Academics, policy makers, politicians and language campaigners from two of the six Celtic countries were among the speakers at a conference in Brussels last week (6th October 2011) about the importance of early year’s education in the development of minority languages.
The Multilingual Early Language Transmission (MELT) conference highlighted the important work being undertaken in the preschool level of education among four different language communities throughout Europe. Language organisations in Brittany and Wales have been working closely partners in Friesland and Finland to develop to raise awareness of multilingualism and to develop knowledge of the benefits of a multilingual education among parents/carers and practitioner’s working with children within the target language communities. The project was specifically interested in the regional and minorities language’s (RML) that were spoken in these areas, like Breton and Welsh.
The partner organisations involved in the MELT project from Brittany and Wales included Divskouarn and the Region Bretagne/Breton Regional Council from Brittany and Bwrdd Yr Iaith Gymraeg/Welsh Language Board from Wales. The General Secretary of the League, Rhisiart Tal-e-bot also participated in the conference, where he shared his experience of developing the Cornish language among preschool age children and practitioners in Cornwall. The project started from the premise that the early years of education are crucial in the acquisition and development of a minority language.
At the conference a number of language experts and practitioners presented their research and shared best practice of language acquisition within the early years, including Professor Annick De Houwer (European Research Network for Bilingual Studies), Professor Gunilla Holm (University of Helsinki) and Rita Jones (Deputy Chief Executive of Mudiad Meithrin). Other speakers at the conference included Member of the European Parliament Kinga Gal, Culture Minister (Netherlands) Jannewietske der Vries and senior researcher at the Fryske Academy, Dr Alex Riemersma.
Among the materials produced by the Melt project included a research paper of its work over the last two years, a guide for earl year’s practitioners and a booklet promoting the benefits of multilingualism to parents. Some of the recommendations and challenges that the project highlighted included the right of every child to become literate in their home language, that parents/carers should be made aware that a bilingual and/or a multilingual upbringing can foster a child’s cognitive development, that training should be made available for practitioners to develop their knowledge of and skills within language learning and an increase of participation of preschool education for children.
Rhisiart Tal-e-bot said that the conference provided a useful opportunity to meet up with practitioners and researchers to share best practice. Mr Tal-e-bot is helping to develop closer links between preschools in Brittany and Cornwall and is currently working on a project to further Cornish language provision in English language preschools in Cornwall over the next year.
For comment or clarification on this news item in the first instance contact:
Rhisiart Tal-e-bot, General Secretary, Celtic League:
Tel: 0044 (0)1209 319912
M: 0044 (0)7787318666
The General Secretary will determine the appropriate branch or General Council Officer to respond to your query.
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