Wales 'Plays International Role in Language Education' WELSH TEACHING MODELS MIRRORED ACROSS EUROPE

Article excerpt

Byline: GARETH EVANS

WALES plays an international role in educating through a minority language, a leading academic claimed yesterday.

Dr Gwyn Lewis, a lecturer in education at Bangor University, said bilingual communities across the world look to the Welsh education system as an example of best practice.

At a public lecture into bilingual education, Dr Lewis presented findings from a two-year study into teaching patterns at home and abroad.

Demand for Welsh-medium education has flourished since its "modern" inception, with the opening of Ysgol Gymraeg Aberystwyth in 1939.

An increasing number of non-Welsh speaking parents are sending their children to Welsh-medium schools, and learning the mother tongue is increasingly seen as the best way to a bright future.

The Assembly Government launched the nation's first Welsh-medium Education Strategy in April, which is indicative of its ongoing desire to safeguard the language.

Figures published in 2007 showed more than a third (36.5%) of primary school children speak Welsh, compared to 24.6% in 1987.

Dr Lewis and a team of researchers observed more than 100 lessons in primary and secondary schools across the country, from Anglesey to Cardiff. But teaching models in Wales are being mirrored across Europe, and the group has unearthed a series of patterns developing in other bilingual countries.

"Bilingual education is a complex phenomenon across Wales and the wider world," said Dr Lewis.

"When you are living in the shadow of a majority language like English or Spanish, you face the same opportunities and the same challenges."

Dr Lewis believes "translanguaging" to be one of the main practices widely used across Europe to help children develop and reinforce both their first and second languages.

Translanguaging promotes a deeper understanding of subject matter, by discussing in one language and writing in another.

Dr Lewis said the concept, which is readily used in the Basque Country, can help students "digest" and improve communication in their weaker language. …