This is a call for everyone with experience or opinions about the teaching of Welsh in English medium schools.
I am a primary teacher, and for the whole of the next school year, I will be learning Welsh with Cardiff University through a Welsh Government funded ‘Welsh in a Year’ sabbatical.
This is a pilot project aiming at raising Welsh expertise of English medium teachers in order to contribute towards the one million target, amongst others, by improving provision at their own schools.
Being of German nationality and teaching through the medium of an additional language myself (I started English as second foreign language at the age of 12, following on from French at 10) I take both a personal and professional interest in language acquisition.
Two observations stick out to me (this is specific to my personal experience, and might well differ from other contributors’):
In primary school, the vast majority of pupils develop a distinctly insular knowledge of Welsh, and stay restricted to familiar language patterns, catch phrases and a limited vocabulary. Most pupils will not attempt to rearrange sentences by combining familiar sentence elements and vocabulary into a new pattern. I keep being surprised at how even more able students will not be able to explain what specific words or parts of a sentence mean. In my opinion, this inhibits them from forming different sentences with familiar elements.
(This again is only my personal experience and might differ for others’) I keep meeting adults who, after learning Welsh all the way from nursery to their GCSEs declare themselves as non-speakers, and will openly admit never having used their Wlsh meaningfully after leaving school.
I think both points are a cause for huge concern about the way Welsh is taught in schools. Having gone through Level 1 of the SSiW challenges recently, and beginning to speak Welsh to (and on rare occasions with ) my Welsh medium educated children, I have begun to wonder how the principles behind the SSiW method could be incorporated into the teaching of Welsh in schools, and what effect this might have.
I am sure I am not the first to have this thought, and I would love to hear from other contributors about the current state of the debate, and if and where attempts have been made to use SSiW methods in school, and what the results have been.
Thanks for reading, and looking forward to your thoughts and experiences!