Why more languages spell jobs
Madam, – The announcement by Hewlett-Packard of the creation of 120 new jobs is very promising (Breaking News, October 21st). However, 70 of these jobs depend on whether people with the required number of foreign languages can be found. It is very doubtful that, if these people can be found, that they will be native Irish people due to the failure in the teaching of foreign languages in our education system.
I am an Erasmus student in Germany and I’ve been quite embarrassed speaking to people from various European countries who all speak three or more languages while I can only speak a sub-standard German (especially bad considering I’ve been studying it for seven years) and an even worse Irish (even more embarrassing considering my 11 years of this subject).
Ireland is simply not going to be able to attract high-quality and multi-lingual jobs unless we radically change the way in which we teach foreign languages. It is often said by language experts that the best time to learn a language is when you’re young, and that is why we must begin with the teaching of foreign languages in primary school.
Children should be introduced and exposed to different languages such as Spanish, French and German from a young age. We must adapt our system for a changing world and that means learning more languages, especially those from Asia including Japanese and Mandarin.
I think two European languages should be taught at primary school which can be then continued in secondary school, and an Asian language could then be introduced in secondary school.
We have a huge advantage in that we are an English-speaking country, with an advantageous geographical location at the edge of Europe (being one of the closest European countries to the US).
We must build on these advantages, making Ireland a multi-lingual country so that firms basing themselves here can deal with both their European customers and their English-speaking customers from around the world.
This can only happen with a radical change in our foreign language policy in the education system, particularly at primary school level. If we want to create more jobs and attract more companies to Ireland, this change must happen immediately. – Yours, etc,