Shereen Williams (35), is one of Mudiad Meithrin’s Ambassadors. She originally hails from Singapore but has now settled in Wales with her husband and two children. Her children Iesu (8) and Selyf (4) receive Welsh-medium education by attending a local Welsh-medium school. Shereen had a very different education in Singapore where there are 4 official languages, Malay, Mandarin, Tamil and English.
“In my home we spoke English and Malay.The working language of the country is English however, in school you would learn your 2nd language (also known as mother tongue) and it would be determined by your race. During my time in school, you had to pass your 2nd language in order to progress to the next stage of your education.”
Shereen first visited Wales in 2004 and only realised then that there was such a thing as the Welsh Language. Prior to this visit, all she knew about Wales was that it was the country that Ian Rush and Ryan Giggs played for.
“On my travels I met a Welshman who told me more about the language, the country and its history. 11 months later I ended up marrying this Welshman and moving to Wales permanently in August 2005.”
“When we decided to have children, we wanted them to have Welsh Muslim names i.e. Welsh names which reflected their Islamic heritage so my husband got us a copy of Y Beibl and we went through it, picking out the names of the prophets that was shared across the Christian and Muslim tradition. We ended up with a pretty decent list of boys and girls name but my favourites were Iesu/Esa and Selyf/Suleiman.”
Shereen and her husband’s decision to opt for Welsh-medium education for their children was not a difficult one, according to Shereen, as it was something they had decided on even before they had children. Her biggest worry was not being able to support her children in their education as she wasn’t a Welsh speaker.
“My husband had spoken to the headteacher of a local Welsh-medium school who told him that would not be a problem and that we would be supported as a family on this journey. To be honest, that response was what I needed to be reassured that this wasn’t such a crazy idea.”
“Whenever I had any concerns or worries, I would engage with the school and staff would always be there to support me. The families who make the choice to send their children through this route make an active choice to go on this journey with the school staff and that sense of being part of the same team comes through not only in the teaching but also through the parental interaction.”
According to Shereen the best part of providing Welsh-medium education for her children is being able to see them master a new language and be able to switch effortlessly between English and Welsh. She added it is also about being able to help your child embrace his Welsh identity and become part of another community i.e. Welsh speaking community. “It is quite special to be able to see those benefits for your children,” she said.
“The Welsh language has opened up a whole host of socialising options in terms of events, concerts, activities that we attend as a family.There is so much provision from books to tv shows etc that we have options to choose from. I remember shopping it Waterstones and found a book about Minecraft in Welsh and getting really excited over it!
“I do use bits of Welsh with the boys though my eldest son does point out that my command of Welsh is shockingly inadequate (compared to his!!). The boys watch CYW as they munch on their morning cereal and as a family we try to attend as many Welsh language related festivals and events.
“I would say to any parent who is unsure of what to do in terms of sending their children to Welsh-medium education that the Welsh language is here to stay and choosing Welsh-medium education will not only develop your child to become multi-lingual but there is an increasing economic demand for Welsh speakers and as a parent, this is an advantage we can give our children simply by making the choice of Welsh-medium education.”
The aim of Mudiad Meithrin’s Ambassadors Project is to show the cross-section of parents that have chosen Welsh-medium education for their children and their reasons for doing so. We hope that this will encourage more parents, especially those from mixed language families, or non-Welsh families will choose Welsh-medium education for their children.