There is a wealth of material to learn languages. But finding a published course to teach Modern Languages through the medium of Welsh isn’t that easy. Welsh medium schools offer the study of languages through the medium of Welsh and teachers and lecturers have long relied on preparing their own materials, sharing experiences, liaising between themselves or adapting material originally published in other languages online or in print.
With the introduction of a revised focus on language learning in the new curriculum for Wales introduced from September 2021 there will be a new emphasis on exploring similarities and differences between languages. The aim is to encourage a plurilingual approach and to spark enthusiasm for the languages of Wales and the languages of the world. So the need for material is even greater. https://hwb.gov.wales/curriculum-for-wales/languages-literacy-and-communication/
Adapting the Ánimo course series into Welsh is aimed at addressing this lack of material. Ánimo is an integrated course for pupils studying Spanish for AS and A level and first year university students. It includes a grammar workbook and coursebook with additional grammar exercises and a comprehensive vocabulary.
The new adaptations which are just published are available on the Porth – the open resource digital platform of the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol (available for free -a registration form needs to be completed).
I faced several challenges and gained valuable insights in adapting the book into Welsh. Firstly, in terms of coordinating and updating terminology, in ensuring that grammatical explanations are meaningful and accessible, translating close to the English but also allowing for Welsh linguistic and cultural difference. There are advantages to learning through the medium of Welsh -the double negative in Welsh for example mirrors the Spanish, the position of adjectives, the Latin roots for common nouns, the phonetic nature of both languages, the similiarities in pronouncing of particular consonants such as the jota (similar to ch in Welsh). There are also contrasts- Welsh might have a formal and informal form of address but it has only a singular form rather than both singular and plural as in Spanish. Welsh has gendered nouns but they’re often not the same as in Spanish. How tenses are used in the past quite often are closer to English than Spanish for example using tenses in the past. Occasionally Welsh and English follow similar patterns, such as using the perfect when the Spanish uses the present, and pluperfect where Spanish uses the imperfect clauses in the past e.g. how long have you been studying Spanish? – ¿hace cuánto tiempo que estudias español?, – ers faint o amser wyt ti wedi bod yn astudio Sbaeneg?.
Secondly the themes discussed in the books resonate in different ways in different linguistic landscapes- What is a healthy lifestyle and how do attitudes or ways of life impact on this, or on climate change, or on the impact of tourism on local cultures, which might all bring forward different concerns and debates.
Thirdly, adapting the books’ sections of learning skills into Welsh reminded me again of metacognitive approaches to language learning: studying how to summarise a Spanish text in Welsh hands you the linguistic tools to summarise a Welsh text and you can compare with the same in English. Studying how to create stimulus material, tactical approaches to writing summaries or to prepare for oral discussion and structuring a debate and how to listen carefully are wide ranging communicative strategies.
Adapting the books into Welsh made me think not just of the specifics of comparison through Welsh but about language learning more broadly. Welsh speaking pupils also speak English and can draw on the resources of both to learn this new additional language. Reflecting on the process at the end I was left with a reminder of how rewarding it is can be to interlink language learning across languages. Recognising patterns and discussing difference can facilitate language learning and develop assurance as pupils start to recognise the coding of their own first languages and the languages that are new to them. A structured approach to highlighting the transferability of these skills across languages can build a sense of achievement in linguistic competence and stimulate the confidence to pursue further language study.
Ánimo series available on the digital resource platform Y Porth (Dr. Siân Edwards and Professor Mererid Hopwood, published by the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol with the cooperation of OUP) https://www.porth.ac.uk/en/collection/animo-adnoddau-sbaeneg-cymraeg
We have plenty of Welsh language content on the Education Platform for users to browse and unlock.