Lessons in Welsh

Although this is my first post, and I feel that maybe I should get into my personal whys and why nots of blogging, I’m just going to jump in with a few thoughts on teaching Welsh.

I’ve just finished a 4 hour complete beginner course in Welsh for the unknown language component on a Trinity cert course.  As “little things” go (see About me for more about “little things”) I guess this is a pretty little course, but I love teaching it.  And I always feel a sense of anti-climax when it finishes. So this time round, instead of brushing it off I decided to try and pinpoint why I get so much out of it.

Complete beginners –  I’ve had very, very little chance to teach English to complete beginners, to learners who’ve had no exposure to the language, and who might actually not even know what it sounds like.  It’s definitely a different kind of teaching.  And teaching Welsh to people who know nothing at all about the language is a blast!  At the end of our little experiment  I’m just warming up – I want to keep going for another 90 hours 😉 . It reminds me of how fulfilling, and how challenging teaching beginners can be. Hats off to all teachers out there who are doing it (and a little bit of “healthy jealousy”  too).

Tangible progress –  from the very first few minutes in the first lesson there’s tangible, measurable progress – Welsh sounds come boucing back at me, sounding very, well , Welsh. I don’t know why that surprises me so much!  Maybe it’s from having heard the sounds mangled by  non- Welsh speakers back home 😉 .

By the end of the first class they’re introducing themselves as Tom Jones and Cerys Matthews and Charlotte Church (not so sure about Lady Di – but the celebs come from the students not me – gave me a great excuse to teach “not Welsh”) and counting from 1 to 10.  We all felt good about how far we’d come in 50 mins.

Exploring a new identity – I’ve been teaching English for 25 years and am very very used to my English teaching persona.  Teaching in Welsh is a whole new take on teaching.  It accesses another me.  My Welsh is very much kitchen Welsh, spoken at home, with my family about day to day issues. I’ve never really worked in Welsh.  Grading and controlling my teacher talk and classroom instructions has been like going back to being a novice teacher.  Great, inspiring, energising stuff. 

and lots, lots more besides – but I think I might just save that for another time.

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11 Responses to Lessons in Welsh

  1. Rhys says:

    You’re an inspiration! xx

  2. John Hughes says:

    Great beginning Ceri! So who says students don’t wanna talk about celebrities!

    • Ceri says:

      thanks, John – yeah, long live Tom Jones!
      I used to supply celeb cards, but they’d got tatty and dated – this time the students supplied them – definitely got more laughs

  3. Ceri says:

    helo Steve! diolch yn fawr – mae dy Gymraeg di’n dda iawn 🙂

  4. Hi Ceri,

    Just found my way here from your tweet about your latest post. I teach ESOL at an FE college in south east London and, although the students I teach come from all over, I have taught a number of students who have no (or virtually no) English. It is a challenge, but I agree with what you’ve said in your post here – it is really invigorating when you see such students making progress.

    Teaching a language to students with no prior knowledge of the language was actually a feature of my first TEFL training – a TESOL module while at uni (not any part of a TEFL/CELTA course, but more just a taster). Pretty soon we were all asking each other’s names in Portuguese! It must also be pretty liberating if you’re a student and can get something out of that approach as well.

    Happy blogging!


    • Ceri says:

      Thanks, Mike!
      Learning Swedish from scratch was the first contact I had with teaching languages in my modern languages module on my PGCE back in the 80s. We had a great teacher – but then again maybe first teachers are always great? Can’t remember any of the words, but some of the intonation patterns stuck.

  5. natasha says:

    Helo Ceri,
    Well, I have now spent almost 3 hours in your Welsh classes and I love them, I can’t believe how much I have learn’t in such a short space of time, from scratch and with no English spoken! I shall be sad to finish 😦 Keep up the good work! (da iawn)
    Hwyl fawr! Natasha 🙂

    • Ceri Jones says:

      Diolch yn fawr, Natasha! Pleser cwrdd â ti ar y blog!
      I hope you enjoy the rest of the course – the last Welsh lesson and the rest of the Cert TESOL! I’m sure we’ll be bumping into each other in the teachers’ room 🙂

  6. Pingback: Lessons in Welsh revisited | close up

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