I am Rebecca Gould, Head of Arts at the British Council in Wales. Before joining the British Council, I was a theatre director and during this time I worked for ten years for the Royal Shakespeare Company. Here I spent much of my time enthusing teachers and students across the UK, about the language, the many worlds and the contemporary relevance of our house playwright, William Shakespeare.

My experience here showed me that active – ‘on your feet’ – theatre-based approaches were the best way for students to develop an understanding and enjoyment of the plays, and particularly of the language. The workshops I delivered encouraged speaking out loud, regardless of your ability in English (I worked with many learners for whom English wasn’t their first language). The workshops were designed to encourage learners to taste and ‘chew’ on Shakespeare’s words, to see how they sounded in their own voices, and in doing so to place them in their minds and bodies. I asked learners to use their imaginations, and to walk in the shoes of the characters they created. This usually gave the learners the confidence to think of Shakespeare’s language as belonging to them, as something to be relished, enjoyed, and shared.

This is where Cerdd Iaith comes in! Cerdd Iaith is a British Council resource for teaching languages in primary schools. Cerdd Iaith, which roughly translates as Music Language or the Language of Music, is a free online teaching resource full of activities and original songs, for primary teachers to use in their language lessons. The online resource is accompanied by a teacher training programme, led by British Council Wales, that can either take place online or in person. The entire resource has been developed by linguists, musicians, and drama practitioners, working closely with primary school teachers in Wales, and aims to build and enhance teachers’ skills to support delivery of the Languages, Literacy and Communication Area of Learning of the new Curriculum for Wales.

Cerdd Iaith is already helping primary school learners and their teachers to learn Spanish, Welsh, and German, (French will be added to the programme in the spring).

In my next blog, I’ll tell you a little about why we thought it was important to create a new resource like this!!