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Advice on maintaining Welsh in England

(14 Posts)
veejayteekay Wed 25-Mar-20 11:22:04

Hi me again! Sorry I'm flooding the board but isn't really relevant to my other Q.

Without giving too much away my little one is adopted from Wales and I am in England. Had be been brought up in Wales he would have been schooled bilingually and the government would continue to send him bookstart books in English Welsh etc as part of an initiative by the Welsh government to ensure the survival of Welsh language.

When adopting him we had conversations about how we plan to honour his Welsh heritage and among other things we want to ensure that he is given the opportunity to have sone fluency in Welsh although unfortunately we aren't Welsh speakers. Websites online recommend sending to Welsh medium schools but these obviously assume you are a Welsh family living in Wales.

Does anyone have any advice as to how I might be able to support him with Welsh as he gets older given that we are in England and not speakers ourselves? Xxx

OP’s posts: |
ifchocolatewerecelery Wed 25-Mar-20 11:56:05

If you're serious about maintaining his Welsh, realistically the only way to do it is to start learning Welsh yourself. If he has no one to use it with, he won't see the point of continuing with it as he gets older.

S4C and the BBC both make Welsh language programmes available digitally, including ones aimed at children and learners.

Depending on which part of Wales he was born in, it would depend on the language provision offered. Along the border many children attend schools that teach through the medium of English whereas if you go towards Gwynedd the schools are first language Welsh.

I know many proud Welsh people who can't say much more than bore da and diolch. Being Welsh is more than just speaking the language so focusing on things like the 6 nations, St David's day and visiting places in Wales like Llangollen, Beddgelert and Caernarfon is just as important.

Also important to consider is that Welsh is not an homogeneous language like English. The South and the North use different words and sometimes even whole sentences are different. My mum spent part of her childhood in Wales and can understand Welsh well when she goes back to that area but put her in a different part of the country and she can't.

veejayteekay Wed 25-Mar-20 14:04:10

Hey thanks for your reply. I've looked into the digital resources a bit but will follow up on your suggestion and perhaps some exposure in background and occasional Welsh audio books etc will be a light and fun way for him to still access this. It's also helpful to know the context you describe about Welsh as a language as I hadn't realised how varied it is within itself. Yes sorry should have been clearer that this is one of a number of factors we were planning to embrace his heritage and of course understand that there is much more to it than that. Just wanted to ask about this aspect specifically. Thank you xxx

OP’s posts: |
Ted27 Wed 25-Mar-20 15:19:00

can you establish if he is from a welsh speaking family?

i'd agree that heritage is about much more than language. My son's birth dad is African, to be honest the last thing on my mind is grappling with another language when he will never use it on a day to day basis. They spoke English at home, so it wasnt a priority for the birth family.

I'd be a bit cautious about going too overboard with it, my son has a passing interest in his dad's home country but at the end of the day he is British growing up in England. I can't force an identity on him, to be honest I think he identifies more with my Scouseness !
Its a difficult one

Thepinklady77 Wed 25-Mar-20 18:43:24

I agree with the other posters. I am not welsh but trained as a teacher in wales. Many areas in north wales (with the exception of Gwynedd which was firmly a welsh speaking county) do not have bilingual schools - they teach welsh for a limited period each week but other than that everything is through the medium of English. I can not speak about mid or South Wales. Very few of my welsh friends speak welsh with any great fluency. So as ted said do you know for a fact his birth family are welsh speaking?

Regardless of whether they are or not, I am unsure of the benefits of teaching him welsh to fluency - I think it is important to allow a child to understand their heritage but really the welsh heritage and English heritage is not hugely different.

Your child is now part of your family. Don’t worry for now about trying to focus too much on heritage - focus for now on developing him as part of your family and heritage.

Our children were baptised into an different faith than ours. A faith that is not too far removed from our own with many common features but for some, and perhaps for birth family, they would see it as worlds apart. We are bringing the children up in our faith for now and in time as they further understand their life story we will help them see the similarities and differences between the two. For now we are focusing on them being a fully integrated member of our family and community.

ifchocolatewerecelery Wed 25-Mar-20 19:24:24

I've thought about this some more and there's a limit to what an English person living in England can do to foster a true sense of Welsh identity. I spoke to a true Welshman about this not long ago. He doesn't speak much Welsh but cut him in half and a dragon comes out. He is not British, he is Welsh and the fact that his passport has British on it is ignored. Like most non English British people he will automatically support the team playing against England (exceptions might be made in the case of France and Germany). I have cousins with one Welsh, one English parent as my dad's family spent a large part of the 20 century farming in Wales as it was the only land they could afford when theirs in Staffordshire was compulsory purchased for post war housing.

It was only when England crashed out the Euros a few years ago and Wales stayed in that one of them remembered he was half welsh and switched football teams. Whereas another cousin who identifies as Welsh was unhappy to see our uncle flying England flags after wales dropped out of the rugby World Cup last year.

donquixotedelamancha Wed 25-Mar-20 20:15:49

The primary language of Wales is English. The increased use of Welsh is a new thing. I'm not sure trying to get him to learn a language that no one else he encounters speaks is a good idea- seems a bit othering to me. I also think it won't work.

Wales was culturally and politically contiguous with England until really about 900AD. It rejoined in the 1200s and was completely unified with England in the 1500s.

Lots of bits of the UK have their own traditions, that doesn't make them different cultures. If you go to Wales you will see that the people are very much the same as anywhere else.

When adopting him we had conversations about how we plan to honour his Welsh heritage

Some SWs can be a bit OTT about this stuff. I think it's great to educate your son about the traditions his parents may have had but I think you need to be realistic about his more prosaic needs taking priority.

ifchocolatewerecelery Wed 25-Mar-20 22:12:54

@donquixotedelamancha wow

Wales was culturally and politically contiguous with England until really about 900AD. It rejoined in the 1200s and was completely unified with England in the 1500s.*

Lots of bits of the UK have their own traditions, that doesn't make them different cultures. If you go to Wales you will see that the people are very much the same as anywhere else.

All I can say is you've clearly visited and learnt about a very different Wales to the one I know, especially at the moment when many people are resenting the English coming in to self isolate in their second homes, putting pressure on already overstretched and overwhelmed resources.

The Welsh language has been under pressure since Tudor times when Henry VIII banned its use in court despite the Tudors relying heavily on the Welsh for their victory in the War of the Roses. The tudors are the reason for the white and green on the Welsh flag. Further pressure was added by the Victorians who saw the language as one of the many things holding the Welsh back.

More recent examples of the imbalance of power between Wales and England lie in the creation of many of the reservoirs that flooded fertile Welsh valleys to supply water to English cities. Cofiwch Dryweryn.

The idea that Wales rejoined in the 1200s is also an interesting take on Welsh history given all the castles built around it in order to subdue it.

Finally, Wales was not politically contiguous with England until 900AD. The word Welsh comes from an Anglo Saxon word meaning foreigners. They started invading from around the 6 century and pushed the natives back to areas including Wales and Cornwall. The 9th century AD King Alfred the Great the man who started to form England as we know it today never ruled Wales. Offa's dyke was built a century earlier as a border between Wales and the kingdom of Mercia.

Not only do Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland have their own traditions, they all also have their own unique view of British history. After all there must be a reason why a Welsh man will automatically choose to support whatever team is playing against England when he watches his rugby.

donquixotedelamancha Wed 25-Mar-20 22:24:42

All I can say is you've clearly visited and learnt about a very different Wales to the one I know

I think more of a difference in emphasis rather than a different nation. Still I don't think a discussion on Welsh history would really help OP.

AvocadosBeforeMortgages Thu 26-Mar-20 08:28:01

I'm English, living in South Wales. I've got plenty of friends who are Welsh born and bred, and the vast majority of them speak little to no Welsh whatsoever.

Are you sure the birth family even speak Welsh?

veejayteekay Fri 27-Mar-20 09:09:59

Hi everyone thanks for your replies. There's a lot won't mention each point individually but I just want to be clear that I'm not suggesting that learning Welsh is the only way we can celebrate his heritage as a tickbox thing but was genuinely hoping to recreate some of the aspects of his schooling whereby he may have experienced some dual language. His foster carers speak a little though not much Welsh and yes I believe his birth parents do speak some Welsh too. I'm not entirely culturally removed as I should have mentioned I have Welsh family.myself although admittedly they are south Welsh and do not know much Welsh certainly not to fluency.
I understand the point about not being able to do much as English parents living in England although we do have some Welsh heritage in my family that is relevant. I guess it's always going through be a balance of honouring where he comes from and his homeland as such whilst also considering the very valid point a few of you make about this not becoming othering and I'm interested in the point someone made about seeing as he grows up how he chooses to distinguish his own identity and maybe that's some pause for thought, us not immediately stamping a heritage on him that he may not particularly identify with as he gets older
I would respectfully disagree that because Wales is in the UK that this would make it so similar in culture. For my grandmother who was Welsh her Welsh heritage very much was a part of her identity, her politics, her outlook on life and the things she enjoyed.

Thanks all a lot of points to ponder, I will take all on board xxd

OP’s posts: |
paininthepoinsettia Fri 03-Apr-20 09:57:13

No idea about the Welsh language as such, but our dc are mixed heritage and I subscribed to tv channels of their mother tongue. They used to watch a lot when they were young, but over the years it has dwindled. They are teens now but I've always kept the subscription so that it is a 'normal' part of our home life.

TheHarryFormerlyKnownAsPrince Sat 04-Apr-20 23:31:08

He isn’t going to be fluent in Welsh, living in England with non Welsh speaking parents. That’s unrealistic. What you can do is like you say give him an appreciation of his culture. Learn some Welsh nursery rhymes to sing with him (lots available online), get some of the stories that are written in both Welsh and English, show him the ‘cyw’ TV channel (likely to be familiar to him if he comes from a Welsh speaking area of Wales).

The primary language of Wales is not English! Not where I live!!

EarnshawLintonHeathcliff Fri 15-May-20 06:25:27

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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