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To ask if, given the opportunity, you would opt to have your child(ren) educated from 3-18 through the medium of another language that neither you, DP or wider family speak?

(127 Posts)
whynogutfeeling Thu 04-Feb-16 13:07:29

I'm struggling with a decision re: Welsh medium education here in Wales at the moment. Neither DP or I, or our families, speak Welsh.

So many supporters of Welsh medium education are encouraging us to go for it and cite many advantages that such an education offers, but they are a) either Welsh speakers themselves b) have partners who are Welsh speakers if they are not or c) are totally on-board with and committed to 'project Welsh language' and / or are learning Welsh as adults.

I find myself wondering if they, if they had the option, would choose to send their child(ren) to a Mandarin / German / Spanish medium school if they had the option and also whether imagining such a scenario can help them understand our concerns?

Am I a bad parent for not choosing education through the medium of another language (in this case Welsh) for my child, when I have the option? Will I limit their opportunities by not taking the option up?

MrsCaecilius Thu 04-Feb-16 13:15:20

Or will you limit their opportunities by choosing Welsh as a medium?

I think being bilingual is an amazing asset and to be encouraged. If they are able to gain this skill then brilliant. But I do not think it should be to the detriment of their primary language.

The primary language of a child's education is likely to be the one they are most professionally proficient in - able to read, write and speak most fluently and the one all their academic subjects refer to. If that language is in a minority, even in the country the child is at school in, then I'm afraid I think it limits their future opportunities.

I have nothing against a child learning Welsh and strongly support the movement to keep the language and the culture alive. But I would want my child able to go on to tertiary eduction (if they chose) in English elsewhere in the UK to give them the best possible chances. And I think that would be very hard after a secondary education in Welsh.

KeyserSophie Thu 04-Feb-16 13:16:09

Hi OP. I do have the option (I live in HK and could choose either mandarin or cantonese medium should I wish). Neither DH and I speak either language beyond "taxi and restaurant Chinglish". We can't write it at all. For transparency, DD currently attends a bi-lingual pre-school (english/ mandarin) and will attend English medium school with mandarin as a MFL. DS attends that school already.

The reasons I decided not to pursue mandarin medium are mainly cultural, and therefore not relevant to you, in that Chinese languages are so bloody hard to learn that young children have to spend many hours just copying characters with too much focus on rote learning IMO and homework from v early ages. The local schools are extremely academically driven. I think it suits some children (studious, academically motivated and task driven) but that's not mine, and tbh, DS isn't shooting the lights out learning to read in English, never mind Chinese. I'd also have to hire a tutor to support homework etc. which is an additional expense. On balance, whilst being fluent in mandarin may be a huge advantage I'm wasn't sure it was worth the pay off for me.

I don't feel guilty as I feel my reasons are sound enough. Re Welsh, without being dismissive, not speaking welsh is unlikely to be a massive disadvantage in a global job market, although being able to speak a second language apparently makes it easier to learn others.

Not sure if that helps at all.

mrtwitsglasseye Thu 04-Feb-16 13:17:31

You will limit their options in Wales if they do not speak Welsh, yes.

What are your worries about them being educated in Welsh? Is it not being able to support or help them with homework etc? Usually explaining the work to a non Welsh speaking parent is an excellent way of learning and schools are used to helping English parents with this. Some even have Welsh for Families courses?

Or you could learn Welsh yourself?

I went to Welsh medium primary (no option round here) with English speaking patents, it was never an issue. My parents opted to send me to the one English secondary. It was a mistake as my fluent Welsh became very rusty and as an adult I am not as confident in Welsh as I am in English.

mrtwitsglasseye Thu 04-Feb-16 13:19:51

Many many people go on to English universities having completed their secondary education in Welsh. It isn't hard because they are also fluent English speakers and many original a level texts are also in English, they are used to the terminology.

FeliciaJollygoodfellow Thu 04-Feb-16 13:21:10

Not Welsh I wouldn't.

Mandarin / German / Spanish I would consider it. I think modern languages are woefully overlooked in this country.

LumelaMme Thu 04-Feb-16 13:21:16

I might have done, but I would have wanted to learn the language too. Once you can speak two languages, it's easier to learn a third.

MintyBojingles Thu 04-Feb-16 13:23:12

I too live in Wales, don't speak any Welsh. DH speaks a bit, but no where near fluent.

I wouldn't send my child to the Welsh school, I want to be able to help them with their homework, and I'm worried it could hinder them (mainly because there is a strong history of dyslexia in my family, and I'd rather it stays uncomplicated for them).

The same opportunities will be available to them, they will still learn Welsh, and still be able to go on to be fluent in Welsh if they so desire. Same as I've English friends who only learnt French at secondary school, but are now fluent in French.

Send your kids to the school you like, not one you're pressurised into.

whynogutfeeling Thu 04-Feb-16 13:23:59

Keyser your final point about learning a second language making it easier to learn a third and fourth etc is indeed what I've heard too, yet it isn't borne out by reality here in Wales. Welsh pupils are not learning additional languages in any great numbers.

But the stats are for Wales as a whole, not by Welsh / English medium.

nattyknitter Thu 04-Feb-16 13:24:04

I would if it were another more comercially viable language than Welsh.

Language learning (any language) is a very positive and useful thing, It does help with learning others, but Welsh does have a limitation that say French or Mandarin doesn't. I wouldn't go full immersion learning, but would encourage Welsh lessons as part of a wider taught in English curriculum.

mrtwitsglasseye Thu 04-Feb-16 13:27:35

As an adult employment and social opportunities are limited by my less confident Welsh, even though I am able to speak it to a decent standard.

It is impossible not to learn English fluently, there is so much of it about. To be fluent in Welsh requires total immersion.

I have a dd in Welsh medium education now and my only issue is too much English!

theycallmemellojello Thu 04-Feb-16 13:28:38

Yes, I am considering a French school for my DS. Me and DH do speak French as a second language, but that's not why, more for the advantage of bilingualism.

MaidOfStars Thu 04-Feb-16 13:29:34

What Felicia said, ^cada palabra (or todas las palabras?).

whynogutfeeling Thu 04-Feb-16 13:32:58

That's a key point though theycallme. I have a second language myself, learned at English medium school and university, and would feel less uncomfortable at sending my child to a school in the medium of that language than I do with Welsh total immersion. Feels like a huge gamble and an issue on which those with strong opinions either way seem to have vested interests... For every non-Welsh speaking person who tells me 'my daughter went through Welsh medium and then got a 1st class degree from Oxbridge in metaphysics' there is some else who says 'We did Welsh medium and I regretted because my child struggled with Welsh and I felt excluded from their school life and couldn't help them with their homework.'

dimots Thu 04-Feb-16 13:35:02

Having a welsh medium education will not limit your children's opportunities. Many children go from welsh speaking schools into English universities. With both parents speaking English at home their fluency in English will not be affected.
If they stay in Wales as adults it may limit their opportunities if they don't speak Welsh. Many public sector jobs list welsh speaking as a desirable or even essential skill. And it is much harder to learn as an adult - I have never met a fluent Welsh speaker who learned as an adult.

3WiseWomen Thu 04-Feb-16 13:35:06

I am not british but speak very good english. My dcs have been going to school here, speaking english.

My eexperience is that lower primary is a time when they need a lot of support at home (eg them reading to you, learning sounds etc...). If you don't speak the language at all, how are you going to do that?
I found it hard enough for example to 'revise' sounds with the dcs as I still don't pronounce them well enough. So they were getting confused or I couldn't hear the difference between the two sounds etc...

Then as they get older, you have the issue of explaining an exercise, helping them with spellings etc... All extremely hard in a language you don't know at all.

If one of you was welsh speaking oor learning welsh, that would be different.
Or if the school was bilingual.

theycallmemellojello Thu 04-Feb-16 13:35:53

Yeah, tbh I would probably feel obliged to learn Welsh myself in this scenario. I wouldn't do it with Mandarin or similar, as I wouldn't be able to get up to speed. But with Welsh, with time and an aptitude for languages it would be possible to keep up with the child's studies. But that's a big commitment obviously, I wouldn't blame you for deciding you weren't up for it.

Janeymoo50 Thu 04-Feb-16 13:36:54

When I nannied in Canada (Alberta) many years ago, my 4 and 5 year olds went to French Immersion Kindergarden 3 afternoons a week from 1-4pm. The teacher only spoke in French (well probably not all the time but you get the idea). It was quite common, being Canada I guess, even though we were pretty far west. It was the first time I had come across such a thing.

Mistigri Thu 04-Feb-16 13:39:20

My DD is in a French-Spanish bilingual high school programme taught about 2/3 in French (which I do speak) and 1/3 in Spanish (which I don't).

Language learning is extremely positive and beneficial, BUT in my experience children generally do better if their parents understand the school language, can communicate with teachers and support homework if necessary. It's a rare child who never needs any outside help. DD is bright and a very autonomous learner and the Spanish language programme was a great opportunity for her, but it wouldn't be the right choice for her brother (also bright but much less independent and less able in languages).

Berthatydfil Thu 04-Feb-16 13:40:32

I wouldn't unless your local English medium is terrible - but you can move from Welsh to English med at any time.
Lots of reasons why but I would probably get a huge flaming from language activists

whynogutfeeling Thu 04-Feb-16 13:41:16

It does seem that two of the main arguments made in favour of Welsh medium education - the overall benefits of bilingualism AND the benefits of learning an additional language as a child, are possibly overblown too:

E.g. The popular belief that younger children have an advantage over adults in developing bilingually is not necessarily true. Early acquisition of the speech sound system of a language may result in a native-like pronunciation and the impression of fluency, but older learners may have an advantage in terms of increased metalinguistic awareness that enables them to learn the new language more quickly. For the young child, bilingual development is taking place alongside conceptual development and learning about the world. For older learners who have greater knowledge and understanding, it is the learning of new labels for objects, ideas and concepts already known.


Also the benefits of bilingualism seem to be different depending on whether we're talking about sequential or simultaneous acquisition of the additional language. And it seems that in terms of some of the cognitive advantages that bilingualism offers, these are also enhanced by other things eg early musical education.


3WiseWomen Thu 04-Feb-16 13:41:28

By the same token, living in Wales and therefore having the opportunity to speak welsh with lost of epople, you could use the english speaking school and have your dc learn welsh outside school.
That way you would still be able to speak welsh at good enopough level for that not to be an issue there.

Tbh, you have no idea if your dc will actually want to settle in wales or oin england or anywhere else for that matter. So you don';t know if not sppeaking welsh will be an issue.

but you DO know that npt receiving support at home WILL be an issue. It might be that for some, having no parents speaking welsh hasn't been an issuye. But I suspect that these are the people who wouldn't have needed any other support at school and'got' things easily. What if it's not the case for your dc? How are you going to support them/ Won't you be 'a bad parent' for not been able to do that?

whynogutfeeling Thu 04-Feb-16 13:43:46

3wise yes, it's reading with them in Welsh in the early years of primary that I worry about.... How will I know if what they're reading is correct?
In primary all homework is sent home in both Welsh and English to aid non-Welsh speaking parents, but this isn't the case at secondary level.

theycallmemellojello Thu 04-Feb-16 13:44:22

I've heard the benefits of bilingualism only kick in if you can read and write in both languages (which obviously would apply here). It also seems like knowing Welsh would be a major career advantage in Wales? And of course knowing a second language is culturally valuable in itself.

notenoughbottle Thu 04-Feb-16 13:44:30

We live in Wales. I don't like the language but in the area which we live the education you're child gets at the local WM school would be one of the best in the area. My children don't go there as my ds has some SN which would inhibit his ability to be able to learn the language especially given we don't speak it at home. I wouldn't personally send my children anyway. I know WAG are trying their hardest to make the language more prominent but I do feel that it is a dying language and that is only heavily used in certain areas of the country. It's a big decision to make especially if you don't speak it yourself. My friend struggles with her two children despite having done a course to help them. Her ds2 is struggling with both languages, as they don't learn English properly until age 7, and another friend has a daughter just diagnosed dyslexic at 8 and she is struggling massively. Each to their own but I can't see massive advantages to it.

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