English-speaking Wales jumps language barrier

Meri Huws discovers why more monolingual parents are sending their children to Welsh-medium schools

Meri Huws, Chair of the Welsh Language Board

Parents who cannot speak Welsh themselves are no longer viewing their inability to speak the language as a barrier to sending their children to Welsh medium schools, according to the findings of a new Welsh Language Board survey.

The survey which was carried out by the Welsh Language Board found that 65 per cent of parents who send their children to a Welsh medium school are not Welsh speakers themselves and do not view their inability to speak the language as a hindrance in their children’s education.

The survey also found that over half of the parents questioned did not have Welsh speakers within their extended family, suggesting there is no longer a language barrier in educating a child outside of their first language. Indeed, 97 per cent pinpointed the desire for their children to be able to speak the language as the main incentive for them choosing a Welsh medium education for their children.

The survey questioned parents with children in primary aged Welsh language education and was conducted in conjunction with the Welsh Language Board’s ‘Introducing Welsh’ campaign. The campaign is explaining the advantages of introducing children to the Welsh language and promotes benefits such as an improvement in communication skills and greater job prospects for the future and can be viewed in Welsh or English. For instance, it provides the following eight reasons why it is beneficial to introduce children to Welsh from their earliest days:

  1. Lays firm foundations for becoming bilingual.
  2. Gives children a head start when learning to read and count.
  3. Enriches the child’s Welsh identity.
  4. Extends their social activities and friendship groups.
  5. Gives them a better chance of gaining employment when older.
  6. Improves communication skills and makes it easier to learn other languages.
  7. Increases their appreciation of Wales’ languages and cultures.
  8. Increases their appreciation of other cultures and languages.

The findings from the Welsh Language Board’s latest survey demonstrate that parents should not be put off from sending their children to Welsh medium schools, even if they do not speak Welsh themselves. The benefits of learning Welsh from a young age are highly advantageous for both their education and in their future careers.

It is very encouraging to see the continuing trend of parents no longer perceiving their own inability to speak the language as an obstacle in their children’s education.

It is also great to see that parents are taking on board and championing the benefits of being bilingual as they make education choices for their children. Nearly half those surveyed believed that the single greatest benefit for their child speaking Welsh was the greater employment prospects that it would deliver, which in this highly competitive jobs market is a huge advantage.

The ‘Introducing Welsh’ campaign looks to encourage parents, in particular new parents, to give their child a head-start in life by introducing them to Welsh. It gives parents advice on the advantages of using Welsh in the home and raising children bilingually and encourages you to get friends, family and neighbours involved in your child’s development.

Meri Huws is Chair of the Welsh Language Board.