Future of Welsh language depends on parents

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Wed Mar 1 13:47:23 UTC 2006

 Public release date: 28-Feb-2006

Contact: Alexandra Saxon
alexandra.saxon at esrc.ac.uk
Economic & Social Research Council

Future of Welsh language depends on parents

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

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.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, CONTACT:  Dr Delyth Morris, on 01248 382140
or sos601 at bangor.ac.uk or Dr Kathryn Jones on 07980 603464

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
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At any time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate
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