When I was at secondary school, like every other child I began to learn a second language. In my case, it was French (that was all that was offered at our school). I was actually pretty good at it – I found it relatively easy and ended up with a B grade in my GCSE’s. I never carried it on after I left school, and I really regret that. I can only remember a handful of words and phrases now.
In Wales, as far as I understand, there are two types of school – English medium and Welsh medium. In a Welsh medium school, the curriculum is delivered in Welsh, and it’s pretty much the only language spoken. In an English medium school, the curriculum is in English, but Welsh is taught as a second language.
Obviously, we chose to send Harrison and Alex to our local English medium school. Other than knowing Araf (slow) and heddlu (police), neither Graham or I knew a single word of Welsh. It was important to us that all three children learned Welsh, and ideally, we would want them to be fluent in it at some point in the future. The area we live in is very popular with holidaymakers in the summer, and I haven’t heard many people speaking only in Welsh, but I do think if you move somewhere, you should make an effort to speak at least a little bit of the language.
We were really pleased when we visited their school to see that Welsh is really pushed at the school. They answer the register in Welsh, and all the signs around the school are in both languages. At Harrison’s parent’s meeting today, I had a chance to look at his books, and there are a fair few pages in there showing his Welsh writing. His teacher has said that he has tried really hard to learn new words, and he even got Welsh speaker of the week in his class a couple of weeks ago.
I realised that it was really important that both Graham and I made the effort to learn it as well. We want to be able to support the kids learning, but also for us – being able to pronounce place names without looking a bit daft for starters! We’ve been looking at videos on YouTube and practising with the kids when we can. I’m really proud of the fact that within a couple of days, I had learnt numbers 1 -10. Alex and me have been saying them all the time, and Harrison has helped us. Ben has started saying the odd number now, and we have decided that we are going to teach him the welsh words alongside the English ones. We have already realised that the younger you are, the easier it is to learn a new language – the kids are picking it up faster than we are! Research shows that the best time to expose a child to a new language is between birth and 3, with ages 4 – 7 being the second best period – well, they all fit in with those age ranges!
As we go along and start to learn words and phrases, I’ll be sharing some tips and ideas that we have found useful, but if you have any, please let us know. I have a feeling we will need all the help we can get!