Welsh Medium Education  socpie.uk

    There has been a failure of the Welsh Government and public to recognise that the issue of Welsh-medium education is an educational one, which is in the province of professional teachers to inform on. There has been a notion in Wales that at any Tom, Dick and Mary are entitled to inform on it.

         Children in Wales have  a legal human right to reach their full learning potential in Wales. They go to school to be educated, not to learn the Welsh language. They are being prepared for a very uncertain world. Their education is too important to be left to a spirit of hope, optimism and guesswork.

           There has been a failure to understand that language provides the fundamental foundation for children’s future learning success, and that new languages are not instantly learnt by children.

         Research suggests it takes five years for average child to reach the level of a native speaker in their class in a majority language. Welsh is a minority language. This makes a huge difference to children’s learning of Welsh and developing fluency in it. Many children in Welsh Medium schools speak Welsh in the school yard and at home.        

       There is a popular conception that exists across the English-speaking world that new languages are easy to  learn.  We only need to consider how much English speakers use their native language and encounter it through overhearing it to develop appreciation of how difficult it is. Young children are more conducive to learning  new language, buy they  need to learn the same language as adults.  In practice they learn artificial form of Welsh.

Professor Sarah Eaton in Canada, who is an educationalist and she learnt Spanish states:-

       There who make big bucks selling slick packages with audio programs and pocket books, touting the idea that you can listen to their CDs or MP3s in the car, or on the bus and learn a language. There’s even been an idea circulated that if you listen to these programs while going to sleep, that you’ll magically wake up with that knowledge embedded in your brain and words will flow from your mouth with ease. I have heard that there are those people with a rare gift, for whom learning a language this way is possible. But in over a decade of teaching languages, and a few more decades of being alive, I’ve never met such a person myself. What these companies are selling is hope. They are selling the idea that learning a language is effortless. What is more common is that people struggle. Even Mahatma Gandhi, who was deeply intelligent and patient, confessed to finding it difficult to learn languages


       The “10,000 hours to become an expert” rule. If we consider fluency to be the same as being an “expert” in speaking a language, then a learner may well invest 10,000 hours in their language studies to attain fluency.

       
People will shake their heads when they hear that. No one wants to believe it really requires that much work. The challenges of learning another language are immense. There's vocabulary to be acquired, grammar to master and verb conjugations to memorize. All of this information must be internalized, synthesized and then reproduced spontaneously as interactive speech. It's an enormous feat. It's an enormous feat that millions have undertaken. Those who achieve fluency put in lots of

       There have been Welsh Language Activists like Ioan Talfryn deliberately decieving the Welsh Public how easy Welsh is to learn. He claimed that novice learners could subconsciously absorb a 1,000 words in their first lesson using his pseudoscience deSuggestopedia method. Aran Jones went to Isle of Man claiming he had learnt Manx from scratch using a Manx version of his SSIW website to a basic conversational level in seven binge learning hours.    

     Many people in Wales fail to understand that when children acquire a language from birth that they are extensively drowned in the phonology of their native language in the first 18 months of their lives. Children who learn Welsh at older age cannot enjoy this foundation to their Welsh Language learning.

       Children who are brought up bilingually cannot speak or hear two languages once. This means that their language capabilities is divided between the two languages. Bilinguals  rarely have equal bilingualism in both languages.  

   There is a myth that bilinguals have cognitive advantages. The most reliable neuroscientific evidence is that bilinguals brains are different, but there is no evidence of cognitive advantage. Colin Baker who is an authority on bilingualism, claims there is a lot of bias in bilingual research.All learning issues are complex.

       What is often not appreciated in Wales is that children develop a basic fluent command of their language by the age of five. Children who chose to learn Welsh so they can be educated through the medium of it start to learn Welsh at a critical age in thier language and educational development. They cannot learn two languages at once. Their vocabulary of English will be retarded when they also learn Welsh. There is the issue of the level of Welsh language fluency that native Welsh speaking children will be able to achieve.  

       The research in this book illustrates that if Welsh Medium children achieve a reasonable grade in G.C.S.E English in Welsh Medium schools it does not necessarily mean they will have the well rounded English speaking capability that English medium children will have. There is evidence that the written Welsh language is easier to learn than English so that children will be more inclined to perform well in their G.C.S.E. 's

        There is the issue of language transferability.  The fact that a Welsh Medium child obtains a given grade in science, for instance, does not mean they will be able to attain the same grade in science through the medium of English. 

Plenary

             The conclusion of the book is that Welsh medium education does have the potential to damage children's education. The learning potential of children is not equal. Children will always learn most effectively in the most fluent language, because of working memory. There is an issue how fluent Welsh speaking children are in Welsh medium schools also, because many children are using English in the school yard at home, and the Welsh language is not generally around them.      

        

       The issue bilingualism and bilingual education is very complex. It could be described as rocket science. Few book people understand it. The book is primarily aimed at professional teachers and those with relevant expertise.  The book is supported by very secure proven research.