The National Centre for Learning Welsh and Mudiad Meithrin – the Welsh-medium early years specialists – are calling on families to share the special words they use when talking Welsh with young babies, in order to create a collection of Welsh ‘baby’ phrases and words, in what is a first for the language.
The official term for baby talk is ‘Parentese’. Elements of ‘parentese’ include slowing your tempo, a heightened pitch and exaggerated intonation, pauses to encourage response as well as repetition, gestures and words and phrases not normally used with older children or adults.
These words can vary from area to area and from family to family, but the aim is to create resources that will develop the skills and confidence of parents and carers who are learning Welsh and leaders of parent and baby groups such as Cymraeg i Blant, Clwb Cwtsh and Ti a Fi groups. The initiative is part of the National Centre’s ‘Welsh at Home’ scheme, which provides tailored courses and resources for parents and carers.
Dona Lewis is the Deputy Chief Executive of the National Centre for Learning Welsh, with responsibility for the scheme. She said, “This project – the first of its kind in the Welsh language – is a fantastic opportunity to collect all the Welsh ‘baby talk’ used by families across Wales and beyond. We will share this special vocabulary with parents and carers who are learning Welsh, along with workers in the Early Years Education and Care sector.”
Dr Gwenllian Lansdown Davies, Mudiad Meithrin's Chief Executive, said, “The language new parents speak to a baby is often based on instinct or what feels right. It is therefore important to give confidence to parents who want to speak Welsh with their babies and who see a new baby as an opportunity to introduce more Welsh to family life.
"We therefore want to gather as many words and phrases as we can, so that we have enough material to work with to create the resources.
"We want to emphasise there is no such thing as a ‘silly word’ - we want to hear them all! From the words and phrases used at mealtimes and bath time to those used at playtime and bedtime.”
Bangor University's Department of Educational Sciences is very interested in the project, and Professor Enlli Thomas, an expert in children language acquisition, has been involved from the start.
Professor Enlli Thomas said, "This is a very interesting project, that breaks new ground here in Wales and will be the first time anyone has attempted to create such a resource.
“It will be interesting to see the language variations from family to family and from area to area, and the potential impact on language transmission within families.”
You can contribute words on Mudiad Meithrin’s website and social media channels: www.meithrin.cymru/siaradbabi