In Wales, language class is cool

17th January 2003 at 00:00
Teachers and politicians believe in the value of Welsh and their passion for Curriculum Cymreig rubs off on pupils

Welsh, I learn from a colourful child-made book in the library of a Cardiff primary, is the oldest language in Europe.

This is truly something to boast about, another element which brings vibrancy to the Curriculum Cymreig.

Teaching Welsh in Wales is obviously quite different from teaching French in Yorkshire. Welsh is part of pupils' identity. They see it all around them: on street signs, in shops, on television. It will help them get a good job. Nevertheless, the methods used to teach it can certainly be transferred.

At Radnor primary teachers make sure Welsh as a second language is fun, but also highly structured, so there is clear progression each year.

By Year 6, children write their own books and scripts, and can converse at a reasonable level. In the early years, much of the teaching is done through games. For instance, in the Year 12 class, children were playing an elimination game to learn the names of shops a`nd their merchandise. What had disappeared from the middle of the circle? The bread (bara) or the chocolate (siocled)?

Resources have improved dramatically, but there is still more to be done. Radnor's Welsh co-ordinator Sarah Pritchard has been developing home-made ones, and is involved in a county working party on games as well.

A key part of learning Welsh is immersion. It is on school displays, children learn songs in Welsh, and spoken Welsh is used as much as possible (for example, saying bore da rather than good morning), not only by teachers, but by dinner ladies and "buddies", older children who look after younger ones in the playground. "We make an effort to make the language vibrant around them", says Ms Pritchard.

She believes every child in Wales has the right to be exposed to their language. "I loved learning it and I try to pass that on," she says. The importance given to Welsh by teachers, the Assembly and society in general also reflect's children's own views. They say Welsh is "cwl" or "cool". DH

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