Funds for Patagonia's Welsh classes

The Welsh Office is financing a Pounds 40,000 teacher exchange programme that will strengthen the teaching of Welsh in Argentina.

Welsh speakers emigrated to the Patagonian region of Argentina 150 years ago. Their descendants, who live in the Chubut province, are keen to reinforce their Welsh identity.

To assist them, teachers from Wales will be sent to Patagonia each year to provide intensive language lessons. In return, Patagonia's Welsh teachers will visit the principality to brush up their linguistic and teaching skills.

The programme's aim is to double the number of Patagonians studying Welsh (from the current 350 to 700) and to increase the number of Patagonian Welsh teachers.

At present, the language is only offered in one Patagonian secondary school. But the hope is that when this initiative begins in April, more schools will introduce it.

One of the Welsh teacher's key tasks will be to train a network of indigenous teachers who will be able to introduce Welsh across the province.

Suitable courses and curriculum materials will also be developed, so that Welsh classes can be offered from nursery level to adulthood.

"The survival of the Welsh language in Chubut is a remarkable phenomenon, " according to Welsh Secretary William Hague. "The renewed interest in keeping it alive merits our support."

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