Immigration and an explosion of language

 

Sir, – It was a joy to read Fintan O’Toole’s piece on the explosion of languages brought about by immigration to Ireland (Opinion, November 26th).

My own curiosity on overhearing conversations on the bus or in shops often involves trying to distinguish which of the many Slavic languages is being spoken. That had its origins back in long-gone Belcamp College boarding school in 1964. Joining in second year I had missed streaming into French, the only modern language on the curriculum. But two imaginative Oblate priest/teachers – the late Frs Joe Horan and Vincent Denny, introduced small groups of interested/curious fifth and sixth-year students to German and Russian. Looking back we got a good grounding in each language in weekly sessions over one school year. I went on to study both languages 10 and 15 years later.

It’s worth noting that some lucky students came out of Belcamp in the mid-1960s with an exposure to five languages – English, Irish, Latin, German and Russian. But it should also be remembered that even then most Irish secondary school students were exposed to four languages – English, Irish Latin/Greek and French/Spanish. In later years I added Hungarian to the my list.

It’s a thrill to feel that I could travel overland from Dublin to Vladivostok and be able to converse in the local language all the way.

The value of immigration to Ireland and the exposure to multiple languages cannot be overstated. We should seize all the opportunities that this exposure provides. – Yours, etc,

TOM CLEARY,

Sandycove,

Co Dublin.