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Learning Welsh Advice - hgunn.uk
The problem with new language learning is that most learners do not have
any appreciation of how much time and hard work is needed to develop basic
fluency in a new language. The has been a tradition of companies exploiting
learners through promising them they can learn languages very quickly using
their scientifically proven methods.
The harsh reality is that it takes around 10,000 hours on average for anyone to learn a new language to reach anything near native-like fluency. Learners need to grow around 15,000 new words to fluently speak a new language where they must reside at the tip of their tongues and point of their ears. New words will not be instantly learnt.
Readers are invited to undertake this simple test that will give them an indication of what is involved in learning a new language:-
In the Welsh language words, nouns are given gender. A table is masculine. A chair is feminine. When we refer to ‘A table” is necessary to say “He is in the middle of the room” while when we refer to a chair “the chair” it is necessary to say “She is in the corner”.
The problem in Welsh is there is no pattern to the gender in Welsh. This is why they are a nightmare to learn.
Select 10, 20 or 100 objects in Engilsh, say in a room, and give each of them a gender without using a pattern. Work out how long it will takes you to fluently recall them.
Learning new words in a new language is more demanding. It will be like learning a huge range of security codes.
The learning of Welsh has been a highly emotional and political issue in the United Kingdom. Those offering new language learning services have vested interests. There are also Welsh speakers getting embroiled in encouraging people to learn Welsh and approving courses they are not qualified to inform on. Many Welsh and English speakers do not understand the scale of the task of learning Welsh is.
The problem with learning any language is all our learning potentials are not equal. Certain learners will have more time to learn Welsh, and they can live in an environment where they can use it. Many adults will have been introduced to Welsh in school. Course providers and Welsh language campaigners tend to refer to those who don’t. Colin Miles claimed it is virtually impossible for an adult to learn proper Welsh.
Misconceptions About Language Learning
A Welsh language campaigner offering website lessons went to the Isle of Man and convinced the public there he had learnt Manx from scratch to a basic conversational level in seven intense hours. Learners are no empty vessels, where language can be poured into them like petrol into a tank, what Confisus refers to as the ‘Feed the Duck’ method of learning. Learning a new vocabulary of words is not an instant process.
There is a popular notion that language can be learnt by memorising phrases without needing to learn grammar. It is referred to as an early communicative language method of learning. It avoids language construction. The problem with constructing spoken language construction is that it makes vast demands upon working memory. This is why learners struggle to speak a language because they need to do so many things at once. It is like trying to use a mobile phone whilst driving.
What happens when memorising phrases like ‘parrots’ is that learners will be able to regurgitate them fluently. They do not need to construct them. It allows them through practising them to engage in communicating very basic language phrases. It will be impossible for them to practice and regurgitate every phrase they will need to use in this way.
The method will not develop longer-term learning success. Rarely is there a later for learners who learn in way.
There is a notion that to learn a new language, all learners have to do is practice speaking it. This is the equivalent to rugby players believing that all that is needed to become a professional player is to practice playing the game. Speaking, listening, reading, and writing all have an important contribution to make learning to learning to speak a new language. The problem with spoken language is that it is fast and transitory.
There is the concept of accelerated learning that has been discredited. Associated with it the concept of learning preferences that some learners are strong visual learners and others strong aural learners. Some Welsh language course providers justify not using written work through misrepresenting this theory to allow them to concentrate on aural language. Some visual learners are stronger visual learners than others, but we are all strong visual learners.
There has been the misrepresentation of Krashen’s theory discredited that if you do bother to teach grammar learners can ‘pick it up through listening to it. Cwrs Mynediad advises learners not to even ask their tutors about grammar. This because tutors have not got a clue how to tutor it. You cannot successfully learn a language without learning about grammar.
Specific Learning Problems
The fundamental problem of learning Welsh in Wales is that it is a minority language. Attempting to drown learners in Welsh is not sufficient for them to learn through immersion. Learners will always learn most effectively and easily in their most fluent language. Tours who attempt to teach complicated aspects of a new language through Welsh is doing it for their convenience not learners.
The lack of opportunities for learners to apply Welsh outside their lessons is a major constraint on their successful learning of Welsh. The fact that there is no such thing as standard Welsh, where there are up to five different words used for common things, and different grammars, increases the problem. Some of the Welsh dialects are bordering on being different languages.
The inconsistency in the Welsh language and the fact that many Welsh speakers speak slang is a major problem for Welsh learners. They are actually taught an artificial language called Cymru am Byw. “Living Welsh’. Welsh learners who become basically fluent in that form then need to adapt it to learn the specific dialects.
There is the issue that whilst learners are struggling to learn new Welsh words and things like mutations that many Welsh speakers are not using them. Learners are learning words like ‘mwynhau’ and ‘gyrru’, which means ‘to enjoy’ and ‘to drive’ when many Welsh speakers are saying ‘enjoyo’ and ‘drifo’.
Dr Margaret Newcombe Cardiff School of Welsh contended that few adult Welsh speakers succeed in becoming able to actively speak Welsh to Welsh speakers. She claims when basically fluent Welsh learners try to speak Welsh to Welsh speakers, they insist on switching to English. Whilst McAllister and Blunt in a Report contends that many Welsh learners are too apprehensive about learning Welsh, because of a lack of understanding of grammar and a fear of making a fool of themselves through getting it wrong.
The historical problem with the Welsh and Irish language are they are minority language. Dr Margaret Newcombe contends that English has been the language of commerce a law since the Act of Union in 1535. The Welsh language has always been the community language of the home. It is a ‘hen iaeth’, an old language, which is evolving, but it not evolved into a modern standardised language through the school system.
It would be impossible for learners to learn each distinct local dialect that exists in Wales. Many Welsh youths who have been educated through the medium of Welsh do not view themselves as fluent proper Welsh speakers. The hypocrisy of Welsh adult learning is that the only secure avenue, the foundation for them individually and collectively to become fluent proper Welsh will be to view Cymru am Byw as a new acceptable Welsh dialects.
The problem with languages is that they
are not codes. They can not be exactly translated into others language.
Language meanings arise above the sum of the words. This is why languages
cannot be fully learnt in classrooms. The fact that someone can engage in
communication in one language does not mean they will be able to do so in
another language. Time is needed to develop the skills into a confident, fluent
application in a new language.
Too many learners expect to be able to apply the same level of communication and accuracy in their new language as their native one. This is not going to happen. The language they will become able to speak will reflect how often they can use the language. Unless they use it or they will lose. When learners stop learning a new language, their capability will either increase or decrease. It will not remain the same. They will tend to lose their language constructive capability before their receptive listening and reading skills.
Colin Miles contended he did not want to be a Welsh pigeon speaker, but Welsh is the national language of Wales, and it is an intrinsic part of Welsh culture. There are intrinsic learning benefits in learning any new language provided it is taught effectively and providing they are not expected to do community service of practising phrases. Learning if they can improve their first language skills. It can make them more prepared to learn a third. They can also improve their metacognition skills learning how to learn.
There is no special about learning a new language that learning anything else.
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Colin Miles - I Do not want to Learn Pigeon Welsh I.W.A.
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