Future of Welsh language depends on parents

February 28, 2006

As parents in Wales teach their children about the symbolism of daffodils and dragons on St David's day, how many of them will do it speaking in Welsh? A recent study shows that the future of Welsh language is threatened by the fact that many parents are not speaking in their own language to their children. "We found that many Welsh-speaking parents were not transmitting the language to their children," says Dr Delyth Morris, who led the study on behalf of the University of Wales, Bangor. "This is particularly the case in families where only one parent speaks Welsh."

This research, which is of great importance not only for forming language policy within Wales, but is also extremely valuable for language planning for all the minority languages across Europe, is part of an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) sponsored study which sought to identify the reasons why some parents in Wales transmit the language to their children and others do not.

Through the year long study, researchers found that a number of factors affect children's learning of the language including the amount of time spent with the Welsh-speaking parent, the amount of contact they have with grandparents who speak Welsh, and whether the family's friends and neighbours speak Welsh or not. In addition, it appears that the power relations within a family can have a significant influence.

It became clear that in most cases one parent tends to make the language- related decisions for the whole family. For those children brought-up speaking Welsh, the decision-making parent is invariably Welsh-speaking. "Most parents in the study say they want their children to speak Welsh" says Dr Delyth Morris, "but their commitment varies. If a child is to learn a language they must be exposed to it."

She went on, "It seems that when in the presence of an English-speaking partner, Welsh-speaking parents tend to speak English to their child. Those parents who can, only actually speak Welsh to their child when they are alone or in the company of other Welsh speakers."

Other additional factors which affect language learning were also discovered. It was found that the number of Welsh speakers in the surrounding community, alongside the use of Television, DVDs, computers and books significantly affected children's success in learning the Welsh language. The type of childcare provision parents choose also has a major impact, and it is therefore important that Welsh-speaking childcare remains easily available. Similarly, education policies of local authorities should recognise the role of Welsh speaking schools in language learning.
-end-
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Dr Delyth Morris, on 01248 382140 or sos601@bangor.ac.uk or Dr Kathryn Jones on 07980 603464

Or Alexandra Saxon / Annika Howard at ESRC, on 01793 413032/413119

NOTES FOR EDITORS 1. The research project Welsh Language Socialization within the Family was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). Dr Delyth Morris is at School of Social Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor.

2. Methodology: Ethnographic research was conducted amongst 12 families in three areas: Gwynedd, Carmarthenshire and Denbighshire from 2004 to 2005.

3. The ESRC is the UK's largest funding agency for research and postgraduate training relating to social and economic issues. It provides independent, high quality, relevant research to business, the public sector and Government. The ESRC total expenditure in 2005/6 is £135million. At any time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and research policy institutes. More at http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk 4. ESRC Society Today offers free access to a broad range of social science research and presents it in a way that makes it easy to navigate and saves users valuable time. As well as bringing together all ESRC-funded research (formerly accessible via the Regard website) and key online resources such as the Social Science Information Gateway and the UK Data Archive, non-ESRC resources are included, for example the Office for National Statistics. The portal provides access to early findings and research summaries, as well as full texts and original datasets through integrated search facilities. More at http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk

5. The ESRC confirms the quality of its funded research by evaluating research projects through a process of peer review. This research has been graded as 'good'.

Economic & Social Research Council

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