The Welsh Government has set out an ambitious aim that 1 million people in Wales will be speaking Welsh by 2050. With Welsh Medium Schools and universities in Wales now being obliged by law to deliver their curriculum in English AND in Welsh equally, young people with specific learning differences could experience even more barriers to learning. Assistive technology providers historically have avoided providing text-to-speech products in Welsh citing that there is not a significant demand, but this is changing. One particular provider has taken the step to help Welsh young people with specific learning difficulties level the playing field by incorporating Welsh within their already popular text-to-speech software.
The Welsh Government enacted the Welsh Language Act 2011 which mandated that all public services in Wales must treat the Welsh language equally with that of the English language.
The Welsh Government states their ambition in the publication “Cymraeg 2050 A million Welsh speakers”:
“Our vision is to secure favourable circumstances throughout the country that support language acquisition and use of Welsh language skills. We want to see an increase in language transmission in the family, early introduction of Welsh to every child, an education system that provides Welsh language skills for all, and a greater appreciation of Welsh language skills in the workplace. At the same time, we are committed to supporting people to use Welsh socially, at work, and when accessing services.”
The publication goes on to say this about the Welsh language and education:
“All schools in Wales will be required to introduce the language continuum to all learners over time, and embed the acquisition of Welsh language skills across the curriculum. Through this, we aim to ensure that by 2050 at least 70 percent of all learners develop their Welsh language skills and are able to use the language with confidence in all aspects of their lives by the time they leave school.”
A great idea, but what about children who have language learning difficulties?
Preserving the Welsh language is a great idea, after all, it is part of the heritage of Wales and richly contributes to diversity in the UK as a whole but not everyone finds learning languages an easy process. This very topic is an ongoing discussion in Wales. The think tank, IWA, have expressed concerns about the gap in Welsh language learning for children who are learning Welsh in school but who then go home to an English-speaking home. They argue that this group of children are more likely to achieve lower attainment within a Welsh-speaking curriculum.
There have also been discussions about whether young people with Special Needs including dyslexia should be learning Welsh on a compulsory basis. The Welsh Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Education in 2018, Kirsty Williams, said that the study of Welsh remains a key element in the curriculum in Wales to age 16 and there were no plans to change this position. She said that there should be ample opportunities for all learners to develop their core skills while learning Welsh, and learning Welsh should broaden rather than narrow the curriculum.
Key challenges with studying within the Welsh Education System.
For a young person with dyslexia, the challenges of learning will be similar in Wales to that of the rest of the UK, however, in England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, the curriculum is delivered in English with some subjects being MFL subjects (Modern Foreign Languages). In Wales, this is still the same, however, there is a compulsory requirement to not only learn Welsh but in Welsh Medium schools, a requirement to learn the curriculum in Welsh as well. If a young person comes from a Welsh-speaking family it may be that flipping between English and Welsh at least verbally will not be too daunting, but if a young person in Wales comes from an English-speaking family then they may be required to have to learn another language just to be able to attain at a satisfactory level within Welsh Medium Schools.
How can Text-to-Speech technology help with these challenges?
The British Dyslexia Association’s New Technologies Committee website says the following about Text to Speech technology:
“Text to Speech (TTS) software speaks the text on the computer screen using a generated voice. TTS is one of the most powerful technologies for help with reading or writing, particularly if you:
read slowly or with difficulty;
find it difficult to concentrate when reading;
want feedback when writing;
want help with spotting errors when proof-reading
have visual stress when reading paper or a screen;
benefit from the multisensory experience of seeing and hearing.”
Whether one is studying in English or any language, let alone Welsh, text-to-speech technology is useful companion technology for learners who struggle with language and learning. It provides extra ways of interacting with, proofing, and accessing text.
But what about Welsh?
Aventido is very aware of the lack of Welsh Text-to-Speech technology that supports Welsh-speaking or Welsh-learning students. Historically, Text-to-Speech providers have not provided technology that can be used by a student to learn or to learn in the Welsh language.
Announcing the availability of Welsh Text to Speech from TextAid.
With headquarters in the Nederlands, Readspeaker has developed TextAid, a useful text-to-speech app for internet browsers that makes it easy to access text anywhere on a PC, tablet, or smartphone. ReadSpeaker TextAid has been designed to help students build lifelong learning skills, build confidence and achieve academic success.
ReadSpeaker TextAid helps to:
increase self-confidence and performance
give independence to choose when, where & what to read
motivate reluctant readers to read more
students stay at peer level in all subjects
reduce SEND budgets.
It works in multiple languages that are easy to switch between and more recently it has added the Welsh voice to its list of languages.
Students who are learning Welsh or who are learning in Welsh can use the only text-to-speech product available to provide Welsh to reduce barriers to learning and become more confident with interacting with Welsh literacy and language.
Want to know more about how to use text-to-speech in the Welsh language? Join Mary at one of her ReadSpeaker TextAid webinars or contact her for a 1-2-1 demonstration.