Leave Wales. Pass through the English plains and over the Scottish border. Whilst it’s important to hear more and discuss diverse and international contexts, it’s also important to understand the need for developing a range of appropriate policies and procedures unique to Wales. On my way to a conference in Edinburgh to discuss Mudiad Meithrin’s work with a new audience, from academics, policy practitioners, I’m looking forward.
Edinburgh. The University. A project funded by the AHRC on language regeneration, organised by Professor Wilson McLeod (Edinburgh), Dr Huw Lewis and Dr Elin Royles (Aberystwyth).
My contribution to the discussion? Understanding the family’s influence on language habits. Discussing that. In quarter of an hour. “Wow”. “Wow” turns to “Wah!”
Where to start? At my feet!
Start by interpreting and defining the family.
Who are the family? What is family?
It’s no longer 2.4 Children, but an open, plural, inclusive understanding of the various contexts where children in Wales are raised.
Then explain how the family influences Mudiad Meithrin’s work.
Who cares for children? Who attends the Cylch Ti a Fi? Who influences the child’s linguistic future by deciding on a Cylch Meithrin or Playgroup? Who influences the influencer? What is the influence of a minority language that coexists with the world’s most hegemonic language? Who isn’t influenced by Anglo-American culture? What language does Alexa speak? What’s the loudspeaker’s language when you shop in Tesco? Starbucks anyone?
And what about Gran and Grandad? Does Mum breastfeed? Is there a childminder or nursery nearby? No? What do you do? Make an S.O.S call? And if you’re two, three, four or five years old hearing the Welsh language for the first time – by your new family at the Cylch Meithrin, or Welsh Primary School – is it too late? “A language is caught not taught” said Dr Colin Baker.
What is ‘Cymraeg for Kids’? How does providing baby massage and yoga for kids make a difference? What does your Midwife tell you about talking more than one language whilst pregnant? Is it possible to further intervene in the family’s life, in the home? Yes! How? How do you prove that you’ve made a difference? Wah!
Alarmed when I realize that there is a serious discussion in Scotland and Ireland for restricting childcare for parents who are ‘committed’ to education in the same medium. Why limit the children’s linguistic opportunities based on the parent’s attitude? It’s understandable that there are obvious challenges related to providing Early Years care/education in provisions for children from different linguistic backgrounds…but isn’t the experience of attending a Cylch Meithrin an opportunity to persuade parents and families that it’s possible to learn two or three languages when three, four, five years old?
A few facts.
There are around 11,000 children in Cylchoedd Meithrin at any one point. Around 80% of children have English as the main language at home. 86% of children in the Cylch Meithrin transfer to receive education through Welsh.
There is always room for improvement. We want every child in Wales to receive Early Years care/education through the medium of Welsh.
The way forward?
Use Welsh Government’s power to undo what has already been done.
Invest. Invest. Invest.
Promote. Promote. Promote.
The radical #Cymraeg2050 vision – and the principle of a million Welsh speakers by 2050 – asks for far-reaching changes and a revolution in Welsh-medium child care and education.
Does everyone agree?