Monday, January 01, 2007

Language skills?

The Irish language today becomes an official working language of the European Union. I agree that it should be an official language but I wonder how many European directives we really need translated into Irish. Most of them make no sense in English never mind Irish.

Last month the Irish Government also announced plans to draw up a new 20-year strategy to promote the Irish language. Having just spent 3 months travelling with Europeans and people from all over the world I was ashamed that I could not speak another language. 5 years of French, 1 year of German and 11 years of Irish and at the time I could not speak any of them beyond the standard answers to the standard questions in the Leaving Certificate oral examination. But it wasn't just me, no one in my class was fluent or any where near it. Now I can barely say "My name is Declan" and ask "Can you speak English?" in any language.

The Government really should be focusing on an ambition to make every schoolchild in Ireland bi-lingual, with a focus on a European language not a language spoken only in Ireland and somewhere in the basement of building full of politicians in Brussels. It is recognised that once a person speaks two languages it is easier for them to learn more languages and then they can learn Irish.

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