If you didn’t already know, I am bilingual – yes, I can speak Welsh. When I tell people this, they seem to be quite surprised. I’m not too sure why. Maybe my Welsh accent has disappeared since moving to South Wales eight years ago!
I was brought up in a bilingual home. Mum is Welsh and dad is English and that’s how it was. I’ve always known that for both mum and dad, it’s always been extremely important to both of them that their children can speak and communicate in Welsh. Even though dad is English, he knows how important it is for us (and to mum) that we can speak two languages, plus, he’s lived in Wales so long that he can pretty much understand everything we say anyway!
I’m really conscious of the opportunities that being bilingual will offer my son in his future. I went to a Welsh high school and studied in Welsh which certainly had its benefits as it enabled me to chat and communicate in Welsh every single day. Speaking two languages has definitely opened a lot of doors for me and given me a range of experiences I wouldn’t have otherwise enjoyed. Trips with the Urdd, staying at Llangrannog, being a part of a choir and singing at eisteddfods – those were the days! I want Raife to experience at least some of these things and I don’t think it would hurt for him to have a few more options open to him when he’s older, especially when it comes to his career.
However, since moving to South Wales, I’ve noticed as the years have gone by that my standard and quality of Welsh has dropped significantly – quite simply because I don’t use the language daily. I don’t need to. And this makes me feel a bit sad.
It’s so important to keep the language alive. I get really excited when I get to see my family (they live in West Wales). Yes, I love seeing and spending time with them anyway, but it’s the one chance I get to speak Welsh and I love it. Although I know my standard of Welsh definitely isn’t what it is, it gives me so much pleasure to communicate in my mother tongue, and I’m keen to pass this on to my son.
Don’t get me wrong – speaking Welsh whilst being at home with Raife has been tough. I’m not too sure why because it’s just me and him – maybe it’s because Jon and I naturally speak English with each other and so it just feels natural to all communicate with each other in English.
This is why I’m trying my best to ensure that Raife can speak some Welsh when he’s older. I’ve had Cyw on most days for him on the television, we read Welsh books with each other and sing songs such as “Un Bys, Dau Bys” and “Mi Welais Jac-y-Do.” I’ve also been taking him to a Mudiad Meithrin baby group held at our local library on a Wednesday morning and we both absolutely love it. As well as singing and communicating with each other in Welsh, we do baby yoga and some simple sign language. Plus, it gets us both out of the house and chatting to other mummies and babies.
I love being a Welsh speaker and hopefully this passes down to my children. I want the language to continue to grow and thrive and this means speaking the lingo as often as possible. Even if you’re not a Welsh speaker, if you speak Spanish, French or Japanese as well as English, try to use both at home. At the time, you probably won’t realise how useful it is for your child but in the future, you’ll be sure to see a huge difference in their speech and ability to communicate confidently. Raife is already babbling and chatting away constantly so hopefully, in the long-term, the bilingual upbringing he’s enjoyed will give him a great start in life.