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So... Welsh. Why?

(241 Posts)
gaelicsheep Sun 10-Mar-13 14:25:15

This is a thread to pick up a discussion that began on another thread about Welsh medium education. It isn't about Welsh medium. It's about compulsory Welsh to 16 in all other schools. It is hard as a non Welsh person to complain about this without sounding xenophobic so I am merely opening the floor if anyone is interested.

MechanicalTheatre Sun 10-Mar-13 15:27:05

Gaelic has almost completely died out in Scotland. I think that's sad. Why should English be the only language in this country? We speak a dialect in the NE of Scotland and that is dying out too and we weren't allowed to use it in school. This idea of languages having different prestiges is one that really gets my goat.

It is not discriminatory to insist on Welsh being spoken any more than it's discriminatory to insist on English being spoken in England.

KatieMiddleton Sun 10-Mar-13 15:27:17

Waits for someone to post something along the lines of "Bastard Welsh with their bastard Welsh language in Wales" wink grin

greenhill Sun 10-Mar-13 15:28:34

I've worked in Wales without speaking Welsh, I wasn't discriminated against. This was 20 years ago and there would always be someone on the team that you could pass the caller on to, so that the customer could speak their own language. It was useful to have a couple of stock phrases as you transferred the call, but most native speakers were polite and asked in English, if someone was available to speak to them in Welsh.

gaelicsheep Sun 10-Mar-13 15:32:45

MT I totally agree. This is why I'm fascinated. I was totally pro Gaelic in Scotland, apart from having to spend ct payers money on answering in Gaelic letters that were written in Gaelic out of badness. I used to wish the approach was more like Wales. Now in Wales I find it to be overkill and the countryfeels inward looking and

gaelicsheep Sun 10-Mar-13 15:33:06

MT I totally agree. This is why I'm fascinated. I was totally pro Gaelic in Scotland, apart from having to spend ct payers money on answering in Gaelic letters that were written in Gaelic out of badness. I used to wish the approach was more like Wales. Now in Wales I find it to be overkill and the country feels inward looking and unwelcom

gaelicsheep Sun 10-Mar-13 15:34:33

MT I totally agree. This is why I'm fascinated. I was totally pro Gaelic in Scotland, apart from having to spend ct payers money on answering in Gaelic letters that were written in Gaelic out of badness. I used to wish the approach was more like Wales. Now in Wales I find it to be overkill and the country feels inward looking and unwelcoming. As one who normally relishes the preservation of different cultures I wonder why. Is it me? Or is it the politicisation?

Sorry, toddler kept knocking me to post button!

mamapants Sun 10-Mar-13 15:36:20

The teaching of welsh in schools in welsh should be seen as a benefit which will help children integrate fully into the country they are living in. By not learning the language you would be limiting where in Wales your children can choose to live - making it difficult for them to reside in 'deepest darkest Wales' as you referred to it in the other thread.
Being able to communicate in welsh is essential for any public facing job in Wales as it will allow the welsh people to communicate in their first language. It is completely presumptious to assume that because people can speak english that they should in order to accomodate you and your family - by learning welsh you are showing respect to the people and the language.
I can't see disadvantages to being given the opportunity and encouragement to learn another language.
In my experience welsh GCSE isn't instead of other GCSEs it is as well as. I simply had more GCSEs than students in England. Doing a double science award does not preclude you from studying all 3 sciences at A level, in fact I begun studying the 3 sciences and English at A level.
Studying welsh does not hinder English ability- I personally received A* in English Language and Literature GCSE and A at A level and am definitely not in the minority.
As for the compulsory element breeding resentment surely it is the parents responsibility to encourage it to be seen as a positive and to show some maturity of judgment in the matter.

MechanicalTheatre Sun 10-Mar-13 15:38:36

To be honest, OP, if you're not Welsh, it's not really your business.

Same as it winds me up when English people choose to tell me what I should think about Scottish independence, I'm sure the Welsh aren't really bothered what you think on the subject.

It's up to nations to choose their own path.

silwli Sun 10-Mar-13 15:40:47

You could argue the validity and point of many GCSE's. Is RE (which is a compulsary GCSE) of any use to someone who may be an atheist and who has no intention of pursing the subject any further? Would that be considered a waste of a GCSE?
I think that learning is in itself a good thing and where as RE could arguably enable a student to develop empathy with other cultures then the learning of a second language can also help a student develop extra skills - there is benefit in the actual learning and I don't think that it could be considered a waste.

And Welsh is worth preserving, if decisions about what is worth saving were only made on the basis of how many people were directly affected by it then this would be a disaster for minorities everywhere. Welsh is a rich and vibrant language which is also structurally similar to romance languages such as Spanish and Italian, therefor an understanding of Welsh would also mean that (in theory!) it should be easier to earn additional languages as well.

gaelicsheep Sun 10-Mar-13 15:43:32

Except it should matter to Wales if no one who isn't Welsh wants to live there. I'm not saying that's the case, but I know of many who would indeed be put off. I now have to live here, I pay taxes here, my DS is being schooled here so it's my business, at least in the context of asking questions. English taxes are subsidising it so it's a UK issue. And I think it's something worthy of discussion.

gaelicsheep Sun 10-Mar-13 15:47:30

And again I'm being forced to be more hardline than I am. I promised to take it off onto a new thread which I have done, hoping for an open discussion about the merits of compulsory Welsh in non Welsh areas. There is a wider set of opinions on MN than currently represented here, but I'm not going to make myself the bad guy by playing devils advocate to create a discussion that no one wants to have.

MechanicalTheatre Sun 10-Mar-13 15:48:08

Considering the number of second homers, plus the lack of jobs, I don't think the Welsh are too worried about no-one else wanting to live there.

TolliverGroat Sun 10-Mar-13 15:49:00

Learning a modern language to a high level at primary level from a native speaker is incredibly useful in terms of developing the skills and neural pathways to learn other languages later on. The fact that Wales has a pool of fluent Welsh speakers able to take on this role in schools is a massive asset.

And if children are going to stay in Wales as adults then having good Welsh will be necessary in a whole host of jobs. It seems only responsible to make it a mandatory subject.

VivaLeBeaver Sun 10-Mar-13 15:50:32

I used to live in Wales and one day would like to move back, I don't speak any welsh. I have a feeling but might be wrong that I'd be unlikely to get a job in the Nhs in Wales if I can't speak welsh. If that's true then people will be put off moving to Wales if it hinders their work prospects. But perhaps that suits the welsh. smile

TolliverGroat Sun 10-Mar-13 15:50:48

Is RE a compulsory GCSE now? It used to be that you had to study it to age 16 but most just had half an hour a week and didn't sit an exam.

silwli Sun 10-Mar-13 15:58:00

How do you know that there a wider range of opinions on MN than are currently represented here? The majority of people have answered your question in a very open way and have pointed out that there are many benefits to learning a second language (specifically Welsh). It could just be that this is indicative of the opinions of a larger set of people. I do understand your point and I understand why you question the fact that your child will have to do a compulsory GCSE but equally, all compulsory GCSE's could be questioned.
And whilst I know that you were saying that it isn't necessarily the case that no one who isn't Welsh wants to live in Wales, I'd just like to point that the figures actually strongly demonstrate the opposite with the last census showing that in that year 16.4 thousand people migrated into Wales from overseas and that the figures were projected to rise year on year.

gaelicsheep Sun 10-Mar-13 16:02:25

I know because I have read them many times. As I've said I don't mind them learning Welsh as long is it doesn't crowd out more important subjects. But I am disturbed by the use of conversational Welsh outside lessons being commented on by Estyn. It is not their place to do so. This is the politicisation I am referring to and which I find uncomfortable.

KatieMiddleton Sun 10-Mar-13 16:12:14

Perhaps this meta-analysis of the benefits of a bilingual education will help you see the benefits of learning in both English and Welsh at school?

Another important point: in Wales there are children for whom Welsh is their first language. Therefore they have a right to receive their education in that first language. The same as my English child living in England does.

If you don't want your child to speak Welsh you have three choices:

1. Don't live in Wales
2. Send your child to a school over the border
3. Send your child to a private school where English is the main language.

Northey Sun 10-Mar-13 16:14:01

It is Estyn's place to comment. It has to evaluate the Welsh language provision in schools/other places of learning who are required to deliver it.

KatieMiddleton Sun 10-Mar-13 16:14:33

Are other subjects more important than the national language?

Outside the classroom children can speak what they like. I would have an issue with any political will being exerted in that context so I would agree on that point.

mamapants Sun 10-Mar-13 16:15:06

As I understand it the theory behind encouraging conversational welsh throughout the day is because if a language is studied in isolation in the 'welsh class' people don't gain the confidence to go out and use it outside the class and therefore never become fully competent in the language.
By being given the opportunity to use conversational welsh with their peer group they should gain confidence and then use it more readily outside the school and as a result gain competence and fluency. As a result learning the language in the classroom translates into a real skill as opposed to a tick box exercise.

KatieMiddleton Sun 10-Mar-13 16:17:53

Just as an aside, Welsh is an official national language of UK so you have a right to request a copy of any public document like a schools admission brochure or other council information leaflet in Welsh. Same as you can request anything in Welsh be issued in English.

frosch Sun 10-Mar-13 16:27:02

No, it's not a mainstream language but that does not make it less relevent. At a time when huge investment in Wales is creating much-needed employment opportunities, either directly or secondary, it would be foolish to ignore a country's language because no-one else in your area speaks Welsh. We are talking about a language here, not a dialect.

I live in Germany, where Latin is taught in secondary schools; any student expecting to study medicine or jurisprudence at univeristy will be expected to have a decent grade. It is not a mainstream language but neither is it irrelevent. Out towards the various borders, it is not unusal that children learn German and the language of their neighbouring country, both in the classroom and out in the playground. The Belgians learn French, Flemish, German and Dutch. The Dutch learn Fresian, Dutch and French. In South Tyrol, they learn Italian, German and Ladin. In the Alsace region of France, they learn French and German. It's not about what is 'useful' nor where else it is spoken in the world nor whose taxes pay for it. It's about developing basic communication skills to converse, trade and live with your neighbour.

My children attend a bilingual school and they are expected to use the language relevent to the particular lesson; that includes using the relevent language to ask if they can use the toilet. Why shouldn't they? It will help them to develop a flexibility and ease of fluency that will help them in future social and work situations.

Wales is not a county of England. It's a separate country. It has a fantastically rich heritage, culture and literature and a tenacious, proud and spirited people. Welsh is intrisic in the fabric of Wales.

MechanicalTheatre Sun 10-Mar-13 16:30:08

What is "more important" though?

English is given so much of the timetable and most of it is about literature. A lot of people don't ever read at all once they've left school. Is it really that important?

Startail Sun 10-Mar-13 16:30:43

My family have lived and worked in Mid Wales for 43 years, neither of my parents have ever need a word of Welsh, my DSIS needs to be able to copy type Welsh place names-that's it!

I know several people who work in Wales, but commute over the border because they decline to waste their DCs time learning Welsh.

As Gaelicsheep says it makes Wales look inward looking and unwelcoming.

Yes incomers should embrace the culture of the country they are joining, but make that something they want, not have to do.

However, much a few zealots may wish differently, an immigrant to England needs to, eventually, learn English and immigrant to Wales need never learn Welsh.

Also Wales is not an island. It is far easier for my parents to go shopping in Hereford, than in Cardiff. A train Shrewsbury is quicker than Swansea.

Wales is a land of mountains and consequently it is a divided land, the Welsh language, accent and traditions of the North are not those of the South. They are not the traditions of the English speaking centre. Pembrokeshire and Monmouthshire are divided even within their own borders.

My GreatGrandfather came from Monmouth, DMum says he refused to be either English or Welsh as the border has been either side of his home area in different bits of history.

Devolution has replaced control from London, with control from Cardiff. Just because the politicians are closer doesn't mean their ideas are any more relevant.

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