For languages like Welsh, which almost died out in the early 20th century before making a strong comeback, reaching the next generation is seen as key to its survival. Teaching children in Welsh is a big part of that effort, and Welsh-medium schools have become increasingly popular as more and more parents encourage their children to treasure and preserve their Welsh heritage.
However, many of the parents that send their kids to these schools want their children to be fluent in Welsh but don’t speak the language themselves. Lisa Jones, a Welsh language expert, told Wales Online that this situation is far from ideal, and called on parents to learn the language, too.
According to Jones, who teaches Welsh to other parents at her child’s school:
“There is no doubt in my mind that this is the way forward for the Welsh language…Children pick up Welsh faster, are more likely to choose to use Welsh outside school, if they hear family members and friends speaking Welsh.”
Jones has produced her own home-study course to help parents who want to learn Welsh with their children, and also wants linguists to be available on site at Welsh primary schools to help educate parents.
But is this really necessary?
Welsh Language Board spokeswoman Meinir Jones says no. She told Wales Online that:
“In many parts of Wales the vast majority of children in Welsh-medium schools come from non-Welsh-speaking homes, so the schools are experienced in dealing with such situations. We would advise any non-Welsh-speaking parent who’s thinking about sending their children to a Welsh- medium school to talk to the school’s headteacher on how they can still be involved in their child’s education, even though they don’t understand the language.”
In other words, parents: if you want to learn Welsh (or any other language) with your children, go for it. But if you can’t make the time, don’t worry: odds are they’ll do fine without you.