WE’RE A NATION that loves to talk, but only in our own languages it seems.
This chart shows how we compare to other European countries when it come to speaking a foreign language.
Almost three quarters of Irish people cannot speak a foreign language. This compares to just 1.1% in Luxembourg, 21.5% in Germany and 35.1% in the UK.
Lorna Carson, assistant professor in applied linguistics, told TheJournal.ie that learning Irish has an impact on these figures.
“Our pupils do have a ‘second’ language but it isn’t described as a ‘foreign’ language,” she explained.
In Irish-speaking schools, English is also learned as a second language, but again this is not counted in Eurostat figures.
“The suspension of the Modern Languages in Primary School Initiative also has an impact on language outcomes,” Carson said. The initiative was abolished in the 2011 budget announcement, with immediate effect.
The scheme had supported modern languages in more than 550 schools across the country, providing training, resources and other supports to enable schools to facilitate the early learning of foreign languages.
In response to a recent parliamentary question, Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan said a new integrated primary languages curriculum is currently being developed, which includes English and Irish.
The idea of the new curriculum is to ensure that language skills are transferred effectively from one language to the other, whether that is through English or Irish. Such transferable skills will assist students in learning a third language in their second level education.
“I believe that the language skills achieved through their primary education will enable our young learners to more easily take on additional languages when they enter second level education. There are many language options available for them both at junior cycle and even more at senior cycle,” she added.