Welsh Medium Learning Problems - socpie.uk 
 
   

       The issue of Welsh Medium education is a highly emotional issue in Wales.  There is a failure to understand that the language that children learn through will be fundamental to the their school learning success. Research explicitly illustrates that children will always learn more effectively in their most fluent language. Many people fail to recognise that new languages cannot be instantly learnt and developed into fluency.


        The issue of whether Welsh or English  children should be educated through the medium of Welsh is an educational and cognitive one.   The impact on children's learning success must be considered from a whole of range of perspectives, including the fact that all children's learning potential is not equal. Children's education should not be left to political rhetoric, hope, optimism and guesswork. 

 

       Choosing the language medium that children should be educated through should not be a superficial as choosing the colour of a new car. Children only have one education. I need to last them  a life time.


Key Points

         

 1.  Research  suggests that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to develop fluency in a new language, which is a notional figure, but it indicates the enormity of the task.  Although young children are conducive to learning language and there are some common process to learning two language, such as the physical process of reading, learners will need to learn two distinct vocabularies in each of their languages, which not be instantly acquired and developed into fluency.

        

2.  Quigley (2018) refers to children needing to develop a 50,000 vocabulary to  thrive in secondary school and that much of that vocabulary is learn implicitly outside the school gates. Many children in Wales will not hear much Welsh outside their school gates. Quigley states that children from birth to 48 months whose parents are professional spoke 32? million hear between the age of ..and ..... more words to their children than parents in welfare families.   English speaking parents who chose for their children to learn through the medium of Welsh cannot offer this Welsh speaking environments to their children.


3.  Children primarily develop their language skills through negotiation with their parents, siblings, family and friends. When children do not clearly speak what they want to say what they want to say is established through negotiation with those speaking to them. They also assist children to understand something that they have said to them that they have not understand.  English speaking parents who chose for their children to learn through the medium of Welsh cannot give this initial and continuing Welsh language support to their children.


 4.  Children will always learn more effectively in their most fluent language, because of working memory. Many English speaking parents who chose for their children to learn through the medium of Welsh do not understand is that if children are learning a new language to be educated through it, that it will take around five years for an average child to reach native like language fluency in a majority language. Welsh is a minority language.


5.   The learning potential of children is not equal, there is a seven year spread in working memory, but most children's working memory capacity in around average. Many English speaking parents who chose for their children to learn through the medium of Welsh do not know that when children learn a new language at the same time as learning a curriculum, what is taught to them, this makes less the working memory space available for learning, which will have the greatest impact upon children with average and lower working memory.


6. Many children who attend Welsh medium education, native Welsh and English speakers, are speaking English in the school yard and at home. This means children are voting with their feet not to use Welsh language. When native English speakers learn Welsh to be educated through it, they are simply learning the Welsh language to use it in classroom. 


7. Time is a factor in all learning and language fluency relates to matter of degree. If children do not use the Welsh language sufficiently, they will not develop well-rounded Welsh language fluency. Many Welsh speaking youth do not view themselves as fluent Welsh speakers. The brain is very plastic. The fact that someone learners Welsh in school does not mean they will retain the lani for the rest of their lives.


8. English has been the language of commerce and law since 1535. The English language is becoming the world language for commerce and higher education. Children in Europe, South Korea, India and China are learning it. It is vitally important that all children develop English language fluency, especially literacy.


9.  There are children who struggle to develop their language skills in English. There around 33% of children who will find learning difficult and will generally be unable to obtain a G.C.S.E. Grade C in English. If children do not fully develop their English language in schools, especially the academic language, then they will less prepared to apply it in higher education, the professions and the work place. 


10. Welsh-medium is clearly designed to equip children to exclusively use Welsh to live their future lives. Thi
s is no longer appropriate in modern Wales, there need to be a reappraisal to ensure it equips children of all learning potential to live and have fufllled lives, including gaining employment, in what will always remain a bilingual Wales.

Plenary

          Welsh language issues are very emotional ones in Wales. There are English speakers who are prejudiced against the Welsh language. The Welsh language is not the intellectual property right of those who speak it. Welsh speakers are not entitled to demand how other people's children should be educated. The language that children are educated through is integral to children's  learning success for children of all learning potential.

        Socpie is dedicated to representing children's learning needs. The problem with educational top-down research is that it is unreliable because there are so many variables that influence children attainment. Developing cognitive research is providing a clearer insight into all learning issues.

        There is no evidence that any research was undertaken into the practice of native English speaking children learning and then be educated through the medium of Welsh. It just evolved. There is a considerable amount of research indicating the importance of chlldren's language development. There has been a vast amount of reliable research about the cognition of learning and the genetic roots of children's diverse learning potential, notably the work of Cambridge University of the Brain, which investigate children's learning difficulty; John Sweller work on cognitive overload; and Plomin's work on genetic potential.

           Learning issues are complex. Socpie believes that it cannot be unquestionably assumed that Welsh-medium education is in the best learning and future interests of any child in Wales. There is evidence to suggest that learning through the medium of Welsh can damage children's educational attainment. Whatever children attain in Welsh medium schools does not mean that they could not have done better. Most importantly, parents have a right to make informed decision about the issue. The issue needs to be debated through suitably qualified authorities in their field.