Fintan O’Toole: Schools with immigrants producing tomorrow’s Irish speakers

Blanchardstown school turns coping with 51 languages into a new way of teaching

Kids who are comfortably polylingual are much more at ease with Irish than those who live in a monolingual English world. Photograph: iStock

Kids who are comfortably polylingual are much more at ease with Irish than those who live in a monolingual English world. Photograph: iStock

At home, the children speak 51 different languages: Afrikaans, Amharic, Arabic, Bangla, Benin French, Bosnian, Cantonese, Cebuano, Dari, Estonian, Farsi, Foula, French, German, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Igbo, Ilonggo, Indonesian, Isoko, Itsekiri, Italian, Kannada,  Kinyarwanda, Konkani, Kurdish, Latvian, Lingala, Lithuanian, Malay, Malayalam, Mandarin, Marathi, Moldovan, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Shona, Slovakian, Spanish, Swahili, Tagalog, Tamil, Ukrainian, Urdu, Vietnamese, Visayan, Xhosa and Yoruba. Where could this Tower of Babel, this crazy cacophony of tongues be? Actually, it’s in Blanchardstown. Or more precisely in a single primary school in Blanchardstown. And it’s not a Babel, or chaos, or crazy. It’s kind of wonderful.

It can be hard, when people running for public office come out with nonsense about immigrants and asylum seekers, to decide which is worse – that they genuinely believe it or that know it is false but peddle it anyway. Those who use anti-immigrant rhetoric depend on an opposition between “the people on the ground” who know how terrible everything is and the do-gooding “elites” full of airy-fairy liberal notions.

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