Welsh Medium Education  socpie.uk

         The notion that someone is an authority on the Welsh Language because they are fluent Welsh speakers is a myth. Children go to school to be educated, they should not go to school to learn Welsh and or to save the living Welsh Language.       

         Monolingual English speakers apply and encounter their language in every aspect of their everyday lives. Bilingualism is complex. Rarely will bilingual speakers have equal fluency in each of their languages. They use each language in different domains, language contexts.

        Research on working memory dictates that it cannot be disputed that children will always learn most effectively through their most fluent language. Fluency increases the space for learning. Children learning a new language and subject content simultaneously will learn less effectively.

       The reason why Welsh Medium Education was introduced to Wales was native-speaking Welsh children were struggling to learn through the Medium of English. Research suggests that it takes five years for an average child to reach the fluency of a native language speaker in a class in a majority language. Welsh is a minority language.

        Welsh-speaking children can speak English fluently. It is much easier for Welsh speakers to develop English Language fluency and retain it than Welsh is because the English Language is all around them. Welsh is not.

        There is a notion that new languages can be poured into children and adults like petrol into a tank, but learning is a process of cognitive growth. The brain is very plastic. Language needs to be watered like plants in a desert. Unless languages are used sufficiently, they degrade. Many Welsh speakers speak slang.

       The native language of bilinguals is not necessarily their dominant language. It is known that many children attending Welsh-Medium Schools speak English in the schoolyard and at home. It is questionable how fluent their Welsh Language is, whether it is their dominant language. The fluency and accuracy of a language to reflects its usage.    

        There has been a history of companies selling cheap website lessons claiming to have discovered miracle methods of learning new languages. It is impossible to learn a new language successfully through memorising phrases like parrots. Research suggests it takes around 10,000 hours to develop a native-like fluency in a new language. It is a notional figure, but it illustrates the scale of the task.

        Children do learn a language like sponges, but the view is oversimplistic. Research illustrates that native learning is biologically primary. We are evolutionarily primed to learn our oral language. Reading is biologically second. Children who learn Welsh to be educated through the medium of it appear to engage in primarily biologically second learning.

       Children who develop language from birth grow the phonological foundations to their language(s) in the first eighteen months of life. It is associated with the growth of neural wiring. It is acquired naturally, not subconsciously. Our memories are underdeveloped at the time, so e essentially ‘wake up’ with our native language. This is why we all generally do realise hard to learn and how complicated they are.

       When English-speaking parents choose for their children to learn Welsh so they can become educated through the Medium of Welsh, they will not be able to offer their children the early rich Welsh-speaking home environments and continuing environments that Welsh-speaking parent(s) offer their children. The associated problem is the Welsh Language is generally not all around children outside their school.

         Language is the fundamental medium that children learn through. If the standard of reading in English-medium schools can be improved, then standards will rise across the curriculum. Native Welsh-speaking children will always have a head start advantage in Welsh Medium-School in comparison with native English-speaking children.

        English-speaking children will spend their everyday lives using English outside of school and through being educated through the Medium of English. What is not often appreciated is that English is amongst the hardest language to learn to read because it is an irregular language. It takes twice as long of most languages.

       The learning potential of children is and will never be equal. A proportion of them will find it difficult to learn their native language.

        The Research that Howard has undertaken has proved that the notion that Welsh-Medium schools perform better than English-medium schools is a myth. The Welsh Language Board in 2000s failed to understand the deviation of the mean when advocating the value of Welsh-Medium Education. They were not comparing like with like.

         Welsh is a much easier language to develop literacy in. This is why countries like Finland perform well in the international school rankings. Welsh Language examinations are easier than English ones because it is easier to master the Welsh literal language. The need for children to learn a new lanauge to be educated through media of is an ‘entry’ requirement. Children will drop out if they underperform.

        All top-down educational evaluations tend to be unreliable because there are so many variables that influence children’s performance. It is accepted the Welsh-Medium offer grammar school learning environments.

       The most recent neuroscience research illustrates that there is no evidence of learning advantage in bilingualism, but bilinguals’ brains are different. There are cognitive disadvantages of bilingualism also. Bilinguals will have lower vocabularies in each of their languages in a bilingual whole, for instance.

         Life on planet Earth is dictated by science. The best analogy to consider bilingualism is to consider someone who wants to become a concert pianist and a trumpet player. There will be some overlap between the two, but a great deal of time will be needed to devote to practising each. Children will need to learn a proportion of a dictionary of words to bring fluency in a second language. Unless Welsh is practised outside the classroom, then it will need to be developed in school.

        Research illustrates that 35% of current employment opportunities will be done by 2043.  No one can accurately predict what employment opportunities will be and what the world will be like at that time.  It is far from sure how many children will find a future in Wales. The English-Language cannot be considered an optional extra in children’s education. The fact that children achieve a grade in a Science G.C.S.E. in Welsh Language does not mean that they will obtain the same grade in English Language.

       Welsh Medium Education is a highly political issue in Wales. None of us has a choice of the language we acquire from birth. There tends to be an English speaker versus a Welsh speaker's view of Welsh Language campaigning. People in Australia are not English because they speak English.

       There is no evidence that compelling English-speaking children to learn Welsh to be educated through the medium Welsh will save the living Welsh language is a myth. Language exists like viruses. They need to be shared with other speakers. The English has and will remain a super virus because so much more can be done with it than Welsh.

         Children in Wales have a legal human right to reach their full learning potential. They only have one life. They only have one education. Welsh-Medium cannot be justified if it becomes the language of education.  There is no educational value in learning a new language to be educated through it. A language is a tool we use to communicate.

         Viewed from an educational perspective, it is difficult to justify Welsh medium education. They are preparing children to exclusively use Welsh in their everyday lives. It is not going to happen. 

         Howard has written two researched books on Welsh Medium Education which will be public available within the next three months