Learning Welsh Will Give Children a Foreign Language Lift, Says Clegg; Bilingualism Removes Fear Felt by Some Pupils, Says Lib-Dem Leader

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), April 16, 2008 | Go to article overview

Learning Welsh Will Give Children a Foreign Language Lift, Says Clegg; Bilingualism Removes Fear Felt by Some Pupils, Says Lib-Dem Leader


Byline: David Williamson Senedd Correspondent

LIBERAL DEMOCRAT leader Nick Clegg is confident that children growing up in a bilingual Wales will find it easier to learn future languages.

Together with his wife Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, he is raising his two children to speak English and Spanish.

The 41-year-old speaker of five languages said: "If children learn more than one language in school and at home they then tend to be able to be able to learn additional languages more easily. I don't believe learning Welsh as well as English will serve as detriment to wider language learning.

"All the experience is quite the reverse - it removes the fear that some children have of learning languages."

During a visit yesterday to Cardiff and Newport ahead of the May council elections, he said his party was committed to giving further powers to Wales.

Contrasting his position with Plaid Cymru's, he said: "I think in exactly the same way that Britain derives strength from its membership of the European Union, so do the constituent parts of Britain derive strength from being part of the United Kingdom.

"The key thing to get right is not to throw the baby out with the bath water and go for outright independence - it's to make sure the powers that can be devolved are devolved, and clearly they are not sufficiently."

Mr Clegg, who went to Westminster School and Cambridge, has often been compared to Conservative leader David Cameron, who studied at Eton and Oxford.

The Lib-Dem leader said Britain was dominated by an establishment, but said: "I don't think it's just to do with Oxbridge.

"I think there's an establishment which prevents Britain from being more imaginative... I think it's more to do with a political system that has narrowed the choices for the British system for far too long.

"I think people are fed up with the stale and narrow two-party options available."

He believes access to top universities could be transformed by targeting pounds 2.5bn at the poorest 50% of children in England and Wales.

"In the long run the only way we're only going to get proper diversity in our universities is by giving significant additional help much earlier on to those children at school who come from disadvantaged backgrounds," he said. …

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