With the Eisteddfod underway, Shadow Secretary for the Welsh language Suzy Davies AM has said that unless children in Welsh-medium primary schools in areas where less Welsh is spoken hear the language used in everyday life, they will be reluctant to use it themselves.
She believes that rolling out her ‘Tipyn Bach’ initiative could stimulate use of Welsh in areas where it is not traditionally spoken.
In Neath town centre, the South Wales West AM has developed an initiative which encourages local cafe and shop owners, employees and customers to use a little bit of Welsh in their exchanges.
Adults, who may have had poor experiences of learning Welsh in school, slowly build their confidence without worrying how they sound.
The familiar environment means that customers and staff are less intimidated – as they are shopping; rather than ‘learning Welsh’. School children, too, hear the language outside of the educational environment, and have the chance to join in– often supplying that missing word!
Suzy Davies AM, Shadow Secretary responsible for the Welsh language, said:
"Children need to hear older people speaking Welsh in ordinary situations otherwise they grow up associating it with school or organised Welsh language activities. One ordinary situation with which most children will be very familiar is going shopping with a parent or guardian.
“We all recognise that self-consciousness is the enemy of learning a language. I think the high street, specifically, is a perfect place to encourage shoppers and shopkeepers to practise their Welsh without fear of being judged.”
At the Eisteddfod, Welsh Conservatives are encouraging local community groups to adopt the scheme, and nurture Welsh language learning in everyday settings.
Already, in Neath, the scheme has found support and cooperation with the local Menter Iaith and the next stage of development aims to expand the volunteer base to maintain the scheme's sustainability. The Welsh Government has also been challenged to outline how it can support the implementation of such schemes.
The Eisteddfod is in Monmouthshire this year, a county where 16.4% of people say they can speak Welsh, one of the lowest in Wales, making it the ideal location for such a scheme, according to Welsh Conservatives.
Ms Davies added:
“To encourage Welsh language learning, and ensure non-traditional speakers and learners have more opportunities to test their skills, we need to create more safe spaces to speak Welsh badly.
“By including small bits of Welsh into everyday life, we can help grow the language from a grassroots level and help many more people reap the benefits of multi-lingualism. This must be at the heart of our nation's Welsh language strategy.
“Indeed, our Tipyn Bach scheme encourages traders and consumers to use Welsh every day, and will accredit those businesses who develop the Welsh language skills of staff, and customers.
“This Eisteddfod, Welsh Conservatives will be encouraging local community groups to explore implementing similar schemes locally, to lease new life into language learning at the grassroots level.”
Assembly Member for Monmouth, Nick Ramsay AM, added:
“It is a hugely proud moment for Monmouthshire to host the Eisteddfod this year.
“The number of Welsh speakers in the county has remained relatively static over a ten-year period, and schemes which give people an opportunity to practice basic Welsh would be a huge step forward.
“So many eyes will be on Monmouthshire this year with the Eisteddfod showcasing much of our nation’s unique heritage. This Assembly, the Welsh Government must do more to encourage community-led, grassroots campaigns which can increase the use of Welsh.”