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Future of Welsh language depends on parents

01.03.2006


As parents in Wales teach their children about the symbolism of daffodils and dragons on St David’s day, how many of them will do it speaking in Welsh? A recent study shows that the future of Welsh language is threatened by the fact that many parents are not speaking in their own language to their children. "We found that many Welsh-speaking parents were not transmitting the language to their children," says Dr Delyth Morris, who led the study on behalf of the University of Wales, Bangor. "This is particularly the case in families where only one parent speaks Welsh."



This research, which is of great importance not only for forming language policy within Wales, but is also extremely valuable for language planning for all the minority languages across Europe, is part of an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) sponsored study which sought to identify the reasons why some parents in Wales transmit the language to their children and others do not.

Through the year long study, researchers found that a number of factors affect children’s learning of the language including the amount of time spent with the Welsh-speaking parent, the amount of contact they have with grandparents who speak Welsh, and whether the family’s friends and neighbours speak Welsh or not. In addition, it appears that the power relations within a family can have a significant influence.


It became clear that in most cases one parent tends to make the language- related decisions for the whole family. For those children brought-up speaking Welsh, the decision-making parent is invariably Welsh-speaking. "Most parents in the study say they want their children to speak Welsh" says Dr Delyth Morris, "but their commitment varies. If a child is to learn a language they must be exposed to it."

She went on, "It seems that when in the presence of an English-speaking partner, Welsh-speaking parents tend to speak English to their child. Those parents who can, only actually speak Welsh to their child when they are alone or in the company of other Welsh speakers."

Other additional factors which affect language learning were also discovered. It was found that the number of Welsh speakers in the surrounding community, alongside the use of Television, DVDs, computers and books significantly affected children’s success in learning the Welsh language. The type of childcare provision parents choose also has a major impact, and it is therefore important that Welsh-speaking childcare remains easily available. Similarly, education policies of local authorities should recognise the role of Welsh speaking schools in language learning.

Alexandra Saxon | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.esrc.ac.uk

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