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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: January 11, 2011 @ 11:00 am

    Irish language development

    Pól Ó Muirí

    Doctor John Walsh’s new book, Contests and Contexts: the Irish Language and Socio-Economic Development (Peter Lang) will be launched by Professor Peadar Kirby, Friday 28th January, at 6pm in Galway City Museum.

    • bren says:

      waste of time !… the chinese don’t talk irish but the indians or at least quite a large % of them do talk english so where would you be heading ?

    • Please, please, please take the compulsory element of teaching the Irish language out of education system and it will flourish. I had this debate with a series of extremely bright teenagers and adults from around the country and they made these very assertions. I was shocked to hear that if you are not successful in the Irish language or do not even select it; so many professions will be denied to you. I was assured by many of the young people that they will discontinue to speak the language when their formal education ceases (which is utterly tragic) due to the fact that the associate it with unpleasant memories of essentially learning the language under duress – it’s a notion of “learn it or else”. The dogmatic method of teaching the language will not work and will ultimately lead to its demise and the current methods of communicating and teaching are dogmatic. If you try and have this debate with any promoter of the language the come over extremely confrontational. We need to have faith in our people. We all love our culture and embrace it with every opportunity and we will embrace our language if it is presented properly to us. I have seen it work in other countries and it can and will work in ours. Regardless to what the experts’ say the language is dying and it is tragic to see the light of genius blink out.

    • Kevin Carroll says:

      Obviously both bren and paddy o reilly are blinded by their own negative attitudes towards the Irish Language and are more informed by these negative attitudes rather than facts. These facts are stated in a new survey by Ipsos/MRBI for Comhar na Muinteoirí Gaeilge entitled ‘Attitudes towards Irish in School’, where 61% of respondents are in favour of compulsory Irish up to the Leaving Cert, A majority of respondents – 41% – said that students should be required to study Irish at Leaving Cert level because it is our native tongue and 39% said the language is central to our culture and heritage.
      The age groups 15-24 and 25-34 were the most favourable towards compulsory Irish and those in the 55+ age group were the most negative. Maybe these men belong to a certain age group or maybe they are just out of step with their own generation of Irish people.

    • Shaun McShane says:

      While Irish is a compulsory subject for the Leaving Cert, it is not a required subject to pass the leaving certificate. It only restricts one, where it is considered by a university to be a required subject for a particular course. So, as such it is quite incorrect to say that due to compulsory Irish at Leaving Cert. “so many professions will be denied to” those who have not taken/passed it. The requirement for Irish is set by the universities and not by the Department of Education for the Leaving Cert.

      Reality is that when students study any discipline there is always some element that is compulsory and is an area of difficulty for them. Part of developing as a self-motivated learner is developing skills to deal with such areas. Learning is a discipline in itself, and requires self-mastery. The ability to apply oneself in situations that are given rather than chosen is essential to academic development.

      For example, it would be rather worrying if a student doctor decided, that because he/she had a dislike of maths, that they would omit all subjects having a mathematical component – all those incorrect dosages, inability to work out in space the position of tumours etc. frightening.

      I worked in a university for years, and it was quite evident to me that those who were obliged to take Latin as a compulsory matriculation subject had developed greater learning and verbal reasoning skills. They developed a keen sense of the lurking fallacies that permeate natural language discourse. For many in the sciences languages were not their forte. However in discussion with them, I was always impressed by how they found ultimately that the discipline they developed to learn this demanding and apparently irrelevant subject was a major benefit in their subsequent academic development and career.

      It was with concern that I noted a decline in these skills immediately prior to leaving academia. Students were becoming impatient and wanted to know the answers rather than to learn the skills by which to acquire them. They sought to avoid the difficult but necessary material that distinguishes those who have mastered their subject from those who have a mere passing acquaintance with it.

      The objective should not be to remove subjects, but to demand of students the desire to excel as students. Students will rise or fall to meet our expectations. From my experience of working with students from other countries the competition is great, and Ireland needs to improve its standards rather than seek to pander to the couch-potato level of initiative and discipline that is seeing western education go into decline.

      If Ireland is to succeed, we need to demand the levels sought in the highest achieving educational systems. I have met a Russian student who studied Irish in Russia over a mere two year period. She has had articles printed in the language and has spoken as Gaeilge on radio to a standard much greater than those required for the Leaving Cert. She is by no means exceptional. The approach to study amongst my Russian students was one of application and discipline – one that asked how to achieve something rather than how to avoid putting in effort to master a discipline. I have spoken to other students from Europe. They speak of having studied history in German, biology in French, while studying others in English – this without complaining of the demands which they perceived as perfectly reasonable. Furthermore, they are shocked at how short our primary schooldays are.
      This is the level we are competing with. It would serve us better to encourage our students to aspire to these levels rather than to pander to the natural desire to avoid the academic demands involved.

    • Ronan says:

      Paddy, could you give details of the other countries of where you have seen this work and perhaps elaborate on how the situations there and here in Ireland are comparable.

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