Developing Welsh Language in Psychology

As a Psychology department proudly part of a Welsh university in the capital of Wales, we have wanted to reflect the language heritage of many of our students for a number of years.  We have translated student work, assessments and all sorts of things, but without the take up that we really desired.  It was fairly obvious what was missing, staff who were confident enough to work and teach through Welsh.  In the last two years, we have made staff appointments that have enabled us to start to build what we wanted.  In the first year, we now have tutorials and seminars in Welsh, which help students work in and think in two languages.  We offer service learning placements in Welsh in both the second and third years, offering students the chance to work in the community with Welsh speakers.

The addition of Welsh language opportunities strengthens and enables closer links with communities across Wales, and adds to the diversity and vibrancy of Psychology at Cardiff Met.  In the following piece, our colleague Dr Mirain Rhys, talks about Welsh language, her role and how she is working to build more Welsh language content into our curriculum.

Welsh Psychology at Cardiff Metropolitan

It always surprises me that sometimes I have to explain that I come from a home where only Welsh is spoken, and that English is my second language. I was raised in a town where over 70% of the population are fluent in Welsh.  I was educated solely through the medium of Welsh until I was 18.  I speak Welsh every day and I take pride explaining that I am from a minority language background, and that my passion for our country’s language maintenance and revitalisation led me to my career.

And it’s not just me! Almost a quarter of the population of Wales are educated through the medium of Welsh. They learn subject terminology and are instructed through the language and by the time they finish compulsory education, each individual should be bilingual.  After students finish school, education becomes a choice. There are many choices to make of course, and some will find themselves deciding on and applying to a University. In Wales, another choice is beginning to gain momentum – do you study a degree through the medium of Welsh or not?

 

The Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol (Welsh national college) is an organisation that works across all Welsh Universities. Its main aim is to provide Welsh medium higher education in a variety of subjects. There have been various success stories, and students across Wales are now able to study part or all of their arts, sciences, social sciences or health degree through the medium of Welsh.  It makes a lot of sense to continue studying in the language that most of your education was conducted in. You are already aware of the terminology involved and will most probably be a competent user of said terminology in English as well through your degree studies. Bilingualism serves you well as a graduate in an ever-competitive labour market. Many industries need Welsh speaking employees to carry out their business, and this is especially true of Health Sciences graduates.  Psychology is an important part of health sciences.  Imagine wanting to talk to someone about difficult things in your life, but having to do so using words and terms you don’t feel as comfortable with.

Mirain at the Eistedffod ready to talk about myths about psychology

I have now been a member of staff at the department of Applied Psychology for just over a year. One remit of my position as a Welsh speaking Psychology lecturer is to support students who have completed most of their education through Welsh and are now transitioning to a very different linguistic experience.  

This year, we have begun to provide Welsh medium provision. The aim is to pave the way for those students who might feel that going from being educated at school or college in one language to being educated at degree level though another, as well as all the other anxieties that come with starting at Uni, is overwhelming.First year students are offered a bilingual tutorial where their study skills are developed to aide with their content lectures. Students are provided with the same English medium material as the other groups, but we have discussions in Welsh which engages their translanguaging skills, one of the many benefits of speaking more than one language!

 

Our aim for the future is to continue to work closely with the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol to develop credited modules which will be available through the medium of Welsh. I am currently researching the feasibility of developing Welsh medium provision for the whole school with the aim of providing Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol with insightful data on the challenges, and the opportunities, of incorporating the Welsh language into many willing departments. What we’re doing within the Psychology department will help with these developments and there will be more blog posts to follow on these exciting developments.

Of course, not all students can speak Welsh, and not all that can want to use it within their education. But the element of choice which is vitally important in every minority language situation will be incorporated further into Psychology at Cardiff Metropolitan University so that each student can continue their educational journey through either of Wales’ official languages.

In the summer of 2017, Mirain attended the Eisteddfod with colleagues from Psychology, and was caught on camera by S4C:

Mirain on S4C at the Eisteddfod

I am very pleased with the way that we are outwardly supporting Welsh now, and this can be seen reflected in comments from our colleague Dr Delyth James:

I joined the Applied Psychology Department at Cardiff Metropolitan University in 2015, having worked at Cardiff University for over ten years. There at the School of Pharmacy, I developed the Welsh language provision across all 4-years of the Pharmacy Degree plus postgraduate programmes, focusing mainly on developing pharmacy students’ and practitioners’ communication and consultation skills in Welsh (or bilingually).

When I joined Cardiff Met Uni, I was delighted to find a welcoming and supportive environment to continue with this work and expanding Welsh language provision to other healthcare professionals and psychology students. We work closely with colleagues across other Universities in Wales and the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol. For example, Mirain and I recently delivered a Welsh language workshop for Medical and Pharmacy students at Cardiff University on the topic of ‘Addiction’.  

I’m sure Mirain and Dan would agree with me that there is a real buzz and sense of enthusiasm in the University for nurturing and using our Welsh language skills on a day to day basis in the workplace and in preparation for students’ employment opportunities in Wales after they graduate. 

There is a lot of enthusiasm for supporting and encouraging all our students to develop skills for the future, and we take pride in the excellent work students do with all our placement partners.  We want to provide students with the necessary skills for the future, and one way we can do that is in recognising the importance of language in engaging with the communities around us.  The Welsh initiatives we have started enrich our department, and have broad consequences for us all beyond are everyday work.  I look forward to showcasing more of the language and placement work of the department!

 

 

 

 

 

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