Welsh language news: situation in Europe comparable to that of Basque, extra training for Welsh teachers

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Geographic distribution of Celtic languages.

And Basque.

Here are two pieces of news from within the last month on Welsh:

The first compares the status of the language to that of Basque, which is probably about as comparable a situation as you can get in Europe. Neither of them have their very own country to rule, population is similar (750,000 for Welsh vs. 1 million for Basque, although they both vary quite a bit depending on what you mean by fluency), and they're both surrounded by an influential language used in a large number of countries around the world (English for the former, Spanish for the latter). The main differences are that Welsh is an Indo-European language and so still shares similarities with the language surrounding it whereas Basque is a language isolate, and Welsh is related to the other Celtic languages that have a geographic spread a fair amount larger than that of Basque. Besides that though their situation is pretty much the same. Here's part of the article:
A delegation from Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg recently visited the Basque country to see what people there are doing to keep their language alive.

Of all minority languages, the Basque language – or Euskara – has most in common with Welsh. There are about 600,000 Euskara-speakers in a country with a population of about three million.

From the moment you land in Bilbao, you notice a stark linguistic contrast to our own situation, with visual examples of stronger language legislation – bilingual signs are the norm and the co-operative supermarket chain Eroski provides own-brand packaging with instructions in up to five languages.

You are quickly made aware of the fact that in Euskadi – the autonomous community of the Basque country – citizens have a legal right to use the language in the public and (more recently) private and voluntary sectors. Because of this, companies such as EMUN have been set up to assist all kinds of private companies as they develop effective responses to language rights.
The second article is on another important subject to minor languages, making sure that those that teach the language know it well and are able to use it with confidence. This is why it's good to create standardized tests for IALs as well so that people don't begin using them under the impression that they're doing quite well when really they need a lot more practice on the finer points. Not that there's anything wrong with making mistakes, but those who are making them would certainly appreciate knowing that. The article says:
Nerys Lewis, a nursery class teacher at White Rose Primary School in New Tredegar, Caerphilly, is among a growing number of school staff to take advantage of the Welsh language Sabbaticals Scheme, which is free for schools.

The intensive course is designed to provide the skills to teach bilingually or through the medium of Welsh with confidence.

“I would urge anyone who wants to polish their Welsh language skills and use them in a classroom setting to take advantage of this brilliant opportunity this January,” said Nerys.

“While I spoke Welsh fairly well before doing the course, I never felt totally confident writing it and speaking it on a professional basis. Now I am helping teachers with their Welsh and speaking with educational professionals on a daily basis.”

The courses are run at Cardiff University and Bangor University and there is also the option of studying by distance learning. There are still places left on the next course starting on January 5 to April 2009. Participants must be fluent or fairly fluent.

The courses run for 60 days during term time, so participants will need to be released from their posts for the full three months. The Assembly Government pays for the cost of a supply teacher for the period, the course fees and also funds the travel cost of the course participant.
60 days of free extra language training is pure awesome. Once again, this is something that would be just great for IALs if it were to exist. Though I'm not an Esperantist, this is something that Esperantists should definitely look into doing in the future (creating a permanent location where people are brought in for extra training), precisely because there's actually a very large difference between someone largely fluent in a language and completely fluent. The former is capable of understanding just about everything and writing about just about any subject in the language but will occasionally or often need to resort to using a dictionary and will still take a long time to write about difficult subjects, whereas the latter is capable of just sitting down and writing about a subject at length without slowing down. That's especially important for writing on Wikipedia, for example. I would be largely fluent in Ido, for example, which means that I'll still need to go back to the dictionary every once in a while when trying to find/decide on a good term for what I'm writing about.

So what sort of location would be good? Perhaps somewhere in a country like Poland, fairly close to major European transportation hubs but with cheap enough prices to make it possible to do on a permanent basis.


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