In fact, as I haven't actually had to spend a huge amount of time working out what we're going to eat, my mind has been wandering to other matters. One in particular that
Last week, we got the letters confirming that Blue and Pink have places at the school we all wanted them to go to. It is a Welsh Medium school - which means that the business of the school, and the teaching are in Welsh. Everything. In Welsh. (Apart from the English lessons).
I won't lie. I am a little apprehensive. I look at Welsh written down, and I see - well what do I see? While my understanding of French allows me to look at several other languages - Spanish, Italian - and see patterns, may be hazard guesses, even in some cases work out, what's being said and respond - I see no pattern, no sense in Welsh at the moment. An excess of vowels and the likelihood that spitting will be involved, however involuntarily. I have picked up the odd word here and there (the word for 'microwave' is my favourite - 'popty ping' - the appropriateness just delights me - and if you don't believe me, plug it into google translate. The words - not the microwave...), a few pronounciation tips, but the overall rhythm of it, how it sits together, evade me completely.
There have been raised eyebrows amongst some of my friends & family about the Welshness of the kids schooling.
"What? ALL of it in Welsh?"
"Are there any English schools?"
We didn't have a huge amount of choice. Most of the schools in the area we are moving to are 'Welsh medium', and if not, they use significant amounts of Welsh in the teaching. It's not to say that English isn't spoken, and in my dealings with the schools and the Education Authority, English has been spoken, but in a few short weeks, the kids are going to be in an environment where, initially at least, they will not understand what is being spoken.
I have been reassured that they will be supported as they learn Welsh. They will spend time at a language centre, and I am confident that they will start to pick it up pretty quickly. In the grand scheme of things, I am also really pleased that they will get this opportuntiy, while they are young, to be immersed in another language, and exercise parts of their brain that wouldn't otherwise get exercised.
I will also try and learn - I can hardly expect them to do something I'm not prepared to do myself. The school runs classes for parents - so it's there for the taking. And I'd like to be able to help the kids at home.
I know some people will think - why bother? What IS the point. Welsh isn't spoken anywhere else.
I'm also sure I will make an idiot of myself asking for the wrong thing in shops, that sort of thing. Why bother when everyone speaks English?
Well, for me, it's about being part of the place I'm moving to. I can't stand the 'ex pat' attitude (anywhere - I'm not just talking Wales here) that there's no point learning the lingo cos the natives will speak English - it's just rude if you ask me. Although most people do speak English in the area we'll be living, Welsh is actually spoken a lot. When we've been there visiting, I've heard it around me in the street, in the shops. When I'm in France, I speak French, when I'm in Italy or Spain, I've at least tried to speak a bit of Italian or Spanish. We're going to Wales, to live in a Welsh speaking area - surely learning to speak the langauge (or as much of it as I can) is a courtesy.
Go onto forums about this, especially the parent forums that I've been on, and there are some fairly strident opinions about how all this teaching of Welsh is a waste of tax payers' money and how it could all be spent better on other things. I can see there is a point. Some areas of Wales are terribly deprived economically. There isn't much work, industry is dying. Why spend money getting people to speak a language that isn't used anywhere else? May be I'm naive and romantic, but surely knowing your roots and cultural heritage, having a sense of who you are is important too? Otherwise we just drift rootless. I am sure some will say "Oh well that's all right then, there's no work, but they have a sense of who they are. Wonderful." but I think that's a very short sighted approach. No, I don't think it will magically solve all the problems that Wales has, but if it contributes to a national confidence, well, then I think it's probably a good thing. And I do wonder if part of the English problem is that we don't have a real sense of who we are any more as a nationality. We don't feel confident, so we get scared and reactionary, and frightening things like UKIP happen.
And there's another thing that appeals to me, and it goes wider than language, to the whole standardisation (and dumbing down) of life that seems to be galloping on apace. The standardisation of the high street, of our leisure time, condemning us to live the same lives as everyone else, frightened of being different, of getting out of the box. I see the determination of the Welsh to revive the language and champion it as a living language rather than letting it die away, confined to academic tomes that hardly anyone reads, as a clear 2 fingers to the attempts to standardise life across the UK.
Just as the high streets in the towns I've visited in the area stay relatively full of independent retailers (hooray!), defying (although I fear for how long) the chains that clog up the English high streets with the same products in the same store layouts wherever you go (boo - no surprises), so it fills me with excitement that I will be hearing a different language on the streets (no doubt as I walk home with 2 kilos of tripe from my abortive trip to the butchers...).
I'd love to know what you think? What anyone thinks. And if you've been in this situation, how did your children cope with being immersed in another language? And whether you agree with me or not, wish us luck!
Diolch i chi am ddarllen...