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Ukrainian refugee children learn Welsh in 11 weeks

2023-06-08 03:31:46 [news] source:Al Jazeera

A group of Ukrainian children have been learning Welsh to help settle into life in the country.

More than 1,000 miles away from home they have been welcomed with open arms into their communities on Anglesey.

After 11 weeks, Natalia, nine, is almost fluent. She comes from Odesa, a city that has borne the brunt of some of the most fierce fighting, and she said she loves Welsh.

Her and her friends' grasp of the language has been called "astounding".

Sofiia, Natalia and Danylo have all been attending a specialist Welsh immersion unit at Ysgol Moelfre every day since September.

Eight-year-old Sofiia from Kryvyi Rih, which is also President Volodymyr Zelensky's hometown, said she enjoyed writing, reading and singing in Welsh.

Natalia said: "I'm learning about animals, clothing, weather, eating and fruit, I want to learn Welsh because it helps me."

Danylo, 11, is from Bronytsia in the Lviv region and said he enjoyed speaking to his friends in Welsh.

Anglesey has a language policy that means all the county's primary schools teach in Welsh and all pupils are fully bilingual by 11.

The island has two specialist Welsh immersion units to fast track pupils coming from outside Wales.

Once the 12-week course is completed, the children return to their primary schools and can continue their education.

Eira Owen, one of the unit's teachers, said it was very important that the children could see the different language and culture on Anglesey.

"The way we immerse the children, it's a very effective way of teaching and helps the children to become fluent.

"It happens in a way they don't realise, by playing games, acting, rapping and singing," she said.

She said the children had "thrown themselves into all the experiences".

Nesta Davies, lead teacher of the language centres of Anglesey, said the children's parents had been very supportive.

"The families have been so happy, we have texts on the phone saying how well the children have been doing."

But Ms Davies said Anglesey was "lucky" to have the language centres and she hoped to be able to work with others across Wales in future.

The Welsh government said it was continuing to invest in the Welsh language "including a £6.6m commitment to immersion provision until the end of this Senedd term".

(editor-in-charge:Press center2)

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