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18 April 2014
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Welsh for parents

pandoraPandora George, is a full-time mother who lives in Cardiff with her husband and two children.

"When my daughter started Welsh medium primary school last September I didn't speak a word of Welsh and, frankly, the whole situation terrified me. I was really worried I wouldnt be able to help her with her homework or talk to her teachers, let alone understand what was going on at the Christmas nativity.

I felt the Welsh were from Mars and I was from Venus when actually Im from Essex! I had a bit of an attitude problem, so in an effort to conquer it I enrolled at 'Welsh for Parents' classes and prepared to banish my fears with 2 hours a week of Pobol Y Cwm, or something.

The course, which runs over two years, is a really gentle introduction to the language - the idea is that you mirror in class what your child learns at school. In the early weeks we sang a lot of nursery rhymes, although our monotone mumblings of "Horsey Horsey" made me want to curl up and die. After the songs came The Lords Prayer with a gold star as a reward - not a place in heaven. But learning was hard, and by week four I was beginning to panic.

To help me with the lessons, I stuck up pictures of Po's body parts in the kitchen and the National Anthem in the loo - I got some funny looks from visitors, I can tell you. My children just stared when I practised obviously unintelligible clapping songs and I was met with scorn when I brought home the Welsh instructions for making an Easter basket - or was that biscuit?

My daughter was putting all my efforts to shame. After one heart-tugging moment when she told us her "brain was too small to learn Welsh", she soaked up the language at break-neck speed. Shes really proud of her ability to speak another language and its given her confidence and a real sense of belonging.

Ironically, she refuses to let me practise on her: "No, mummy, you speak English", she says. But she relishes the opportunity to humiliate me by correcting my Welsh in a schoolmarmish fashion. Being patronised by my four year old isn't easy. At least I can turn to my small son, who loves learning with me. He can't talk yet so he has no choice."

If your child is not bilingual when she starts school she will need your help and for that you will need, at the very least, a picture dictionary. Try and give yourself a headstart. Learn the language well in advance of school so the little darlings can't get one over on you.

Pandora, Cardiff

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