Foreign language speakers to be hired for classrooms

Overseas language assistants to be recruited to support teaching and linguistic learning

“Foreign language assistants” will be provided to schools to support the teaching and learning of languages such as Spanish, German, French and Italian. File photograph: Getty Images

“Foreign language assistants” will be provided to schools to support the teaching and learning of languages such as Spanish, German, French and Italian. File photograph: Getty Images

 

Dozens of native speakers of foreign languages are to be hired to work in school classrooms to help boost the teaching of languages.

These “foreign language assistants” will be provided to schools to support the teaching and learning of languages such as Spanish, German, French and Italian.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton has announced a 25 per cent increase in the number of these assistants, bringing the total number available to schools from this September to 140.

He said the move would help ensure Ireland is well prepared for the challenges that lie ahead such as Brexit and the increasing importance globally of non-English speaking countries.

Once the UK leaves the European Union, Ireland will be one of only two English-speaking countries in the Union.

“If we want to have the best education and training service in Europe by 2026, we must make the teaching and learning of foreign languages a key priority,” he said.

“Brexit and the increasing importance of non-English speaking countries globally, mean that English-speaking countries such as our own, will need to put a new-found importance on foreign languages in order to excel in the modern world.”

The scheme is designed to assist students enrolled in participating schools to appreciate a foreign language as a living language and not just a “school language”.

The idea is native speakers can help students to improve their fluency as well as give them a better understanding of the way of life and customs of the foreign country.

The scheme currently allows secondary schools to apply to host a native speaker of French, German, Spanish or Italian from October 1st to May 31st each year.

Assistants are paid a monthly allowance and are normally timetabled for 12 hours per week over four days.

The Government has committed to doubling the number of foreign language assistants available to schools by 2026 under their foreign languages strategy, launched last year by Mr Bruton.

Its foreign languages strategy commits to encouraging more schools to take part in the scheme and to seek to expand the range of languages to which the scheme will apply.

Mr Bruton has strongly encouraged schools who are not currently participating in the scheme to consider applying for an assistant in the future.