25 January 2021

Using my Welsh for real

 One of the main reasons I started to learn Welsh was that I one day wanted to be able to teach in it. We don't have many Welsh-speaking students, though, so opportunities are limited. I tend to exchange emails with Welsh-speaking students in Welsh, and I've had students with questions about an assignment come in, and discussing it in Welsh. But I had never done a lecture in Welsh, I had never received an assignment written in Welsh, and I had never given written feedback on such an assignment in Welsh. And I still haven't done a lecture in Welsh, but the other two things have now changed.

When I found out that my colleagues had left a pile of (virtual) fieldtrip reports for me when I came back from my sick leave, I noticed that one of them was written in Welsh. My first Welsh assignment! I was keen. And reading it is one thing, of course, but writing feedback is another. I have struggled with that massively since my RSI got out of hand. My voice recognition software didn't understand it! The only way of writing Welsh without hands in Dragon is spelling it, and that takes forever. But then I discovered Trawsgrifiwr. (Dragon recognised that word right away! Wow!) And in spite of my very first attempt, which resulted in a fairly usable sentence, it is a flawed. I suppose the first sentence I tried with it was very simple. If I want to comment on the structure of someone's discussion, it gets a bit more complex and Trawsgrifiwr struggles. It really takes a large amount of editing to turn it into anything resembling understandable sentences!

I haven't done any statistical analysis, but I think that I gave this one student shorter feedback than the average English-writing student, but I have to be sensible with my time. I would decide beforehand what I would say, then dictate it slowly and clearly to Trawsgrifiwr, then edit it in Dragon, and then paste it into the software we use for providing feedback. It worked!

I hope he appreciates my effort! And I hope he appreciates that he can just submit assignments in his mother tongue. Am I aware of the paradox? That I myself made a concerted effort to do my education in something other than my mother tongue? When I was in university, we started submitting everything in Dutch in the first year, and submitted everything in English in the last year, and evidently transitioned in between. I can still remember the nerves of doing a presentation in English for the first time! I don't even think about that these days, but the first time sure was scary as hell. And we had teaching staff who wouldn't have been able to provide feedback in Dutch. So am I being a hypocrite? Well, no, I don't think so, as I did appreciate at the time when foreign staff would make the effort of learning Dutch. I wasn't in favour of forcing them to learn it to the extent they could do the entire job in Dutch, and I'm still not in favour of forcing that on Bangor University staff. So I suppose I am just facilitating this chap making his own choices!

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