Worst linguistic skills in Europe

This will probably be covered by a few blogs today.

“An EU study has reportedly found that Irish people have poorer linguistic skills than the citizens of any other member state.”

It doesn’t come as any real surprise does it?

“two-thirds of Irish people questioned as part of the research admitted they could only speak English”

Let’s face it, language teaching in Ireland has always been poor. How many of us achieve levels of fluency in any language other than English which would be on par with levels achieved in other European countries? Not nearly enough of us.
Ok, us learning a foreign language cannot be accurately compared to Europeans learning English. English is everywhere, it’s hard to avoid it. It’s the language of business, of movies, of computer games and of the mighty US. It’s a bridge language used by all non-English speaking nations to communicate with each other. It’s the foreign language to learn. The situation is therefore different in Ireland where we already speak the language. But that’s no reason to suck at languages. In this day and age I don’t believe we need any language other than English, we can manage with just that, but we should want to learn other languages.

”…few believed they should bother learning any other.”

I’m a firm believer in bi-/multilingualism. I believe it’s beneficial to speak many languages, what those languages are is not so important IMO, it’s just important to speak more than one. Learning more languages broadens your mind, it can introduce you to new cultures and new experiences and if you are lucky enough to learn a second or third language at a young age there’s the cognitive benefits, the improved creativity and problem-solving skills, self-confidence and improved ability in learning other languages.

“The reports said Ireland was currently the only EU country with no provision for teaching modern languages in primary schools.”

This is not important IMO. What IS important is that kids start learning a language at a young age and we are lucky in Ireland because we have a language that kids can learn which already has a ton of resources available … Irish. The Irish language is an untapped resource. Sure we teach it, but we teach it badly, without passion and without teaching our kids why the language is important. I firmly believe that if we use Irish correctly it can be of great benefit to us. If we can raise our kids bilingually (even sequentially, kids learn Irish in school after already picking up their first language) our kids will find it easier to learn other languages in secondary school and later on in life. The advantages of bilingualism are well documented (benefits of bilingualism) on the web and numerous studies have been done worldwide which highlight the benefits.
We have been let down by our education system and we are currently failing our kids by not using the language & resources which we already have available. Unfortunately I don’t see that changing any time soon.

Edit: As pointed out below Winds adds to the debate tackling some of the issues raised by the Irish Independent. I tend to avoid the Independent when it comes to such issues as their attitude to the Irish language vexes me.

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  1. You’re right, I have covered it. I’m a bit tired and ratty about it this morning though.

    I might add that there seems to be a more positive feeling about Irish across the younger generation (oh God that makes me sound so old); I don’t know if this is as a result of or in spite of modifications to the Irish language syllabus.

  2. I think it’s both … the syllabus has changed for the better, so I have heard; plus I think attitudes have changed over the years, the old stigma of Irish being a peasant language is fading, in my own humble opinion.

  3. jaysus, for f…k sake

  4. Ta for the contribution MSmurf.

  5. Our language is a treasure,we inherited. It behooves each one of us to find ways of using it every day, lest it gets forgotten in the dark and silent chest in the attic of modernity. use and pass it on . Our children deserve this priceless bequest.

  6. That’s better :)