Trinity names winners of inaugural transition year language competition

Language ability one of the ‘biggest skills gaps in the Irish labour market,’ says organiser

More than 100 transition year groups around the country entered the competition organised by Trinity College Dublin. Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP via Getty

Transition year students from Tyrrelstown in Dublin and Kilfinane in County Limerick have been named the overall winners of the inaugural modern languages competition run by Trinity College Dublin to encourage more young people to study languages at third level.

Students from the Le Chéile secondary school and Scoil Pól were named on Thursday the joint overall winners of Trinity’s TY Modern Languages Prize which launched earlier this year.

More than 100 transition year groups around the country entered the competition which called on students to answer why they would love to be fluent in a certain language. Students were asked to use their “creative and critical thinking” to design a poster and record a short 3-5 minute podcast explaining their passion for a foreign language.

Projects in Arabic, French, German, Irish, Italian, Polish, Russian and Spanish were submitted with each of Trinity College’s language department picking a winner for their respective language.


The Les Baguettes French language entry by students in Tyrrelstown and the 3 Amigas Spanish language entry were named the joint overall winners with students from Lucan Community College and St Joseph's College in Lucan named the runners up for German and Polish projects.

Students from Coláiste Eoin in Dublin, Presentation Secondary School in Thurles, St Joseph's in Castlebar and Le Chéile secondary school in Tyrrelstown were also awarded prizes for their entries in Arabic, Italian, Irish and Russian.

Competitive advantage

Speaking a second or third language equips students for a wide variety of careers while also providing a distinct competitive advantage in an increasingly interconnected and multicultural world, said Dr Rachel Hoare, assistant French professor at Trinity and one of the organisers of the competition.

“Language competence is one of the biggest skills gaps in the Irish labour market and language graduates are highly sough after in a variety of sectors,” Dr Hoare told The Irish Times. “The aim of this competition was to encourage creative and critical thinking amongst TY students about why they would like to become fluent in a particular language as well as why they would like to learn about the culture and literature associated with the language.”

Trinity vice-provost professor Jürgen Barkhoff agrees that in today’s globalised world and in post-Brexit times “competence in languages is a key asset for rewarding international careers”.

A more multilingual Irish workforce can help Ireland "stay connected, prosper and maximise its opportunities as an economy, society and culture", said Prof Barkhoff.

Trinity College French and Spanish graduate Gavin Radford, who now works with the Department of Foreign Affairs, noted that bilingualism and the ability to switch between two languages enables people to adapt more easily in different cultural environments.

Studying a language at college not only leads to linguistic fluency but also opens a student’s mind to different ways of working and communicating, said Mr Radford.

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast