Why is learning Welsh in school important?
As the new curriculum rolls out, we’ll be putting an emphasis on our Welsh skills. But why is this?
Welsh is one of the oldest languages in the whole of Europe. Historians believe it started being spoken somewhere between 400 and 700 AD, as they have found poetry written in the language from that time. It was the official language during the early Middle Ages and was widely spoken.
However, the Welsh language has not had an easy journey. In 1535, King Henry VIII created the Act of Union which made Wales a part of England. This meant that English became the official language of Wales.
In the 1800s, the British government thought that Wales was ‘lawless’ - there were popular risings across the country, like the famous Rebecca Riots. They blamed this on the Welsh language, as they believed it was holding back Welsh education, so they decided that English was to be used in schools. Of course, there were no Welsh barristers involved with this decision.
This is where the famous ‘Welsh Not’ came from. If a child was caught speaking Welsh in school, they were made to hold The Not – usually a piece of wood, a ruler or a stick. If someone else was caught speaking welsh, The Not would be handed to them. At the end of the day, whoever had The Not would be punished. By 1911, even though there were the highest number of Welsh speakers, Welsh was a minority language for the first time. After the First World War, it only continued to decline.
In the latter half of the 1900s, there was a fight to revive the Welsh language. In 1967 the Welsh Language Act was brought in, that meant people could speak Welsh in court and official forms would be available in Welsh. BBC Radio Cymru was created in 1977 and S4C in 1982.
It’s not just spoken in Wales. Y Wladfa is a Welsh settlement in Patagonia, Argentina. There are three bilingual Welsh-Spanish schools there and they enjoy traditional Eisteddfods with a twist – both in Welsh and Spanish. The settlement formed when Welsh people moved there in 1865, as they were worried that Welsh was at risk in Wales.
It’s not just its historical importance. Speaking Welsh can help when looking for a career, as many employers want the skill. We want to encourage pupils to be confident in switching between English and Welsh. It is sad to see a language with such deep roots decline over the years. That’s why we believe it is important to learn it in school – to connect with our own culture. Learning a language is an important skill, so we are excited to learn Welsh both through lessons and incidental Welsh inside and outside of the classroom.
Want to find out more about how we’re learning Welsh at LPS? Click here to see what we’re doing!