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Schools Gather to Celebrate International Language Learning


British Council Cymru, BBC National Orchestra, and Chorus of Wales gathered last week at the BBC’s Hoddinott Hall in Cardiff with schools from across Wales to celebrate international language learning through Cerdd Iaith – that helps bring the world into the classroom though the music of language.

Hosted by Musical Artist Lily Beau, with a special keynote address from Poet, Professor Mererid Hopwood, the celebration was presented by British Council Cymru together with BBC National Orchestra & the Chorus of Wales, with performances from schools including: Sully Primary School, Myfenydd Voluntary Primary School, Bro Pedr School; and St David’ CIW Primary School.

Launched in 2016, Cerdd Iaith is a powerful resource that uses music and drama to help primary school children learn Welsh, English, Spanish, German and now French.Developed by British Council Wales through working closely with primary school teachers and Professor Mererid Hopwood, Cerdd Iaith is a key part of British Council Wales’s work in promoting and boosting the learning of languages, helping to foster international connection, knowledge and understanding.

The event kicked off with an intro from Musical Artist Lily Beau who spoke about her experience in languages and the importance of learning through creative approaches:

I was lucky enough to have theatre and performing in my life from a young age, it motivated me, made me more curious, and more confident. We learn differently through the arts and creativity, and we think this is why Cerdd Iaith works”.

 “It was fantastic to see the kids on stage today and to learn about how the teachers are using the Cerdd Iaith resources. The sessions are so much fun, and you can clearly see the kids learning at a rapid pace. A brilliant way to bring Welsh and international languages into the classroom”.  

100 pupils between the ages of seven and eleven then took to the stage – supported by the BBC’s National Orchestra of Wales, performing brand new songs and movement inspired by their Cerdd Iaith sessions at school. Lead by music director Tim Riley, they showcased their new-found language skills, really showing the importance of multi-lingual learning.

Tim Riley, Composer, and Music Director for the Cerdd Iaith programme works with classes across Wales, and conducted today’s performance:

“We’ve been working with schools, teachers and pupils over a number of weeks and today, it was fantastic for the children and a great opportunity to showcase their skills supported by the wonderful BBC orchestra and National Chorus of Wales. It really demonstrated how we help boost language learning through Cerdd Iaith.

“We’ve switched through languages, starting with the same songs in English and Welsh and expanding out to Spanish and German, exploring the differences and the many similarities. By adding in some funky dance moves and getting the children up and moving – we really showed how Cerdd Iaith helps with the learning process”.

Poet, Professor Mererid Hopwood gave a keynote address at today’s event, and spoke about multi-lingual learning: “The programme started with colleagues in schools in Carmarthenshire, and from the beginning our hope was to enable teachers across Wales gain confidence in leading their learners on a multilingual journey. Gathering today with the pupils, parents and teachers was a wonderful opportunity for everyone from different parts of Wales to come together to celebrate what they have learnt from listening to languages”.  

Sully Primary School had pupils performing at the event and have been using the Cerdd Iaith training resources since last year. They’ve seen a marked pick-up in interest for languages from the pupils.

Sully Primary, Head Teacher, Andrea Waddington said: “I am so proud of all our pupils taking part in today’s exciting event. It was a great celebration of the efforts of our pupils and teachers in boosting international languages and building global connections. Through engaging with Cerdd Iaith over the last year – we’ve seen a real love of languages blossom at the school, and we know this learning plays a huge part in widening horizons and helps pupils to be knowledgeable about and accepting of other cultures”. 

Year of Wales in France

British Council Cymru also announced that French has been added to the Cerdd Iaith training programme, and in a debut to further celebrate Welsh and Breton heritage during the year of Wales in France, musicians Lleuwen Steffan & Brieg Guervenopresented a debut performance of Lleuwen’s song Aderyn / Lapous.

Ruth Cocks, Director, British Council Wales saysWhat a fantastic way to celebrate Cerdd Iaith, a programme really at the heart of what the British Council does. We are passionate about people learning international languages because we recognise the importance in building friendships and understanding between cultures and we believe that young people having the ability to speak and understand international languages is essential to this. Cerdd Iaith really is unique as it brings Welsh, English and Modern Foreign Languages together through music and drama which is a fun and engaging way to spark interest in language learning.  

“We are also delighted to work with the Welsh Government on their ‘Wales in France’ Year which aims to develop and deepen the connections across our two countries in language, cultural events, and projects and therefore have recently developed the Cerdd Iaith materials in French to support this.

Today was a memorable occasion, and it was great to bring everyone together to celebrate international language learning”.