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Why Welsh?
[26/07/2021]

Wales as a country has its own native language and Welsh is one of the oldest languages in Europe.While it may be one of the oldest, Welsh is a living language, one that adapts, meeting the needs of those who speak it. The Welsh Language Act 1993 places Welsh on an equal footing with English for the first time since The Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542.

The 1911 census recorded that 43.5% of the population spoke Welsh and that for the first time in nearly 2,000 years it had become the minority language in its’ own country and current estimates show that in 2020 this had fallen to 28.8%. With an estimated 434,655 children aged 3 -16 living in Wales (ONS) children are the current and future generation of Welsh speakers.  In some areas of Wales 95% of children aged 3-16, come from non-Welsh speaking homesand an estimated 93,000 children access the Welsh language through primary and secondary schools. Allowing children from non-Welsh speaking homes to hear and ‘catch’ Welsh enables them to become bilingual.

‘Young people pick up language so easily. Language is acquired unwittingly, subconsciously… Young children learn languages as naturally as they learn to run and jump, paint and play.’ (A parents’ and Teachers’ guide to Bilingualism, Professor Colin Baker)

Out of School Childcare Clubs provide children with opportunities to play with the understanding that Play is intrinsically motivated and freely directed by children, embedding the Welsh language, even on basic understanding / incidental level within play gives children the ability not only to access play in their preferred language but also a way to ‘catch’ the language in a fun way.

‘Young children are not worried by language mistakes nor about finding the exact word. They are only interested in getting their message across and receiving and needing information… language among young children is caught rather that taught.’ (A parents’ and Teachers’ guide to Bilingualism, Professor Colin Baker)

This highlights the importance that the childcare and Playwork sector play in increasing the use of the Welsh language, to actively assist in the preservation of the Welsh language and culture for future generations. The Welsh Government’s ambition is to see the number of people able to enjoy speaking and using the Welsh language reach a million by 2050. This is certainly a challenging ambition but a challenge that is worthwhile and necessary to secure the vitality of the language. It is down to us as a nation to be a part of this journey. By allowing yourself to acknowledge and appreciate the worth and value of the Welsh language to our culture and communities you will be helping to increase the use of Welsh in many ways.

The barrier for most when learning any language is the confidence of the adults. When learning a language, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s ok to get things wrong, it’s ok if a mutation is missed, it’s ok if the pronunciation isn’t a 100%, what matters is giving it a go and giving yourself opportunities to practice confidently.

Many of you are very likely to have given Welsh a go and have been faced with challenges or a knock to your confidence in the past, but please remember the age-old Welsh saying that there’ll always be ‘tri chynnig I Gymro’ (three attempts for a Welshman) so say something (again) in Cymraeg today.

‘... this language is yours and it is mine. Often your nemesis, but always your friend. So, do it. Learn it. Share it.’ (Stephen Rule 2020, Welsh and I)

Are you ready for the challenge?

For tips and ideas to help you get started read our 10 Ways to Increase the Use of the Welsh Language in your Out of School Setting resource here...

 

10 Ways to Increase the Use of the Welsh Language in your Out of School Childcare Setting

  1. Consider asking a member of staff to be your setting’s Welsh Language lead. The role could involve the planning of activities, sourcing Welsh or bi-lingual materials, arranging training courses for staff to attend and to keep momentum going!
  2. Draw on the knowledge and skills from all those involved in your Setting. Ask the children what Welsh phrases they may be learning in School or at home.  Are any members of staff able to share their knowledge of the language - however basic it may feel? Do you have any parents who are Welsh speakers and would they be able to help out in any way? Don’t forget to ask members of the community or even School staff if you are based in a School if they can help?
  3. Use bilingual signage and displays wherever possible. Clybiau Plant Cymru Kids’ Clubs have some colourful posters you can display at your Setting which includes the Seasons and Weather, Fruit and Vegetables, the Welsh Alphabet and our latest Welsh Now in a Minute posters and You Tube videos. All can be found within our Members area https://www.clybiauplantcymru.org/resources.asp   
  4. Include and encourage the use of Welsh books and games. Having them readily available for children to pick up will not only increase their use of the language but will support use of the Welsh language outside of the classroom. Many group games can be adapted quite easily.
  5. Introduce a Welsh ffrindiau/friend in the form of a toy or a puppet that visits your Setting regularly for a ‘Welsh only hour’ and when placed on the shelf or at the table only Welsh can be spoken. For a Christmas theme, we have developed a fun Welsh themed Cheeky Elf Advent Calendar Poster which can be downloaded from the Resources area of our website: https://www.clybiauplantcymru.org/pdfs/Elf%20Poster.pdf
  6. Being a Playworker is the perfect opportunity to support children to use the Welsh language in a fun and unrestrictive way! Welsh phrases can be used freely in your Setting’s daily routine such as good afternoon/prhynawn da or how are you/sut wyt ti? Think about the phrases you use frequently in your Setting – ‘have fun’, ‘play outside’, ‘snack time’ and try if you can, to only use the Welsh for these so that they slowly become second nature. Don’t forget to ensure that any new children or staff understand the phrases you are using!  
  7. Planning a weekly theme may help to keep your Setting focused and on track to use the Welsh language more frequently. Themes could include sport, fitness, food, nature or the weather, then plan all of your Welsh language activities around that theme. Explore the different words and phrases within that theme and implement them into children’s play. The children will no doubt have lots of suggestions for themes so don’t forget to ask them what the themed weeks should be!
  8. Does your Setting have a pet? If so, how about making it a Welsh speaking pet that can only be spoken to in Welsh - who isn’t going to judge how well you pronounce the word or if it’s 100% correct! Research has shown that some children find it easier to communicate with animals when judgement isn’t a factor - reading to dogs for instance has become very popular and the same concept could be used when learning a language. It’s all about confidence and having a go.
  9. Learning about Wales and the Welsh heritage will help to spark an interest in learning the Welsh language. Welsh culture is rich with music, food, stories and poetry and outstanding scenery, and there are so many elements that you can draw upon for activity ideas in your setting. Consider using it within arts and crafts activities, storytelling, music, dance, role play, cooking and snack making and games.
  10. Encourage and support staff to sign up to a Welsh language course. Try and do it as a team if you can to support one another. You can search for a local course through the National Centre for Learning Welsh www.learnwelsh.cymruor email swyddfa@dysgucymraeg.cymru

 

Learning a language or trying something new is always a daunting task but it can be, and should be, lots of fun! Taking the first step and giving it a go is better than never trying at all. By learning as a Setting, staff, children, parents and communities can all help one another, support and encourage each other. Here are some Welsh awareness and celebratory days that may help you to get started:

 

Some Useful Dates for your Diary:

January 25th – St Dwynwen’s Day

February 5th  - Welsh Language Music Day

March 1st – St David’s Day

May 14th – International Dylan Thomas Day

August – National Eisteddfod

 

 

 

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