Language Learning and Childcare Choice in Wales

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While there is increasing evidence that children who learn Welsh before they start formal education have higher levels of fluency, few parents choose Welsh-medium or bilingual early childhood education and care. This paper reports on the findings and policy implications of a mixed-method study that examined Welsh parents’ childcare choices and asked to what extent those choices are influenced by language. Using Bourdieusian theory it was found that attitudes and practices within the childcare field differ according to parent’s habitus and perceived capital value of the Welsh language. Where Welsh is widely spoken, both Welsh and non-Welsh speaking parents chose Welsh-medium early childhood services intuitively and in recognition of the extent to which bilingualism forms valuable social and cultural capital that is convertible to future economic capital. In non-Welsh speaking areas, without such intuition or recognition of the transferable value of language as redeemable capital, parents did not form the habitus that might dispose them to choose Welsh-medium or bilingual pre-school experiences. As a consequence, the supply of Welsh language provision does not develop in response to demand, limiting opportunities for bilingualism to take root in many areas. These findings are important in the context of Welsh Government’s policy target of a million Welsh speakers by 2050.

Keywords

  • Welsh language, bilingualism, childcare, early years
Original languageEnglish
JournalWales Journal of Education
Volume19
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017

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