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Anyone with children in a Welsh school (or similar)?

(12 Posts)
LingDiLong Fri 14-Oct-11 11:36:02

By similar I mean Gaelic/Irish school.

I have 2 kids in a Welsh school and am not fluent welsh myself (but am working on it) so Welsh is very much a second language for the kids.

I find it hard reading this board because the children on here seem way ahead of where mine are - with reading in particular. I know this is because mine are busy aquiring a whole new language (which is the real focus of reception) but it can feel frustrating when my reception age child is still learning the Welsh alphabet when his english school counterparts have reading books already!

So how are people with children in similar situations finding it?

talkingrabbit Fri 14-Oct-11 13:29:12

Apologies for long post!
Not sure I can offer that much advice though my kids are all in W-medium primary school (oldest in year 6), but don't want to you to feel you are alone smile. In my experience, by the time your children are in year 5 they will be reading and writing pretty proficiently in two languages; inevitably it may take a little longer to get there. Also the Foundation Phase came in earlier in Wales and the emphasis in Foundation reception is on acquiring really good communication, problem solving and social skills first (not entirely in agreement with the emphasis, works better for some than others). Your reception teachers will be very experienced in bringing on children bilingually so do be guided by them if you are concerned; and maybe talk the issue through with them so that you have an idea of when full books are introduced? Any work you can do with your son on the phonetic sounds of the Welsh alphabet will support him in learning reading - it's a phonetic language and the transfer from letter sounding to whole word sounding is usually pretty easy for children who are able to build words out of sound blocks (this doesn't work well for every child, I know). My kids have Welsh as a first language and English is not their second language, but their move - even for the 'I hate reading/writing/sitting still and listening to anything' dude - from reading in Welsh to English has been much smoother than I imagined.
A dangos fod ti dy hun yn hapus i siarad a darllen yn y Gymraeg yn ffordd dda i rhoi hyder i dy blant defnyddio eu Cymraeg nhw, ac i ddangos fod mae hen iaith yn groeso yn naturiol yn dy deulu di. Pob lwc! grin

LingDiLong Fri 14-Oct-11 13:46:48

Diolch talkingrabbit! Dw i'n trio siarad cymraeg gyda nhw ond dw i ddim yn hyderus fy hunan! I taught my ds the welsh part of the alphabet over the summer hols (he already knew the common letters) and we are going over the welsh high frequency words from time to time but the class as a whole are stuck on the letter a which is frustrating - for me not him, he's happy at school. And i am happy with the school and teachers - my kids love it there but it feels like a leap of faith sometimes iyswim. I can't help but worry that they won't ever catch up so it's nice to chat with someone who's children are older and doing well!

brassick Fri 14-Oct-11 17:55:51

Just to add to the reassurance, I have 2 dd's who have come up through Welsh Medium education. They are now in yr 8 & yr 10.

They started English officially in yr3, but had both picked up a lot (I'm talking reading / writing here, English is their first language) by then. Neither of them have had any issues that they wouldn't have had if they'd been educated in an English medium school - dd2 has had some issues with spelling, but mainly cos she is lazy & can't be bothered to stop & thInk.

It gets v interesting in secondary school (I am English, DH is the Welsh speaker here) - for example when you have to buy a Welsh/French dictionary...something I'd never even considered before.

So I would say don't worry too much.

Oh and COME ON CYMRU tomorrow. grin

Takver Fri 14-Oct-11 19:15:50

I have to say that I am a little less positive as dd gets older. Like you we don't speak Welsh at home (I understand reasonably well & speak a little, DH doesn't speak Welsh at all). I think that here things are confused by the fact that dd is quite possibly somewhat dyslexic and/or dyspraxic (she is currently being assessed by the Ed Psych), so things are probably different for other children.

DD was fine in KS1 (now Foundation stage) - as you point out the 'academic' side of things moves more slowly than in England, but IMO this is much more in line with the rest of Europe; I think England is unusual in pushing formal learning very early. She was also fine learning to read, learnt fine in Welsh and transferred those skills to reading at home in English. Unsurprisingly her English reading came on very much faster than her Welsh reading (we have a lot of books at home, read together a lot, and of course her English vocab is much larger). She found learning to write harder, but with some additional support progressed at a reasonable level (a little but not a lot below average at the end of yr 2).

However, it seems to me that at dd's school at least, they don't then go through a full programme of phonics in English once they move into year 3. The children essentially seem to use their Welsh reading skills + the fact that most of them are first language English to move into English reading. Many of course like dd are already reading more in English than in Welsh. As a result, it is very hard for anyone who is not a 'natural' speller to be able to write coherently in English - they simply don't know the phonics so can't build meaningful words. There seems to be a bit of an assumption that if they read plenty, they will simply learn to spell of their own accord.

On the Welsh side, as dd has got older and the work has become more complex, the fact that she isn't using the language outside of school has also become much more of a problem. So, recently, she was working on a piece of homework which involved researching a topic. There were no books in the library on that topic in Welsh, and no resources that we could find on the internet between us in Welsh either (plenty in English). She didn't have the vocabulary to express what she wanted to say in Welsh - and so the work involved an awful lot of time simply looking up words in the dictionary. TBH, even if she spoke Welsh more outside the home, its unlikely that she would be coming across vocabulary relating to, for example, marine biology, in her everyday conversations. Whereas of course if she was habitually watching Welsh language tv, we were speaking Welsh at home etc, then she would have those words readily to hand.

Parasaurolophus Fri 14-Oct-11 20:04:46

Yes, this is definitely the case. The kids in Wales learn to read slower because they are learning to read in 2 languages. I ignore all the posts on MN about book bands, because even the English book series in our school isn't ORT (although we did find the coloured bands in the library and I thought - "this is what they go on about on MN.") For what it is worth - the levels of ORT also seem easier than the levels of the Sam and Rosie and All-Aboard non-fiction books we get at home. They tend to read 1 or 2 levels higher on the ORT books from the library. I could be totally wrong about the comparision, though.

The is mountains of data that suggest that knowing two languages helps children in a variety of cognitive domains.

My son's spelling always presents a fantastic puzzle. You need to know both welsh and english phonemes to figure out what he is trying to spell. He is all over the place.

We will do English language secondary school, though, without hesitation. They will have to do first-language Welsh as GCSE to satisfy the local politics, but that is all they will do in Welsh come exam time.

Parasaurolophus Fri 14-Oct-11 20:06:46

Sorry should read -- "there are mountains of data"

JemimaMuddledUp Fri 14-Oct-11 20:15:04

My DC are in a Welsh medium school, but we speak Welsh anyway.

Remember that the Foundation Phase Curriculum takes things a lot more slowly than the English curriculum, so they learn to read more slowly. They catch up though, DS1 is in Year 4 and having only started reading and writing in English in Year 3 now does it at the same level as his cousin who is in Year 4 in London, but he also does the same in Welsh too.

Mine will go on to a Welsh secondary too, as both DH and I did. I even studied some of my degree through Welsh.

mejon Fri 14-Oct-11 21:54:39

You have no idea how relieved I am to read your post OP. I've been contemplating starting a similar one myself but didn't really know how to phrase my concerns.

DD1 has just gone into Y1 in a tiny Welsh school where Reception, Yr1 and Yr2 are all in one class. Compared to children in schools in England, if posts here are anything to go by, she is way behind but seeing the answers here by those with older children have made me relax a little! She knows her alphabet in both languages and can read to some extent but I find if she encounters a word she doesn't recognise, sounding out the word letter by letter does not help her and she can't associate the sounds with the word. I'm assuming that they aren't taught to read using the phonics system they do in English schools. Not even sure that there is a 'system' tbh and I can't remember how I learnt to read 35+ years ago!

DD didn't bring books home until after Easter last year so I'd not be too worried that yours haven't yet (easier said than done I know as I felt the same a year ago).

brassick Fri 14-Oct-11 22:03:00

Interestingly, it's just struck me that there may be a difference in attitude when one parent has completed all of their education in Welsh. As I say, DH is first language Welsh & all his family still have it as their day to day language, so I have never been particularly concerned about the dd's following in his footsteps-he's done OK, they are both bright so I don't see any reason why they won't be ok.

However, if neither of us spoke the language & had no 'real life' experience of it, it may be different.

Takver Fri 14-Oct-11 22:45:39

Also, brassick, I think that if at least one parent speaks Welsh as their first/ main language then your child/ren will have plenty of exposure to Welsh out of school, and won't have problems with lack of vocabulary et al.

Obviously, most children from first-language-English families also do fine in Welsh medium education, but I think it can be more of a struggle. Of course there are lots of compensating benefits, but I don't think it helps to sweep the difficulties under the carpet.

I think I hadn't fully been aware of the possible problems, because we previously lived in Spain so dd was in Spanish nursery and we had quite a few immigrant friends who spoke languages other than Spanish at home. The difference though is that in that situation as soon as you step outside the home everyone speaks Spanish all the time, so children will not only be speaking the language in school but with their friends, in shops, clubs etc. Whereas - at least where we live - the moment they step outside the classroom all the children switch to English.

LingDiLong Mon 17-Oct-11 12:06:56

Diolch pawb. Been away across the weekend so only just coming back to this.

Brassick, that sounds really positive, my Mum speaks Welsh so she will be enlisted to help out once we reach secondary school - although hopefully I'll be fluent myself by then.

Takver, my DD is in Yr 2 now so it'll be interesting to see how well they teach English next year. As you say, I would have thought the English phonics are essential really. And a good point about the Welsh stopping once they step outside school, I try and encourage the kids to watch Welsh TV, play welsh computer games and read Welsh books but it is often an uphill struggle.

Para, yy to the spelling!! DD generally writes English words spelt with Welsh phonetics! She'd written a note to her brother the other day which said Wel Dyn.

Jemima, that's really reassuring thank you.

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