The Fryske Akademy in Leeuwarden (Netherlands) hosted a ASOAS-UCL / Mercator Research Conference ‘Languages of the Wider World’: Understanding Resilience and Shift in Regional and Minority languages.
Seán Ó Riain, an Irish diplomat currently on secondment to the European Commission, has presented the paper published on this blog post. His Ph.D thesis (Trinity College, Dublin, 1985) dealt with language planning in Ireland and Québec. All views expressed in this paper are personal to the author.
Improved Learning of Irish – can language-orientation instruction help?
Seán Ó Riain
“Research the propedeutic qualities of various languages to discover which second language is most likely to encourage subsequent language-learning. An innovative UK programme has been testing an alternative propedeutic approach since September 2006 (sections 4.2 and 6.4.1), and this may have implications for the order in which languages are learned.”
From Recommendations of EU Civil Society Platform on Multilingualism (29 pan-EU organisations), final report, 30 March 2011
The Harris reports of 1984 and 2006, on the teaching of Irish in primary schools, showed that 96% of students from the Irish-medium schools master both languages, yet in the English-medium schools, despite some 12 years studying Irish as an obligatory subject, up to 70% of students make little progress. This had led to some criticism of language learning as “elitist”: the educational system has had the unintended effect of excluding the majority from a positive experience of multilingualism.
This presentation seeks to make four main points:
1) It is generally accepted that any second language which has been thoroughly learnt will be helpful in subsequent language-learning.
2) Due to its unusually streamlined structure, a short course in Esperanto is particularly effective in preparing learners for subsequent language-learning.
3) The aim is not to learn a large amount of Esperanto, but a ‘language orientation course’, lasting 50 – 100 hours, covering the basic grammar of Esperanto and the 500 most frequently-used morphemes, the equivalent of 2,000 words in other languages.
4) A pilot scheme in an Irish primary school is recommended, to test whether and to what extent such a course could improve the learning of Irish, or the learning of French, German, etc. in a Gaelscoil (Irish-medium school).
You can download the full paper here (WORD).