Children today are growing up in a far more multicultural world than we ever did.
And it is about time that education and curriculums caught up with that fact.
Speaking on Newstalk’s Reimagining Ireland, a new series examining some of the changes people would like to see across a range of areas in a post-pandemic Ireland, the Minister of State for European Affairs said there could soon be more languages taught at primary school level.
Thomas Byrne said teaching more languages in school is essential, and that one such consideration is adding more to the syllabus.
“That’s certainly under consideration… there’s a lot of work to do to make sure that’s put into schools properly and correctly,” the Minister said.
“It simply can’t be just thrown in as an add-on, it has to actually work, it has to benefit and it has to integrate then with second level as well”.
Byrne explained that Portuguese, Mandarin, Polish and Lithuanian are already available on the Leaving Certificate curriculum, but that this might not be enough still, and that we need to reconsider if more languages should now also be added.
“There have been studies done as to what are the most spoken languages in the world… and we are actually starting the process of getting them into the classrooms and normalising that.”
Byrne said Irish people need languages for technology jobs in Dublin, or EU jobs in Brussels.
“There’s no doubt that we certainly need, as a nation, to broaden our horizons in terms of languages.
The Minister said he has talked about this in the Dáil before.
“I wonder at times, and I’ve said this in the Dáil before, do we have a national hang-up about languages – where we just feel that we can’t speak particularly Irish, but also our skills as a nation with French, German, Spanish… are not as high as they should be.
“Maybe because we live, generally speaking, in an English-speaking world and that has allowed us to get by with English.
“But I think there’s no doubt we need to learn more languages, and learn them to a very high level as well.”
And Minister Byrne says learning languages has never been easier.
“If you put on Netflix now, you can change the language to a variety of languages on almost every show – and I think that’s a very useful way of watching programmes.
“You can watch French programmes or Italian programmes – maybe if you’re learning without putting on the English subtitles or the English voiceover. I think that we all have to look at ourselves as a nation and see how this can be done and how each of us has a responsibility to do it. Yes the education system is central, but that must the building blocks for how we communicate with other people as a nation”.