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The challenge of learning Welsh

A new academic year sees children settling back into school in September. For many childcare professionals, September often means the start of further studies for them too.Taking further studies can sometimes be a daunting prospect for many childcare professionals who may have not completed formal studies since their school years.

Once again, at the end of September, I became one of those nervous ‘new students’ settling in and finding my feet with a tutor and a new group of likeminded individuals, all keen to further their Welsh Language skills.
I have been learning Welsh as an adult for three years.

Although my previous tutor told us at the end of my last course that we should all be classing ourselves as Welsh speakers rather than Welsh learners, the confidence to take this stance does not come easy.

Learning a new language is a challenge to say the least. In Wales, children are using the Welsh language in their everyday lives from road signs to shopping in Tesco where signs are all bilingual, to school and childcare settings where professionals support children to develop Welsh Language skills in line with the ethos and philosophy of the Foundation Phase.

The Welsh Government’s commitment to a truly bilingual Wales is well established, in order to ensure children are given an opportunity to feel a sense of belonging to Wales, Welsh experiences and the Welsh language. Recognising that learning a new language has many benefits, PACEY has produced a practice guide, 'Introducing Welsh language in your setting' which members can download from MyPACEY.

As an adult, however, learning a new language not only enables you to further your own personal development, increase your confidence and support children in your care, but it also opens doors for you professionally. One difficulty I have come across when as an adult learning a new language is ensuring that you begin at the right level.

Studying at a level that is too easy will not challenge you or support your development correctly. If you study at a level that is too advanced for you, you may lack the understanding and confidence to progress. It is important to bear this in mind when supporting children’s language development too.

So, there I was in September trying to work out whether I was the linguistically challenged member of the group. My fears were soon relieved and I settled in with growing confidence over the first couple of weeks.

There was one moment of terror when following the tutor announcing she was going to play a recording of a song containing a number of idioms – I barely understood what was being played. I felt a sense of relief when the tutor asked the group how much they had understood, and the consensus from everybody was that we had not learnt anything! It goes to show how much we still have to learn, although I never expected learning Welsh to be easy.


This video link describes the process of learning Welsh (slightly tongue in cheek) - 


Did you know that PACEY, with the support of the team in Wales, develops one new iChild resource per month specifically around Welsh Language development?

If you live in England, the principles within the practice guide around how children develop language skills and ideas to support them can be used to support children in your care whose first language is not English as the principles are fairly transferable. PACEY members can access the free iChild resources here


Hwyl (Bye!)

About Claire Protheroe

As a key member of PACEY, Claire Protheroe, Direct Services Manager Wales, manages and leads the PACEY Cymru team. Her key focus is on developing strategic relationships with key stakeholders, building local partnership and business development, delivering national consultancy, and providing leadership and business planning for the organisation in Wales.

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