25 June 2018

Trying to learn to teach in Welsh

The Welsh Government wants one million people to speak Welsh by 2050. And one of the ways in which they are encouraging people to use (and not lose!) their language is by encouraging them to do (part of) their education in Welsh. So if you do, you get some money back. And we tend to have some two or so per cohort who do. And it's all up to my colleague Dei, who is the only member of academic staff who's a fluent Welsh speaker. And I want to add myself to that list! If he ever goes on a sabbatical or something, I could take over. But I don't feel ready yet. In fact, I feel like my Welsh is stalling. When can I use it? When I talk to Dei (no overly often), when I talk to some of the support staff (even less), when I go climbing (also not overly often I admit), and when I do my grocery shopping (when I say little more than 'hello' and 'there you are' and 'thanks' and 'bye'). So I need to work on this to get to the required level!

Jenny, my Tutor, was already on my case. She gave my name to a lady called Siân from the Canolfan Bedwyr, who support staff with such things. We agreed to meet and we had a chat on what she could do for me. I said I'd like to get practice lecturing and doing tutorials in Welsh. She had already arranged lecturing practice with three other academics (one of which had been in the same Welsh class so I knew him), and it was agreed that I would join them if my timetable allowed.

Regarding the tutorial we agreed I would prepare a tutorial, and she would be my tutees! Or at least pretend to. I do a spiel on plagiarism (llên-ladrad in Welsh) to my real tutees so I figured I translate that and go through it with her. It's tricky but it's fun! And it is interesting to find words for scientific terms in Welsh. The article I used as an example is about ice shelf retreat. My dictionary knows what an ice shelf is, but a grounding line? Not even the Canolfan Bedwyr website knows that! We'll see how I fare. I'm sure Siân won't know either as she is in an entirely different line of work!

 What do I think about the whole scheme of encouraging people to study in Welsh? Well, I like it, of course! I think it's weird, and not in a good way, that this country barely speaks its own language. But I'm not sure what the financial incentive will do. I suppose the idea is that Welsh kids tend to learn Welsh in school, but when they leave school the risk is that they don't use it anymore, and lose their skills. If they get paid to continue in Welsh and they do they will retain the language! But I suppose it will be the native language speakers that will take up the offer, not the learners. And I still think it's good that anyone can choose to do their education in their native language (said the Dutch woman who was mainly educated in English), and if that happens maybe that will help keep Welsh alive in the middle of society. But for me it would actually be better if it's the learner category that is attracted by the scheme: if it is Welsh nationalists they will probably think my Welsh isn't good enough. If they are kids who learned Welsh in school and continue for financial reasons, that would make it easier; they probably won't mind my non-fluent Welsh, and might even prefer it to the rapid fire of a native speaker. But this is getting ahead of things. Let's first have some practice!

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