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Opinion

Why I moved from England to Wales: For Welsh language education

11 Jul 2024 4 minute read
A return to Wales. Image: Rhodri Anderson

Rhodri Anderson

Although born and raised in south Wales, I have spent most of my life in England.

It’s where I went to university, met my wife and built my career.

I have been teaching for 17 years – half of that in state schools, half in elite independent boarding schools.

Education, in particular high-quality education, is very important to me.

I was living happily in Bristol when my son was born. Life changed massively in those early years, but raising a child has been the most exciting, fresh and enjoyable choice of my life.

As my son grew, I watched with pride as he met the usual developmental milestones.

Smiling, laughing, crawling, walking, talking. Bilingualism?

For many of us in Wales, bilingualism is a normal developmental step.

For an embarrassing number of UK children in monolingual English schools, this common milestone is never met.

Choosing a school

As we started thinking about schooling, we discussed Welsh language education.

My wife is English and so had little experience of bilingual education.

She had some reservations. How to help with homework, not understanding him when he’s speaking Welsh etc.

I think it was reassuring for her that, whilst I am a Welsh speaker, my own parents are monolingual English speakers.

I am grateful for the transformative choice that my parents made on my behalf. Bilingual children become skilled in translation very quickly!

My wife was supportive of the idea and we decided to explore further.

We read Estyn, reports, chose an area and visited a school.

Bristol. Image: Rhodri Anderson

The school that we chose was small, tiny by Bristolian standards. It has VERY dated facilities.

Looking beyond the buildings, it was clear what a warm and caring environment it is.

Adults know all of the children, and most of the parents, by name.

The children are happy and the community is vibrant. We decided to move.

Rational

When explaining to colleagues and friends why we were moving, most were supportive, if a little curious.

People question the impact on English language skills.

Of course, independent schools teach other languages, including Latin, primarily for the positive impact they have on student’s ability to use English.

Whilst this is not the main value I see in learning Welsh, it illustrates that two, three or more languages support, rather than limit each other.

Welsh has the advantage, as a second language, of being usable daily.

Welsh language schools also have the advantage that true fluency is reached as standard.

Rather than conversations about pets or the weather, students can discuss orally and in writing, topics as sophisticated as the sciences, history and art in two languages from a very young age.

When considering the advantages to academic development, career, community and average earnings, the decision had an obvious answer.

Very pleased with our choice

Our son is now coming to the end of reception and we could not be happier with the decision we have made for his future.

As a teacher, I consider Welsh language schools to be amongst the best in the UK.

Certainly, good enough to justify a geographical move.

Adre/Home. Image: Rhodri Anderson

I feel pride that my son will access local culture, history, and heritage through two of the most significant languages in which they were shaped.

In Wales we should be proud that, by this measure, our Welsh language state schools achieve more than most fee-paying schools elsewhere.

The future

Whilst we would love to send our son to a Welsh language secondary, we will consider all of our options when the time comes.

The huge distance he would need to travel from our chosen community to the nearest Welsh language secondary is prohibitive.

By choosing a Welsh language primary, all options remain open and we know that, either way, we will have raised a bilingual adult.

After all, at the age of 5, he is already a bilingual child.


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Stephen Owen
Stephen Owen
3 days ago

Da iawn, gobeithio y gall fynd ymlaen i ysgol uwchradd cyfrwng Cymraeg. Dylai pob plentyn yng Nghymru gael cyfle o’r fath

Simon
Simon
3 days ago

An insightful article. I have to admit, I have been a bit lazy with my language learning. Despite having Welsh speaking grandparents, they refused to teach me their childhood language, seemingly feeling embarrassed that I should ask so persistently that they did. As school life progressed, in England, I studied a little Latin, learned French to a decent level – further developed through riding as a pro cyclist with a French team. After studying at CSM in Kernow/Cornwall, my new profession as a mine engineer, much of it spent in Latin America, has given me the opportunity to learn Spanish.… Read more »

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
3 days ago

Braf clywed stori bositif am y Gymraeg ac addysg yng Nghymru am unwaith.

MababAberabnobody
MababAberabnobody
3 days ago

Many welsh speakers are not bilingual though are they in all honesty? Many seem to struggle with simple English phrases and literature too.

Cymraes prowd iawn
Cymraes prowd iawn
2 days ago

You have to understand that English is our second language. I didn’t learn to speak English until I was seven when I had English lessons at school! I wonder how well you’d speak a second language! Also I know many English people who can’t speak their own language properly – of instead of have, etc. I only wish that more English people were more embracing of our language and culture like the writer of this article instead of trying to turn Wales into little England!

Annibendod
Annibendod
2 days ago

Really? So tiresome.

Annibendod
Annibendod
2 days ago

Braf clywed hanes cadarnhaol. Serch hyn, mae rhaid i bobl Cymru deall bod angen mwy nag addysg Cymraeg. Mae angen atgyfnerthu ac adeiladu cymunedau o siaradwyr Cymraeg ac mae angen buddsoddi ynddyn nhw os ydy’r iaith i ffynu.

AlbericM
AlbericM
2 days ago

Of course small children should be taught multiple languages, when their brains can easily embrace them. But why wouldn’t you want your child to learn a 2d & 3d language which would be useful in the world at large, German or Spanish? That would provide much greater richness than a Cetic language ever could. Everything that makes up Welsh culture can be transmitted in English or some other major language, except perhaps a tendency to hide away in corners full of nostalgia and a grudge against the larger world.

John M
John M
1 day ago
Reply to  AlbericM

Really?

Dafydd y Garth
Dafydd y Garth
15 hours ago
Reply to  AlbericM

In am trilingual and, as a Welsh-speaker, I have in no way a grudge against the larger world; to the contrary I am a passionate European, despite the manifold and manifest shortcomings of the EU.
I do, hoewver, have a “grudge” against people who insist on repeating the antediluvian ethnocidal tropes disseminated by the English establishment in the nineteenth century, and sadly still current today in certain quarters.

Last edited 15 hours ago by Dafydd y Garth
CapM
CapM
22 minutes ago

Given comments appearing on this site it looks like NationCymru is becoming a popular tourist destination for residents of WalesOnline.

Perhaps a Tourism Tax should be a introduced.

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