English either in lectures or out. As far as I can see you've got nothing to lose from Welsh education and a lot to gain.

gaelicsheep Sat 09-Mar-13 15:10:36

OK, I might start a new thread, just because I want to explore this compulsory second language thing further and this is not the place. I too see no actual harm in Welsh medium as long as it is a choice. I'm sure you'll all be glad to see the back of me here. Sorry for any offence.

Startail Sat 09-Mar-13 15:18:34

teddybare I'm sorry I don't see what DCs gain spending hours and hours studying a dead language, that you say yourself isn't necessary for university and most won't ever use again.

Be bilingual in French, German, Spanish by all means, they are languages of the 21st Century not the 18th.

Hanging on to the past to create an impractical, impossible, future is killing the wonderful open, Welcoming, friendly Wales I went to school in.

I could never bring my dyslexic, MFL freezing, DD1 to live in Wales and I have friends who do long commutes to work in Wales because they would rather their DCs studied two Useful MFLs.

Startail Sat 09-Mar-13 15:19:04

MFL free

gaelicsheep Sat 09-Mar-13 15:22:06

Sorry, just couldn't resist posting this one back for adieucalione. I thought it would be all rubbish, being the Daily Fail, until DS confirmed the first part of the headline only 5 minutes later.

don't read if of a sensitive disposition

MisForMumNotMaid Sat 09-Mar-13 15:32:29

I think people with above average IQ and motivated carers will excel which ever combination of languages they're educated in.

I do know some Welsh adults and children who really struggle to talk in English and need another Welsh person with them in meetings to help when they can't find the right words for translation. These people I know as parents and friends through my children and their schools. They are not in the top academic percentages and it does hinder them in life. I'm not saying they don't have good lives it can just make some things difficult - rightly or wrongly.

For example one man I know, a parent governor at the school where i was also a governor, used to phone me after meetings to discuss the meeting content because he found it hard to keep up if there was any English paperwork or presentations from County. Another lady i know wanted to be involved with the PTA but was scared her English wasn't good enough. I hopefully expressed clearly to her that her English was significantly better than my Welsh and so if we pulled together we might just rub through and enjoy ourselves. We did. One professional lady I met at a business conference had for the first time in her life moved out of Welsh speaking Wales. She was scared she came across as simple because her brain 'functioned in Welsh', her words, so she had to translate the English to welsh then her welsh reply into English.

maishoffwcingras Sat 09-Mar-13 15:33:47

startail how can it be dead if people are using it in every day life??

PomBearEnvy Sat 09-Mar-13 15:39:59

startail children in a Welsh Medium Primary do not spend hours and hours studying a dead language. They study the same curriculum as children in English speaking schools, only difference is they learn said curriculum, in a different language confused

As teddybare was trying to point out, the children from Welsh medium backgrounds, were at no disadvantage in an English based lecture, because they are also taught to read and write in English!

I can not understand how you could find this a disadvantage?

TeddyBare Sat 09-Mar-13 15:42:16

Startail, I find your post rather odd.
Firstly, Welsh is not a dead language. There are native speakers so by definition it's a living language.
Secondly, there are some degree programmes which can be taught partly or entirely in Welsh - Law, IR / politics, literature, history and probably others I don't know of. There is also at least one Welsh speaking lab at my university. I would expect someone who had studied any of these subjects in both languages to have a better understanding of it and bring an interesting perspective to the discussion.
Thirdly, there are many things which are more important than university. Just because you don't need Welsh to study doesn't mean it has no value. I enjoy my job but it's not the most meaningful thing in my life. People gain meaning from all sorts of things, including engaging with their community or culture and history. By not teaching Welsh you are automatically making it almost impossible for Welsh people to do that. Even if the majority of children who learn Welsh grow up to enjoy other things, they've lost nothing by learning Welsh.

Even if you don't go on to study in Welsh, it's a massive advantage to be bilingual with any language. Being bilingual gives you a different perspective, makes it easier to learn other languages, and might reduce the risk of developing alzheimer's. I could understand why you might not want to send your dc to Welsh school if the home language is not English but if they're going to learn English either way then they've got nothing to lose from having an extra language.
All around the world it is totally normal to be multilingual with a local language, national language and international language (usually English or French). If you can already speak one of the international languages then you've got an advantage but it seems totally pointless to throw away that advantage by refusing to learn any other language. Learning another international language is not necessarily more useful than learning a local language as most literature and cultural experiences are translated between the international languages.

As an aside, do you also think it's pointless that countries with a high level of English fluency still keep their own language. Almost all Swedes speak brilliant English but it doesn't mean that Swedish has no value. What about countries which have a huge number of different local languages but most people can also speak one majority language? I think South Africa has something like 11 native languages but most South Africans speak English. Should they all also stop having their own languages?

MisForMumNotMaid Sat 09-Mar-13 16:03:33

My Grandmother was fluent in I believe 7 languages, she also developed Altzheimers at a young age. I'm not sure about the bilingualism/ altzheimers claims.

I do whole heartedly agree with the continued use of Welsh in schools and children being billingual/ heavily exposed to a second language, from a young age. If your brain can accept that languages have different patterns it makes it easier to go on and learn more. I'm not sure about its compulsory study through to 16, but then I would also rather children could opt for a BTec style education from 14 if they aren't academic.

I like Wales but it feels like the whole language debate is actually masking a supremacy amongst a small group of people (not all those who are Welsh first language, just a select clic of them) that is tantamount to racism. It hinders the preservation/ development/ acceptance of the language and causes divides in communities.

adeucalione Sat 09-Mar-13 16:04:19

soup Blimey I've read loads of stuff over the past day or so, this stuff is really interesting me. The stats comparing English and Welsh take-up of MFL at GCSE isn't all collated in one place, but read that it is 40% in England and just under 30% in Wales, with WM schools trailing EM. I'll google now and see what I can find.

alexpolismum Sat 09-Mar-13 16:06:40

Dare I point out the obvious to Startail - that it is entirely possible to learn Welsh in addition to other foreign languages, whichever she considers most "useful"?

And being in Welsh medium school means that you are taught using Welsh, not that you spend hours studying it as a subject. Presumably you can then study other languages, also through the medium of Welsh if desired, or English if preferred.

adeucalione Sat 09-Mar-13 16:07:41

soup few here :

TES article claiming that fewer pupils in WM pupils took a MFL compared to their EM counterparts in 2008.

Estyn press release saying the same, again 2008.

Wesh Language championCeri James claims Welsh pupils have lower MFL take-up than English counterparts, with A levels down 10% in 2010.

Telegraph article stating that numbers of pupils in England choosing MFL plummeted from 80% to 40% in the 10 years to 2011 since Labour made them optional, signs of reversal since launch of English Bacc.

WJEC piece claiming that GCSE MFL continuing to fall in Wales in 2012.

Welsh Language Centre piece about plans to reverse the decline, 2012.

alexpolismum Sat 09-Mar-13 16:10:40

adeucalione - Do all these articles, studies, takes into account that all Welsh medium pupils effectively already have one MFL? Or are they just counting languages not spoken in the UK?

adeucalione Sat 09-Mar-13 16:15:51

I just wanted to be clear, because I was called anti-welsh on here yesterday, that I love Wales and all things Welsh, including the beautiful language (I am Welsh). I came on originally to suggest EM might be better for the OP, which she took objection to, and I have since become interested in why bilingual WM pupils appear to reject MFL despite, presumably, having a natural proclivity to do well.

I wholeheartedly support WM education and the preservation of the Welsh language, but it appears to have become almost unacceptable to question any aspect of it and I find that odd.

And soup I didn't read your link to Gogwatch, hate that website.

adeucalione Sat 09-Mar-13 16:22:01

Alex - I'm not sure what you mean. Look at the Welsh curriculum if you want to know what they mean by MFL. Do they count Welsh and English as two separate languages at GCSE? Yes. Do they want pupils in Wales to be trilingual? Yes. Are they concerned that this isn't happening? Yes.

PomBearEnvy Sat 09-Mar-13 16:22:15

Hi op
To answer you original question. My two DS are in a Welsh Medium Primary, and my DD is in the local Cylch Meithrin, I'm English non welsh speaking and DH has some very basic Welsh. All my children are thriving in school, they have not been at a disadvantage at school because of our lack of Welsh at home, nor are they at any disadvantage in their education for learning their lessons in Welsh at school.

DD Is 3yrs and at nursery can follow basic instructions in Welsh, knows colours and numbers up to 20. And can answer very basic questions in Welsh. Obviously she does all of this at home in English.

DS2 5yrs is in reception and loves school, his English phonics are way behind his peers who are in an English school, but as I witnessed with DS1 when they start reading in English age 7, they soon catch up and are able to switch easily between the two languages.

DS1 Is 9 and has the English reading average age of 8/9yrs despite only being introduced to spelling, punctuation and english books in school at age 7. He is also now completely fluent in Welsh, enabling him to talk to people in the corner shop our Doctor and local landlady blush in their first language.

In the wider world, Welsh probably will not be much of an advantage to my children. If they choose to live in the area we are in, it will be of help to them. However, I feel that an additional language no matter what it is can never be a hindrance surely?!

alexpolismum Sat 09-Mar-13 16:30:12

What I mean is that an English pupil studying French counts in MFL stats. I was wondering whether a Welsh pupil studying English is counted in these statistics. That is all. Simply curious about how they compile the data.

I agree that it would be great to encourage trilingualism. (I could hardly disagree, I have learned 5 languages myself and have bilingual children who are likely to learn another language at school!).

Perhaps part of the problem is relevance. French may have little relevance to a child in Prestatyn (for example), who has never been to France or even met anyone from France. In my own experience, the other people who studied foreign languages alongside people tended (of course not all) to be better travelled or have motivated parents who provided them with books/ magazines/ whatever in a foreign language, or had a connection to that country. When I studied Italian, over 2 thirds of the people on my course had at least one parent or grandparent from Italy. I am not sure what this really means in terms of encouraging MFL in Wales, however!

alexpolismum Sat 09-Mar-13 16:35:07

Just re-read that last post. It does seem a bit rambly, sorry.

A follow on thought from wondering about relevance has made me wonder whether there is any data on the numbers of pupils taking up MFL in deprived areas versus those in wealthier areas.

Llareggub Sat 09-Mar-13 17:25:21

I studied Welsh, French and German at my English medium Welsh comp. Languages were encouraged, but it was the early 90s when Welsh wasn't such a big part of the curriculum.

When I visit my sons at their English medium school Welsh is used alongside English, so the HT say "bore da plant, good morning children" and then goes on to say The Lord's Prayer in Welsh and English (it's a Catholic school) and as a result my sons are picking up quite a smattering of Welsh. The school is quite unusual though, I was out with a few of the mums today and most of the children are bilingual so welsh is a third language for them. We had a Hungarian speaker, a German speaker, Spanish and Rumanian.

adeucalione Sat 09-Mar-13 17:30:41

Oh now this is quite interesting (or maybe only to me, and I think cecily asked for this earlier too).

here are the Welsh GCSE results for 2011, broken down by subject.

And here are the same statistics for England, from mid 90s to 2012. I don't recognise the source, but it's all I could find!

Anyway, in 2011 73.7% of Welsh students doing a GCSE in French achieved grades A-C, 75.5% German, 74.1% Spanish.

In England the figures were 72.5%, 75.8% and 74.9%.

So, Welsh pupils performed better at French and worse in German and Spanish, which suggests that those children who do take a MFL do well, but not significantly better than their monolingual peers in England.

Although I guess the Welsh stats do not separate out WM from EM so maybe we're no further on...grin

SmilingMakesMyFaceAche Sat 09-Mar-13 20:50:02

Adeucalione - I took offence to your sneering attitude. Just clarifying.
I'm leaving this thread.
Thanks to all who answered my questions and didn't hijack to bang their own personal drum.

gaelicsheep Sat 09-Mar-13 21:07:42

I know you won't want to hear from one of the hijackers (although to be fair you haven't posted in ages and the conversation just moved on), but I didn't see any sneering attitude from adeucalione, merely common sense.

SmilingMakesMyFaceAche Sat 09-Mar-13 21:20:27

Do I need to be here every 5 minutes then? hmm
Anyhow, DS is going to wm. I've filled in the forms. I've dug out my welsh course work from 2008 and I'm reading through it again. £30 worth if learning material has been delivered from amazon.
Dw I'm eisiau siarad yn rhugl smile

CecilyP Sat 09-Mar-13 21:26:25

Surely that's the nature of mumsnet, OP; loads of threads go off on a tangent. This one has been quite interesting because of it. If you haven't left already, my advice would echo that of the Scottish secondary teacher upthread; that if your child is bright, pick things up quickly and has no language difficulties, then he will be fine in Welsh medium, but if he struggles in any way, it will be an extra thing to cope with. If you want your child to be fluent in Welsh, then Welsh medium is probably the way to go, but I doubt it will really confer any real advantage in learning other languages and, even if it does, he would still have to attend the classes and put in the graft to do well in these other languages.

alexpolismum Sat 09-Mar-13 21:29:29

Good luck, OP, I wish you and your son all the best with it. smile

Although I can't help thinking that you don't need to spend a lot of money on course material - there's loads of free stuff available online to learn Welsh!

adeucalione Sat 09-Mar-13 21:35:49

Clarification not necessary smiling, you made it abundantly clear the first time.

I reckon my posts have been less sneering than some actually but hey ho, you can't please all of the people all of the time.

It's a funny old world when you're accused of sneering at something that you are a product of, and had three children in, but there we have it, I don't like everything about it and I'm going to say so if invited to.

slightlysoupstained Sun 10-Mar-13 00:40:43

Pob lwc Smiling, it's going to be great fun for both of you. smile

mamapants Sun 10-Mar-13 09:41:11

Enjoy learning welsh together. Get in touch with your TWf officers if you haven't already they will help woth information on events and resources.

Startail Sun 10-Mar-13 14:13:50

Sorry, yes I do rant on this subject at the slightest excuse, probably a bit mean to the OP blush

Startail Sun 10-Mar-13 14:20:30

My only justification is I have friends and family who's concil tax and jobs are directly affected by how much money is spent on promoting The Welsh language. Also friends who have to choose whether to educate their DCs in a culture and language that isn't that if the area because of these funding choices, made in Cardiff.

Llareggub Sun 10-Mar-13 19:47:47

The decisions might be made in Cardiff but the decisions are made by democratically elected AMs. If people living in Wales don't like the decisions then they need to get involved in politics and start influencing policy.

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