Lessons of language loss stay the same

John Osmond offers some initial reflections on the latest Welsh language census published yesterday

The census information on the state of the Welsh language, published yesterday and shown in the table below, give the bare outline details. More information will be available at the end of January in which we will be able to se what is happening at more local community level across Wales.

We will be running some articles by specialist commentators next week but it is possible, on an initial glance to come to a few conclusions. First of all, the overall decline is far from catastrophic – mush less, for example, than occurred between 1961 and 1971 when the overall statistics fell by 26 per cent to 19.8 per cent.

Indeed, the relatively small drop that has occurred in the first decade of the 21st Century may well be accounted for by the fact that the overall population of Wales has risen, due to inward migration, mainly from England. This almost certainly accounts for at least part of the relatively large 4.7 per cent fall in Ceredigion, for instance, where in-migration has been especially strong.

Again on the positive side, the Welsh Government yesterday derived some comfort from the fact that there were considerable increases in the number of younger children speaking Welsh, a reflection of the growth of Welsh medium education in south east Wales.

It also needs to be said that the increase in 2001 seemed inordinately large – an extra 80,000 or so speakers compared with 1991. Where did they come from? It may be that the 2001 census results were a bit inflated. The general message appears to be a decline in the heartlands of the north-west compensated for by growth in the anglicised areas of Wales.

More worrying, however, appears to be the relatively steep decline in Carmarthenshire, where the percentage of peoplespeaking Welsh dropped to 43.9 per cent, compared with 50.3 per cent in 2001, and 54.9 per cent in 1991.  At first sight, and this will be confirmed by the more detailed anaylsis next year, the major decline has taken place in the southern industrial part of the county – in the Amman and Gwendraeth valleys.

In this area there was a failure 20 to 30 years ago to establish Welsh medium schools which have done so much to compensate for relative decline in the eastern Valleys. The same phenomenon has probably occurred in Neath Port Talbot and Swansea which experienced  2.7 per and 2.0 per cent cent falls between 2001 and 2011.

So what are the lessons? No different from what they have been for the past decade and more. We need to rely on much more than establishing Welsh-medium education, though that of course is vitally important. We must make Welsh a living language for your young people well beyond the confines of the school gate in the increasingly niche areas of lifestyles that they typically inhabit these days –  as much virtually on the web as elsewhere.

In the Winter 2012 edition of our journal agenda, published this week, we carry an important article by Steve Morris who leads the national Welsh for Adults Research Committee. He argues that we need to do more to establish new spaces for the language in the anglicised areas of Wales- social spaces where people can meet and enjoy themselves, through the medium of Welsh.


The number of people who speak Welsh has fallen in the past 10 years, according to the 2011 census.

John Osmond is Director of the IWA

21 thoughts on “Lessons of language loss stay the same

  1. If the language is to survive and prosper then it needs to be more than just a spoken language. On the basis of these figures there would appear to be about 110,000 fewer who can read and write the language. In the current situation with only about 450,000 readers and writers the economics don’t look good. And if maybe 30% of these are of school age it is going to be a very long haul.

  2. There was an eloquent Tweet on this subject yesterday. Somebody from Ceredigion observed that amongst ten of his Welsh speaking school friends, one lived in New Quay, one in Swansea and the rest were scattered across the world. Education is one thing. Creating a place where the educated can develop suitable careers is another. The brain drain has been going on for decades – almost all the entrepreneurs I know in a ten mile radius of Aberteifi-Cardigan brought their businesses with them.

  3. Firstly the drop in the number of Welsh speakers shouldn’t be a surprise since the Welsh Labour force survey has consistently shown a drop in the number and percentage of welsh speakers in Wales ever since 2001.

    Secondly in 2003 it was acknowledged that the 2001 census had inflated the number of people “able to speak Welsh” by changing the question asked from “Do you speak Welsh?” to “Can you speak Welsh”. A study to find the difference in response to the two questions decided that if the same question had been asked in 2001 as was asked in 1991 then the figure for Welsh speakers would have remained at 1991 levels.

    There was also a study that looked at how realistic parental evaluation of a child’s language ability was. The finding was that proud parents wanted to believe that their child was learning Welsh at school and was therefore Welsh speaking. A comparison of those cohorts ten years on finds that parents were over optimistic.

    There is one other factor which no one is willing to acknowledge; people who once answered that they “can speak” Welsh may well change the answer that they give ten years later. There is evidence that Welsh language ability is quickly lost without practice. For instance the 2011 survey of adult skills looked at the Welsh literacy performance of people who had passed Welsh first language at level 2, That is A*-C when they were at school. Almost all these people would have gone to Welsh medium schools,.In 2010 48% of those who passed Welsh first language at A*-C were found to have only entry level (functionally illiterate) skills in adulthood. The same skills survey in 2004 found that 30% had lost their Welsh skills to the point where they were functionally illiterate in Welsh.

    That is some drop in 6 years! It won’t be the first time that I have said this but here goes again…….the standard of Welsh teaching in the Welsh medium schools is very low and getting worse. The standard of Welsh second language teaching is nothing short of a joke.
    So all those people who are looking to Welsh medium schools to turn back the tide of language loss in Wales……don’t hold your breath.

  4. Spin and more spin but nowhere to hide as the Census 2011 proves if nothing else shows that Welsh language had its day as far as ever becoming a meaningful and widely shared language of Wales. If the Welsh Assembly Government were a business and Welsh language a ‘commodity’ the plug upon never ending demand for more and more funding for a commodity that has no market would have stopped a long ago!?

    Instead of taking a sobering look at the Census statistics and the clear and unambiguous message that the road to bilingual Wales is a dead end road our First Minister is saying ‘We need and must find a way to make our youngster use Welsh outside the classroom.

    The man is deluded as Gwynedd, Anglesey and Ceredigion are and have been using every trick in the book over the last 10 years from bribery to punishment to make kids use Welsh in the play ground and they have all miserably failed, so what chance Carwyn has – None!

    The BILLIONs spent thus far on Welsh language must not be wasted anymore and public funds must be used instead on health, proper education and infrastructure as enough is enough in any language.

    Wales must become an inclusive society, free parental choices for English or Welsh medium education as parents deem fit and no state intervention. The same must apply to public jobs, just best he or she for any post irrespective if they speak Welsh, English or both, anything different is social engineering and we all know the extent of the damage ‘Welsh Language above All Else’ has done to Wales over the last ten years!

  5. Jacques Protic is in a long tradition of incomers who want our language to die. Well it won’t die while any Welsh patriots survive and it will still be spoken when Jacques is in his grave. If it’s such a trial to you, why not live in another country? The proportion of Welsh speakers in Wales is falling because the proportion of Welsh people in Wales is falling. Very well but if you come here, expect to adjust to us. Damned if I see why we’re supposed to adjust to you.

  6. The future for the Welsh language must be pretty bleak, due to the real world which is unforgiving, and drives to the talented young people to where economic growth is present, and consequently job opportunities. We have created in Wales a situation where the Welsh language is EQUAL to the English language, however that it is in reality a ‘myth’, but costs a fortune to hard working tax payers who wonder where other services are going, i.e like leisure/sporting etc. In certain parts of the country a system of apartheid has been created to give Welsh speakers advanatages in jobs, and now the WLB has been set up to ‘police’ actions of companies, which receive public funds with the hope of creating employment opportunities which are much needed. We have S4C which in ten years has received over a £1Billion in public funding/services by BBC, and which only claim to fame in England was when it was mentioned on ‘Have I got news for you’ for non-watching of the same! We have created WM schools in totally anglicised areas, which are pretty elitest in terms of class, income and ethnicity and a funding system that is shrouded in greater mystery than the Iranian attempts to create atomic weapons. At the same time parents and others are not allowed to set up schools as in England, because they are seen by our opinion formers as anti community spirited. Listening to a young Welsh language enthusiast it seems the answer is MORE regulation, MORE public spending and all at a time when the Welsh economy is going backward. Unless this madness is stopped, then we will drift to the creation of re-education camps in west Wales for people who neither speak the Welsh language, or quite frankly have any real interest in it all. This will of course create a great howl of anguish amongst speakers/supporters, however we still have the freedom to think as we wish, and do as we wish, within the law of course. The great ‘flagship’ of the Welsh language came to Llandow (10 miles away), and other than for a few people it rose and sunk without trace, even though the oxygen of publicity given to it by BBC Wales was outrageous and a waste of public money. In conclusion don’t waste my money on a pointless exercises, but spend your own to your hearts content.

  7. Jon – You love this don’t you? Made your day. Welsh losing ground. Life could hardly get better, could it Jon. Good for you, glad someone’s happy.

    Jacques – The money and effort spent on the Welsh language is chicken feed compared to what has been spent in promoting, legitimising and enforcing English in Wales over the years – English medium education as a norm, forms, media, military etc. That deliberate effort by the British state to make Wales an English speaking country has succeeded. But please don’t bring this ‘internationalist’ talk into it when international and comsopoliltan means that you don’t have to learn another language (Welsh). International and cosmopolitan for you means one language with some others about the place in the backgound for colour. Don’t patronise us.

    Of course, we could follow your suggestion, ditch Welsh and be as vibrant as North East England or Detroit or Cornwall, Northern Ireland. Only speaking English has worked out well for them hasn’t it.

  8. Howell, Jaques and Jon have got the point and this is encouraging. Until we have proper bi-lingual education in Wales rather than the mere lip service played to Welsh in our schools, the language will always struggle. Likewise, until Welsh enjoys the level of government subsidies and support that English does, it will always struggle.

    Still, 50 years after “Tynged yr iaith” forecast its extinction by 2000, we can still say that “er gwaetha pawb a phopeth”, it remains a case of “ry’n ni yma o hyd.”

    Never despair or rather “Nil Desperandum Auspice Deo”.

  9. Tredwyn & Aneirin, You both miss the point as I relish not for any language to die but if the truth is to be told Welsh language is at best equivalent to tribal languages of Native Americans and Aboriginals in Australia. Are we ever to see elevation of ‘native languages’ either in the USA or Australia to be equal in status and application as the main language in those two counties?

    It’s not going to happen in a months of Sundays and effort should be used to protect the language and its culture but not impose it upon the vast majority who see no relevance to it and who are forced by a vociferous minority to impose it on the rest of us by any means.

    It’s a fact that Welsh language is damaging Wales socially and economically and it must stop if ever Wales is to recover from downward spiral that is ‘home made’ by nationalist politicians that have hijacked the Welsh Government.

    Incidentally only this morning I got through the post WJEC – Key Skills Certificates for my son achieving Level 1 in communications skills and in ‘BOTH LANGUAGES’ and not worth the paper this was written on as my lad and all his mates in a large secondary schools within North Wales do not have any Welsh language skills and never use it outside classroom.

    The certificate displays fancy statements and puts Welsh language before English and clearly intent on issuing equally fancy grades in skills that do not exist amongst young people as far as the Welsh language is concerned, but good for statistics!

  10. Aneirin – the fact that the North East, Cornwall, etc., don’t have Welsh is hardly relevant. It is all very well to encourage the youngsters to speak Welsh outside of school, but they also need to be able to read and write it. Translation is a big, additional cost in time and money, both of which could be better used elsewhere. I note that the cost of non-compliance is being put at up to £5,000. So public bodies who have to comply and don’t will be fined and the fine will be paid by……

  11. Maybe you miss the point Aneirin; what I “love” or otherwise is quite irrelevant. Railing against history is also quite irrelevant. What you should be considering is the futility of the present direction of language policy. Tredwyn gets quite (over) excited when I say that there should be freedom of choice of medium of education in the Fro Cymraeg but look where we are now. It’s no good saying that incomers have lowered the percentage of Welsh speakers, that is only a small part of the “problem”. The true problem is the demographic profile of the Fro.
    We don’t only have inmigration we have the serious problem of outward migration amongst young people; the people who are of child bearing age. What do we end up with? Places like Ceredigion with the lowest birth rate in Wales. The same is true of other rural Welsh speaking counties; the indigenous population, the people with Welsh as a first language, have too few young people to prevent a change in the culture of the area.
    What is the answer of the Natioanlists? Put every barrier possible in the way of inward migration…….but outward migration is OK.
    And the result? Young Welsh people from Anglesey and Gwynedd, Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire colonising Cardiff and sending their children to Welsh Medium schools there…..only for them to be so overwhelmed by a city that speaks English that they never speak Welsh for the rest of their adult lives.

    It could all have been so different; Welsh Medium education without choice really does prevent working age people moving to the Fro. A good thing you think Aneirin? Well think again. The small schools of Ynys Mon and Gwynedd and Ceredigion are all closing or amalgamating into bigger units. In bigger classes and bigger schools Welsh will not be maintained as the language of instruction let alone the language of the playground. With a young inmigrant population and some few English medium schools to take them, Welsh speaking children would be condensed together in schools where teachers don’t have to dumb down the language to the level needed for pupils from English speaking homes. Welsh speaking children could have developed a more sophisticated language instead of the God-awful mish-mash that passes as Welsh that is the outcome of hopelessly mixed ability classes in this area at present.
    A population with a good grasp of every aspect of Welsh would be more comfortable using that Welsh in “official” situations and the language would have gone from strength to strength on the basis of a core of genuinely competent speakers with an un-adulterated sense of self worth and cultural heritage.

    What did the Culture and Language Nationalists do instead? they impoverished the West and North West by blocking every hint of industry or innovation or influx of the dreaded “Outsiders”. They guaranteed that the young would leave for South wales or England where their Welsh would be nothing but a party novelty and what will they do now that those chickens are coming home to roost?

    ” Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood echoed the disappointment at the figures.

    “We must ensure that Welsh is used not just in the classroom but in the home, at work, and in social situations, right across the country,” she said.

    Empty words Aneirin. No one can deliver on that airy-fairy sort of ambition. Carwyn Jones own kids don’t speak Welsh at home…why? Their mother isn’t first language Welsh and their environment isn’t Welsh. Leanne Wood speaks her own language (and who could blame her) and why should she change? To show “Respect” for the language…….what a myth! A few stumbling phrases rehearsed a dozen times? If that’s the respect that you and Tredwyn are happy with Welsh is finished.

  12. For a language to be considered to be a living language you have to look at the literacy figures not the oracy figures. Most public administration is done in writing. If you can’t, or don’t, do your public administration in Welsh it’s difficult to claim Welsh as your first language. Then you have to look again at the actual use figures not the theoretical maximum represented by the hugely subjective Census figures.

    As I have stated before, FoIA data shows us that just 20% of adults in Gwynedd choose to re-register online for the electoral roll in Welsh. There has been little change over a 5-year period. It’s a simple task that even I could do in Welsh – it’s not rocket science. That’s what Gwynedd adults choose to do in the privacy of their own homes despite the 2011 Census figure showing 56% can ‘speak, read, and write’ Welsh. Maybe! The Census questions are too subjective to have much validity. We also know that ~30% of the Welsh speakers are in the 3-15 age range – forced to learn in schools. They are not able to exercise their free-will to chose Welsh, or not. They are conscripted. Many are not happy…

    Even the most ardent Welsh language zealots should be capable of understanding what these actual use figures mean – they mean there is a minimal demand for services in Welsh. That is the lesson you have to learn – it is the same lesson you have failed to learn since the 1980s. It is the same lesson you will choose to ignore going forward with more of the same failed policy! Your attempt to subvert reality with, frequently deliberately skewed, statistics has been a triumph of intellect over intelligence – I grant you that. Unfortunately I suspect you have begun to believe your own narrative rather than looking for the facts. To a degree you have now even deluded yourselves! I think these Census figures show that your social engineering plan has peaked and is now failing. More and more people can see they have been conned.

    Amongst native Welsh speakers I talk to, an increasing number can now see that the Welsh language industry is destroying the language’s credibility and the goodwill it once enjoyed. Many people have noticed that some of the most strident voices in the Welsh language industry are Welsh learners – frequently in-migrant and 2nd generation migrants – who are now telling the English-speaking Welsh-born majority how to live their lives. Clearly this is resented by many. Indeed it appears from casual observation in the south that the people most receptive to this campaign of artificial Welshification are other in-migrants who feel they can improve their family prospects by buying into the myth that Welsh is more popular and useful than it really is.

    Also, with increasing frequency people tell me they are being effectively forced to work in Welsh when they would rather work in English. The same is true of the kids in schools forced to learn through Welsh when they would rather use English. You can only oppress people for so long before they decide to take their revenge. Amongst the adult population, it definitely looks as if the worm is turning. I hope more of them will now stand up and be counted as being opposed to the bi-lingual social engineering programme being imposed on the people of Wales – a programme which these Census figures show to be failing.

  13. In order to retain fluency and literacy in a language – any language, be it your second language OR EVEN your mother tongue – you need the following:
    1) the daily opportunity, occasion and yes, need, to speak it and to speak it in differing registers.
    2) the daily opportunity, occasion and yes, need, to listen to it; both as an interlocutor in a dialogue and also as a bystander to the speech of others.
    3) the daily opportunity, occasion and yes, need, to see it AND read it, both out of necessity and also passively through exposure to for example: printed advertising and public notices.
    4) the daily opportunity, occasion and yes, need, to write it in differing registers; from the ‘reminder’ post-it stuck on the fridge or left on a colleague’s desk to the professional e-mail.

    As a Welshman and (second-language) speaker of English living, working and paying taxes in Wales, such is the ubiquity and omnipresence of English (a language which came here by various means, none of which was by means of an invitation…), that I have no problem at all in retaining a high level of fluency and literacy in the language. In fact, given the reality of bilingualism as it exists here in Wales, I’m simply left with no choice but to speak, read and write English almost all of the time.

    As a Welshman and (first-language) speaker of Welsh, given the aforementioned status of English in my country, I only maintain my fluency and literacy in my own mother-tongue with difficulty as the four requirements I listed above simply don’t exist for me as a speaker of my own language in my own country.

    So the results of the 2011 census regarding the decrease in the number of Welsh-speakers, although heartbreaking for me to read, come as no surprise whatsoever. The comments of Jacques Protic and his ilk are simply the pouring of salt over an open wound. Rhag ei gywilydd! (Shame on him)

  14. The amount of public funds spent on promoting the language – it certainly doesn’t amount to a billion – over decades is as nothing compared to the cost of, for example, renewing Trident (ranging from £20bn (George Osborne) to £130bn (Greenpeace)), the scrapped £7bn England NHS computer system, £20bn for two gigantic aircraft carrriers, one of which will never sail.

    John R Walker. Your choice of words, ‘zealots’, ‘forced’, ‘conscripted’, ‘subvert’, ‘skewed’, ‘deluded’, ‘destroying’, ‘resented’, ‘oppress’, ‘imposed’, etc indicates all too clearly your attitude to the Welsh Language. I find it very sad. What I see is a language in a perilous state which needs all the friends it can get.

    Jon Jones is closer to the mark when he says that policies that lead to outward migration need to be examined and addressed. Basically we have to ask why Wales is a relatively poor country and the effect that has had on the Language. Small nations, like Denmark and Holland, with a large powerful neighbour, haven’t had the threat to their native languages, but then they have been independent nation states, and have prospered. Wales has been annexed to England since 1535 when legislation was enacted to wipe out Welsh as a language of the governing elite. It couldn’t be used in the courts or in administration. It’s use in education was either non-existent or circumscribed until the twentieth century. In reality, English was forced upon a largely Welsh-speaking population.

    As for Mr Protic, he doesn’t ‘want any language to die’, but everything he says contradicts that statement where Welsh is concerned.

    Howell Morgan writes too much for me to respond to. I’ll take two examples, ‘We have created WM schools in totally anglicised areas’. These schools were created because of parental demand, and by and large reluctantly by most local authorities, which failed to keep up with demand. WM schools don’t cost any more to build, operate and maintain than other schools. ‘…don’t waste my money on a pointless exercises, but spend your own to your hearts content.’ Do you complain about the building of an aircraft carrier which will never sail, at the massive cost of £5bn? My taxes are paying for that too. As for the ridiculous figure of public funds you claim have been spent on S4C, I’d like to see you spell that one out.

  15. Crwtyn Cemais you make an absolutely valid point when you list the essential requirements that are needed to use any language within a meaningful context and as you say those conditions or requirements do not exist as far as the Welsh language is concerned in Wales. I very much believe in the concept ‘We are where we are’. Where I think you fail in your argument is your emotional statement ‘As a speaker of my own language in my own Country’, you fail to recognise that most Welsh born people live their lives through English language only and have no interest in what you call ‘your mother tongue’.

    Then we have Dave using another fabricated misconception ‘Demand for Welsh Medium education’… I spent considerable time and effort in debugging this premise as every Welsh language initiative that came from Leighton Andrews office over the last few years was issued with a statement, ‘Public demands Welsh language education and the public shall have it…’

    When I pressed the Welsh Government for clarity under the FoI format I was told ‘We do not carry out any survey of demand and we base our stance on the information we get from LEAs’. Then I pressed various LEAs for answers and in most cases they replied ‘The numbers of Welsh speakers in our County is such that the LA is not required to undertake a survey of demand’… (Currently awaiting legal definition of the said powers available to LA’s which thus far appears to be an arbitrary measure in imposing WM education based on Welsh Language Boards directives but without legal substance in fact behind such measures).

    IWA readers may be interested in the most recent statistics produced by the Welsh Government’s Education Department that show, and with no exception, that English Medium schools outperform WM schools in numeracy and English language literacy for pupils aged 15 years (When you take into the account that WM schools do not have the same burden of socio-economic factors such as the Free School Meals, then the achievement of EM education is outstanding compared to WM education that is being given disproportionate preferences in terms of the financial support they get from the ‘Welsh state’!

    Finally the Welsh Government needs to realise the folly of socially engineering Wales and give powers and rights back to Welsh parents to be able to choose EM or WM education for their children with no state intervention – I think this concept is called ‘Democracy’!?

  16. Remind us again Howell Morgan which industry two of your offspring have decided to join? Ah yes…..banking! Now let’s take a look: “the government bailed the banks out to the tune of £123.93bn, and at its peak had liabilities for the banking crisis of £1.2 trillion, but the value of its stakes in the biggest banks has plummeted and the interest it is receiving on the loans is relatively small.”

    Shame they went to industries which are a real drain on the hard working tax-payer. The banks receive far more in subsidies than they ever pay in taxes. That kind of money would keep s4c going for over a thousand years. And there was me thinking you were one for a good return on investment. Must have confused you with somebody else.

  17. I normally find the contributions of Jon Jones worthwhile and informative, even though I frequently disagree with him, because he deploys facts in support of his arguments, unlike Jacques Protic who deals in wild exaggeration. I agree with Jon Jones about the social divisiveness of Welsh medium education provision in the Cardiff area. However I disagree with him about the need for provision at public expense of English medium education in areas like Gwynedd. Now he tells us that the low standard of Welsh in Gwynedd is owing to the presence of children of English-speaking immigrants in Welsh schools! If they were segregated in their own schools that would not be divisive but would enable the Welsh to speak better Welsh. As an assertion, Jon, that is simply incredible and a falling-off from your usual standards. The economic and demographic weakness of Y Fro Gymraeg is indeed the main threat to the language, no dispute about that but the idea that it would be helped or mitigated by English-medium schools is implausible. You yourself have shown that the only area where WM education works is in Gwynedd.

    But here’s a suggestion. Let us abolish WM and EM schools and have a unified system. Then let us look at the proportion of Welsh speakers in any local authority area and say that a proportion of school time and a proportion of school subjects will be taught through the medium of Welsh equal to that proportion of Welsh speakers. There would have to be a lower bound for the “minority” language, let’s say at least one hour every day. So schools in Gwynedd would spend 4 hours of a 6 hour day in Welsh. Schools in Blaenau Gwent would have one hour of Welsh-medium tuition a day. No segregation, no divisiveness, everyone in the same boat and the language gets a fair crack. I would settle for that but would the anti-Welsh moaners? I fear not. Nothing will satisfy them until they are freed from any Welsh and, if they are Welsh, from their bitterness at not speaking it.

  18. You make presumptions that aren’t implicit in what I am saying Tredwyn. There is quite a lot of academic research into immersion schooling. The most often quoted originates in Canada but few people realise just how stringent the qualifications were for inclusion in the research projects.

    I think that the most telling aspect, after socio-economic status of the pupils, is the commitment of parents. Those pupils put into immersion schooling in Canada were voluntarily put there. They were also all from English monoglot families.

    This is very similar to what is happening in the South East of Wales with Welsh Medium schools; there is choice and therefore there is an assumption of commitment to Welsh language learning. There is also a very high number of pupils whose home language is English. This is a recipe for success, not only because of parental freedom to choose but because the class is homogenous and therefore easy to teach.
    In parts of Ynys Mon and Gwynedd (I know little of Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire) there are schools with very few pupils from English speaking homes…places like Duffryn Nantlle and Caernarfon for instance. Once again we can assume committment to the language and a homogenous class environment. This, too, is a recipe for success in language teaching.

    In other parts of the Fro we have schools with a varying mix of pupils with English or Welsh as a home language and, to add more complexity, a varied socio-economic background amongst the pupils and, in some cases, an antipathy to the language amongst English adults. There is a point where this mix becomes so difficult to handle that some pupils are just sidelined or the Welsh Ethos of the school is diminished or lost. In Ynys Mon the schools around Caergybi are Welsh Medium but a quick glance at the percentage of pupils reaching an acceptable standard in Welsh at KS2 tells its own story; faced with pupils from English speaking, economically deprived backgrounds, the schools are overwhelmed.

    Other WM primary schools have an imbalance in first langauge English or Welsh speakers and one or other group loses out; the need to teach basic Welsh to 60% of a class whilst introducing more sophisticated Welsh to 40% whilst tending to the needs of some children who have no good basis in either language is a task that few manage perfectly.

    Gwynedd succeeds at the moment because the first language Welsh proportion allows schools to function well in Welsh for the most part and in most areas. Ynys Mon fails because the proportion of Welsh L1 pupils has fallen too low in a majority of schools and, because of compulsory WM schooling, there is resentment amongst some parents to enforced WM schooling.

    What I suggest is that Welsh Medium Primary schooling is for children of committed parents who are free to opt out. Alongside WM schools must exist Dual Stream schools that cater exclusively to children from English speaking homes. The Welsh stream would remain genuine immersion with a homogenous group of children… all English first language. Alongside them would be classes of pupils taught solely in English.

    The playground would be whatever it wanted to be in relation to the language used… there is no place in childrens play for dictatorship by adults.

    I repeat what I said before; quality Welsh will save the language, not forced Welsh of dubious standards.

  19. ‘Alongside them would be classes of pupils taught solely in English.’
    Why? Had you said largely in English I could have gone along. But if these kids are living in Y Fro they ought to get some exposure to the community language. The desire of some English immigrants to protect themselves from any contact with the natives and their language is a bit of colonialist thinking that I see no reason to indulge.

    However, I agree about the playground and I acknowledge the need to think flexibly about parts of Y Fro like Ceredigion where Welsh has already been sapped as the community language by the scale of immigration and the influence of mass media.

    And Welsh education in places like Cardiff is less successful than you now imply (you have been more critical in the past), both in its own terms and in its effect on a wider society. In some parts of Cardiff the EM schools are 50 per cent non-white, the WM schools 1 per cent non-White. A laudable effort to foster the language, which heaven knows I support fully, has become a system for middle-class parents to segregate their kids. That can’t be healthy.

  20. I remain critical of the social division caused by the Welsh Medium/English medium dichotomy in Cardiff, Newport and Swansea. The context in which I am saying that Cardiff Welsh medium schools “work” is in delivering Welsh speakers. Similarly in Gwynedd the success that I speak of is in delivering Welsh speakers. You will remember that the number and percentage of Welsh speakers recorded in the Census is the background to this discussion.

    Why should some children be educated solely in English, even in the Fro Cymraeg? That is easy and it has nothing to do with pandering to colonialism. It might surprise you but my main concern is Welsh education, Welsh society and the economic future that Welsh education fails to deliver for us.

    When children enter primary schools from homes where the parents or (more often) parent is unemployed or on a meagre wage that child is often already a year behind fellow classmates. That child has not been exposed to a wide vocabulary…some have not even been spoken to very much. Discipline is often a problem and the future for that child is bleak since the parents are, inevitably, uneducated themselves and unable or disinclined to offer much help with school work.

    We know that by the age of 15, GCSE level, those children will underperform their better off counterparts (those who haven’t been on Free School Meals) by 33%. The difference between the performance of children from a deprived background and those from a more affluent background is a national disgrace.

    When a child reaches school age there is an opportunity to break the cycle of failure in Welsh society but it needs intense work and dedicated and consistent intervention from teachers and teacher helpers. What do we do in the Fro? We take pupils who have poor English, from an English speaking home, and “immerse” them in Welsh! We throw away an opportunity to educate in the medium of instruction that will deliver the greatest chance of success.

    Now it goes without saying that Culture and Language Nationalists don’t much care about the life chances of “Colonist” children but maybe someone in Welsh politics might just open their eyes one day to the damage done to SOME children in this area.

    That isn’t all; whether you like it or not some children just don’t learn Welsh in the foundation phase. Those kids should be given a chance to have a decent education nevertheless….the OPTION must be there for them to be educated in their first language.

    Some years ago I had a dialogue with a leading Canadian advocate of Immersion schooling Prof. Ellen Bialystok. She made it plain that there is no concept of “compulsory” immersion schooling; a fact that we in Wales have conveniently ignored. As she wrote to me “There is no “One size fits all” when it comes to children’s schooling.”

    So is it so wrong to suggest that there must be a choice of school medium, even in Darkest Gwynedd?

  21. I have accepted much of your position. We are arguing over ‘largely’ versus ‘entirely’. Even if kids are being taught mainly in English it would be bizarre to give them no educative exposure to the majority community language. And you don’t become a colonialist just by being English in Wales but by expecting to be able to operate as if you had not left England and getting irritated with the natives for being different. Such attitudes don’t correlate with level of income or education as some contributors to this blog demonstrate..

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