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Recent National and International Media Coverage of Language Issues

  • Irish Times, 10.04.12 - Trilingual kids who will never be tongue-tied - "For English speakers in particular, it’s easy to be lazy when it comes to learning other languages, and, as any mature student knows, it is hard work, so if your children have the opportunity to imbibe other languages when they are young my advice is take advantage of their good fortune. After all: Tús maith leath na hoibre. It will broaden their minds, expand their horizons and provide a lifetime of pleasure".
  • Irish Independent, 10.04.12 - Cost of scrapping foreign languages hits home - "...A lack of language skills could have cost Britain many times over the supposed savings that Labour tried to make. It just shows how short-sighted that policy was."
  • Irish Times, 03.04.12 - Chatterbox - What's the talk of education - (several references to primary languages) - "...Ireland, unlike all other EU nations, does not mandate the study of a foreign language at any level of education. Most primary schools do not teach a foreign language at all".
  • Irish Times, 31.03.12 - Paypal nuncio - (Interview with Head of Paypal in Ireland, Louise Phelan) - “Of course we should continue to teach the Irish language but there should be teaching of a second language at primary level, when children are sponges and able to learn it".
  • Meath Chronicle, 21.03.12 - Editorial - Coherent language strategy needed in schools - "... the recent budget decision to abolish the Modern Languages in Primary Schools Initiative (MLPSI) needs to be revisited. Not only has it delivered value for money and helped children across the country achieve valuable learning outcomes, but this retrograde step has come at a time when there is real momentum behind the languages agenda".
  • New York Times, 17.03.12 - The Benefits of Bilingualism - "SPEAKING two languages rather than just one has obvious practical benefits in an increasingly globalized world. But in recent years, scientists have begun to show that the advantages of bilingualism are even more fundamental than being able to converse with a wider range of people. Being bilingual, it turns out, makes you smarter".
  • Tuam Herald, 14.03.12 - Abolition of the Modern Languages in Primary Schools scheme deplorable -"FIANNA Fáil TD for Galway East, Micheál Kitt, says the decision to abolish the Modern Languages in Primary Schools initiative is deplorable and needs to be reversed. During a Dáíl debate on the topic, Deputy Kitt claimed that the Minister for Education and Skills failed to see the link between the initiative and the literacy and numeracy scheme".
  • Irish Times, 06.03.12 - Modern languages at primary level are crucial - "Sustaining early modern language learning will ensure that our children have an interest in and a love of languages. As Ireland is about to assume the presidency of the European Union, we should be mindful of that if our children are to compete in an increasingly global marketplace, they should be offered the same learning opportunities as their counterparts in other European countries".
  • Skills Ireland, 28.02.12 - Expert Group on Future Skills Needs - " The analysis of the vacancy data highlights the importance of foreign languages and relevant work experience as an integral part of the skills portfolio of candidates across a range of occupational groups. To download the report in full, click here.
  • Sunday Independent, 26.02.12 - Ireland can come top of the class again - "...more emphasis on literacy and numeracy at primary and secondary level are long-overdue. The same goes for science and foreign languages, where a good start can be made at primary level".
  • Irish Independent, 22.02.12 - Vote of confidence to clear way for thousands more jobs - "Ms Phelan carried out a thorough analysis of the linguistic abilities of potential candidates for the jobs based in the north-east region from Dublin to the North. 'I did a very in-depth analysis on the language opportunities that are in Dundalk. That was the most important thing in terms of clinching the investment,' she added. While some recruitment may be needed abroad, she found that speakers of the majority of languages the company needed -- including French, German, Spanish and Dutch -- could be found in this region".
  • Dublin City FM, 12.02.12 - MLPSI National Coordinator is interviewed by Barry Hennessy for the Inside Education programme.
  • Irish Independent, 08.02.12 - Prof. Josef van Genabith, Director of CNGL - In My Opinion: Teaching languages at primary level will be a key to our economic future - "Despite our international outlook, just 34pc of Irish citizens know a language other than their mother tongue -- the lowest proportion in the EU. Clearly, there is significant scope for improvement. By supporting the teaching of modern languages in 550 primary schools, the MLPSI is helping to promote multilingualism and multi-ethnicity. Promoting these qualities will contribute to the country's future success".
  • Irish Times, 02.02.12 - Schools may face litigation over poor guidance for pupils - "The committee was also told that cuts to a modern language programme in primary schools ran counter to stated Government policy. Tanya Flanagan, national co-ordinator of the Modern Languages in Primary Schools Initiative, said the cost-effective programme had given 27,000 pupils in more than 500 schools the opportunity to learn a modern language. The cutback meant that the only children with modern languages would be those from multi-lingual families and those who could afford private tuition".
  • eGovmonitor, 01.02.12 - Ireland Is Recognised As A Leader In The Localisation And Global Services Sector But We Need To Do More – "Minister Sherlock supports call for more skilled graduates in language and technology to maintain Ireland’s world leadership position in multi-billion euro localisation sector".
  • Sinn Fein website, 01.02.12 - Ending of Modern Languages Initiative a serious blow: Deputy Seán Crowe - “It is essential that a review of the modern language provision be undertaken which would accurately inform the Minister for Education and Skills of the benefits of early modern language learning to students and as well projected industry needs and help inform future curriculum reform. A National Strategy for Primary Modern Languages needs to be developed which would foresee the opportunity to learn a modern language being extended to all children by 2020. In the interim, the MLSPI should be allowed continue to support teachers and schools who wish to offer this learning opportunity to their pupils.”
  • INTOuch, Jan./Feb.12 - Letter of the Month - Modern Languages Initiative - "The practice of modern language teaching and learning is one that needs further development rather than withdrawal if we are to place to ourselves in a position to compete internationally in future years".
  • Newstalk, 28.01.12 - Global Village - Interview with Dr. Deirdre Kirwan, Principal of Scoil Bhride, Blanchardstown and Tanya Flanagan, MLPSI (go to Part 1, from 21mins. on).
  • Kilkenny People, 27.01.12 - Four Kilkenny schools lose language funding - “If we want children to have a European language, the earlier we start the better.”
  • Irish Times, 17.01.12 - Speaking in tongues - "One of the issues that keeps coming up is languages. Many employers seem to be looking for graduates with languages and I’m starting to regret that I did not take business with a language".
  • Guardian (UK), 29.11.11 - Labour backs English baccalaureate to boost languages study - "The English baccalaureate, introduced in school league tables this year, recognises pupils who have achieved a C or better in English, maths, history or geography, sciences and a language. Twigg – who said he regretted having given up Spanish when he was 14 – said Labour should have put foreign languages on the primary school timetable before scrapping the requirement for older children".
  • Irish Times, 25.11.11 - Educating Irish people to live and work success - Ed Walsh - "..employers in such key enterprises as Google find it necessary to look abroad for the talents they require, such as mastery of two or three modern European languages...Secularise and reform the education of primary teachers: more civics, science, maths and modern languages".
  • Irish Independent, 20.11.11, Business Section - We must learn to talk the talk for boost in trading - "Given that the majority of the global population doesn't speak English, language skills are key to unlocking our export potential, says Google boss John Herlihy....There's nothing like a crisis to focus our minds on improvements. We now have the opportunity to decide what is needed to grow our economy sustainably. In the short term, we need to retain the National University of Ireland requirement for one modern language for admission to its constituent universities. In the medium term we need to: (a) roll out the Modern Languages in Primary Schools Initiative to all schools.."
  • The Grapevine (West Cork & South Kerry), November 2011 - Viva Italia at Inchiclough - Inchiclough NS has won an award for the Italian Art Competition organised by the MLPSI.
  • Irish Independent, 09.11.11 - Tackling our insecurities about languages is vital to the economy - Don Morgan - "In terms of foreign languages, this task is massive: having consistently ignored complaints from experts and educators, having whistled past the sprawling graveyard of domestic policy documents and directives from the EU, will the Government finally make modern foreign languages a priority and source of pride in Ireland's schools?"
  • Irish Independent, 09.11.11 - Letters to the Editor - Our master's voice - "Further to the Government's plans to 'improve' the education system by abolishing the Junior Cert, a far more practical move would be the introduction of compulsory French and German in our primary schools."
  • Irish Times, 08.11.11 - Irish students lost in translation - Áine Kerr - "With so much focus directed at promoting science and maths in recent years, the area of language skills has struggled to command the same attention. At the heart of the complacency is a misconception that globalisation simply means that everyone need only speak English. In reality, however, languages enable someone to research their market, understand the local factors, interpret the moves of competitors and appreciate the cultural nuances in a country. The European Council’s Language Policy Division recently laid out in stark terms for Ireland that the main challenge for this country is to move away from “an official but lame bilingualism” and become a truly multilingual society. Two weeks ago, the newly published National Languages Strategy bluntly stated that Ireland is the only country in Europe, other than Scotland, where a foreign language is not compulsory at any stage of the mainstream educational curriculum".
  • Irish Times, 01.11.11 - Chatterbox - The deficit in foreign language skills - "I have been saying this for years, foreign languages need to be taught in primary schools, with a focus on an actual ability to converse in the language and people will have no problem finding a job. I work for a multinational and would be on big bucks if I had a second language. – Sarah Murphy, thejournal.ie" ...
  • Irish Times, 18.10.11 - Letters to the Editor - Learning Languages - " Languages are obviously a vital practical tool. But not only are they a means of communicating thoughts and ideas, they also forge friendships, economic relationships and cultural ties".
  • Irish Times, 15.10.11, Editorial - Learning Languages - "Ireland’s abysmal record is highlighted in a recent important Royal Irish Academy report, The National Languages Strategy, which notes that the Republic is the only EU country, bar one, where a foreign language is not compulsory at any stage in the main education curriculum....The report, which argues that the linguistic underperformance is affecting economic competitiveness, makes a strong and welcome case for increased language teaching to children as young as four, an increase in language teacher numbers at all levels and support for language-assistant programmes, an impostion of compulsory foreign language requirements in the curriculum and in third level access, and use of the Transition year to explore other languages".
  • Argus (UK), 11.10.11 - Brighton one step closer to having country's first fully-state-funded bilingual school - "Campaigners last night moved a step closer to saying “Hola” to one of the first fully-state-funded bilingual schools in the country. Education secretary Michael Gove revealed the Brighton Bilingual Primary School (BBPS) has been approved for the next stage of the Government’s new free school programme."
  • Sunday Times, 09.10.11 - Languages are the key to success - "Our pupils must learn to speak in more than their mother tongues" (no link available).
  • Irish Times, 06.10.11 - Call to prioritise languages in schools - "The National Languages Strategy document, compiled by the Royal Irish Academy’s committee for modern language, literary and culture studies, pointed out that the Republic was the only country in Europe, with the exception of Scotland, where a foreign language was not compulsory at any stage in the main education curriculum... It said an increased emphasis on language learning for children as young as four would strengthen creativity, empathy and problem-solving skills".
  • Irish Independent, 06.10.11 - Graduates 'must learn languages to compete' - "The report calls for a national framework for language teaching and learning, including ensuring that all primary pupils learn a foreign language".
  • Irish Examiner, 06.10.11 - Languages at primary level ‘key to job prospects’ - IRISH children’s long-term job prospects may be hindered if more than five-out-of-six primary schools do not teach modern languages, top third level educators have warned. The extension of the Modern Languages in Primary Schools programme, piloted since 1998 but still only involving around 520 of the country’s 3,300 primary schools, is one of the key recommendations in the National Languages Strategy published by the Royal Irish Academy (RIA).
  • Guardian (UK), 30.09.11 - Michael Gove proposes teaching foreign languages from age five - "Learning a foreign language, and the culture that goes with it, is one of the most useful things we can do to broaden the empathy and imaginative sympathy and cultural outlook of children."
  • RTE Six One News - 27.09.11 - MLPSI, primary modern language learning and St. Philip's SNS, Clonsilla feature in an excellent feature by RTE's Education and Science correspondent, Emma O'Kelly (skip to about 32mins 50 secs.).
  • IBEC, 26.09.11 - Integrated and coherent language education policy needed - "On the tenth anniversary of the European Day of languages today, IBEC, the group that represents Irish business, called on the Department of Education and Skills to introduce a national language policy to provide an integrated and coherent approach to language education".
  • Irish Examiner, 26.09.11 - IBEC calls for integrated language education policy - IBEC is calling on Education Minister Ruairí Quinn to look at existing language policy, to work towards intergrated language education across the curriculum, and to come up with a different approach to teaching languages.
  • Independent (UK), 20.09.11 - Alan Jones - Language teaching 'deplorable' - "To learn a language is to enter beneath the surface of a people, their history and their culture, and it enables us to begin to understand why the world looks as it does from their perspective".
  • Irish Times, 14.09.11 - Sean Flynn - Junior Cert results published - "High failure rates in foreign languages and maths are the main features of the Junior Cert results published this morning. Close to 12 per cent of students failed ordinary level French, while failure rates were also high for ordinary level Spanish (8 per cent) and German (7.5 per cent)".
  • Irish Times, 14.09.11 - Sean Flynn - Teachers' pay in Republic among highest in world - "The (OECD) review may help to explain the relatively poor performance of Irish teens in international surveys on maths, science and foreign languages. In virtually every case the amount of time devoted to these subjects is below the organisation average at primary and second level".
  • Irish Times, 07.09.11 - Sean Flynn - The case to better align students with college courses is compelling - "There is pressure to raise our game in relation to language proficiency, in which Irish school-leavers are ranked close to the bottom of European tables...."
  • Guardian, 31.08.11 - Jeevan Vasagar, Education Editor - Pupils switching to more traditional GCSE subjects, survey finds - "The number of pupils studying traditional GCSEs such as history, geography and languages is rising after years of decline, according to a survey of schools. The poll of nearly 700 secondary schools in England found an increase of 26% in numbers studying history this term, a similar increase for geography, and a 22% rise for languages".
  • Telegraph, 30.08.11 - Grame Paton - UK pupils 'worst in Europe for learning foreign languages' - "...(data from 2009) shows that the UK slumped to the foot of the table. It was joint bottom with Hungary and Ireland..."
  • Irish Times, 11.07.11 - Letters to the Editor - The importance of foreign languages - "...in a country that has become more multilingual over the past decade, and the better for it, any decision to end the foreign language requirement as well as rule out mandatory foreign languages at primary schools, would be all the more deplorable and would fly in the face of EU language policy".
  • Irish Independent, 16.06.11 - Katherine Donnelly - Only 5pc at third level able to speak two foreign languages - "Gerry O'Sullivan, of the Higher Education Authority, said: "It is more important than ever that our graduates have an understanding of European societies and languages...It makes them more attractive to employers, but also sensitive to cultural issues and different methods of learning....In a recent GradIreland survey, carried out by the careers services in the higher education colleges in Ireland, one-third of employers expressed concern about a shortage of foreign language skills, up from one in five last year".
  • Irish Times, 28.05.11 - Sean Flynn - Give me a crash course in . . . foreign languages in schools - "Why are we so bad at languages? There’s no mystery there. Most students in Ireland take up a foreign language for the first time when they enter secondary school at age 12 or 13; by this stage most of their counterparts in other EU countries are already well ahead – even fluent – in a second language. The lack of any oral component in Junior Cert foreign language exams compounds the problem. It should all begin much earlier, of course, at nursery or primary school. But just 15 per cent of primary-school children take a modern European language – and only in fifth and sixth classes".
  • Irish Times, 26.05.11 - Sean Flynn - Foreign language for college may be ended - "At present, modern European languages are taught in only about 15 per cent of primary schools – but only in fifth and sixth classes. Most students in Ireland take up a foreign language for the first time when they enter secondary school at age 12/13; by this stage most of their counterparts in the EU are already fluent in a second language".
  • Irish Times, 15.03.11 - Sean Flynn - How Quinn can make a difference - "By some estimates, over 30 per cent of all teaching time in primary schools is taken up by religion and Irish. Is this appropriate in an increasingly secular Ireland – and one where knowledge of a foreign language is so critical for employment".
  • Speak to the Future - The Speak to the Future campaign promotes the value of languages and language learning in the UK, and will raise the visibility of the issues with the public, the media, parliamentarians and policy-makers. It will make the case for a long-term commitment to achieving an improvement in the UK’s capacity in languages and a step change in language learning. The five-year campaign, launched in February 2011, is supported by languages, cultural and business organisations, who are convinced of the importance of language learning for the future of our society, our citizens and our economy.
    Objective 2 -
    A coherent experience of languages for all children in primary school
  • IBEC, February 2011 - Submission to the Department of Education and Skills, National Plan to Improve Literacy and Numeracy in Schools - "The Department’s Draft Plan also fails to explore the relationship between literacy in the school’s first language and other modern languages....All students should have a strong early foundation in the core subjects of mathematics, science, and literacy in two modern languages".
  • Irish Times, 25.01.11 - Dr. Ed Walsh - Finding the muscle to fix our failing education system - "School language policy needs revision....Resources should be reoriented towards improving the teaching of English and enriching the offering of continental and Asian languages and Irish studies..."
  • Irish Independent, 06.01.11 - Tina Leonard - Why we should say "Mais oui!" to foreign languages - "..there are economic implications to not speaking a foreign language".
  • Languages Today, Spring 2011 Issue - National language recovery programme needed (UK) - "Baroness Coussins, chair of the all-party parlimentary group on modern languages, has suggested that languages should be a priority subject for public investment and that a 'national languages recovery programme' is now needed".
  • Irish Times, 02.11.10 - Brian Hayes - No more Republic of average - "We need to introduce other European languages at a much earlier stage."
  • Italia Stampa, Nov. 2010 - Marcella Natale - L'Italia incontra l'Irlanda sui banchi di scuola.
  • Primary Times, Winter Issue - Ciao! Allo! Bonjour! - "Children who are exposed to, and learn foreign languages at an early age enhance their ability to reach high levels of cognitive development, showing a good degree of creativity and flexibility across a broad range of subjects".
  • European Commission, October 2010 - Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth - "...the world has become a multilingual village in which foreign language skills are the key to feeling at home everywhere... language skills will become indispensible in the near future...Every European citizen should learn two foreign languages from an early age, said the Commissioner.". Click here for more...
  • Irish Independent, 13.10.10 - Karin Fichtinger-Grohe - Why students learning German will help the economy - "In difficult economic circumstances each additional skill, such as a foreign language, is of added value".
  • Irish Times, 09.10.10 - Paul Gillespie - Circular labour mobility and language skills - "Irish workers' monolingualism means that they still have a long way to go to compete with other Europeans. "Everyone in Europe has English now, so it's no advantage....Studying another language with Irish at primary level might help reanimate that language..."
  • Irish Times, 05.10.10 - Martin Murphy - What we must do to move education into the fast lane - "...every student needs to have fluency in two international languages when leaving school".
  • Irish Independent, 29.09.10 - Kim Bielenberg - Why it's really time to mind our languages in schools - "Until the Government introduces a coherent language policy, Irish students are likely to lose out in the jobs market as companies look elsewhere for the skills that they require."
  • Irish Examiner, 25.09.10 - Ann Cahill - Ireland bottom of class in languages - IRELAND is bottom of the EU class when it comes to learning a foreign language, and the lack costs the economy billions of euro a year. A miniscule 3% of primary schoolchildren have language lessons compared with an average of 79% across the EU. ..
  • Irish Times, 25.09.10 - Arthur Beesley - Schools lag in teaching foreign languages - "Irish primary schools have Europe's lowest tuition levels."
  • Irish Independent, 25.09.10 - Sarah Collins - Pupils worst in EU for foreign languages - "Only 3pc of Irish primary schools students learn a foreign langugae, lagging well behind the EU average of 79pc"
  • Irish Times, 20.04.10 - Grainne Faller - Language gap is latest threat to jobs - "Ireland is the only European country where study of a foreign language is not compulsory at any stage of the education system....Meanwhile, there are pockets of positive activity around the country. Projects such as the Modern Languages in Primary Schools Initiative (MLPSI) which aims to introduce French, German, Italian and Spanish into the primary system, are vastly oversubscribed....The opportunities that open up in terms of travel and experience within the company are enormous if you have a language.”