If you saw a sign in your child’s school that said:
“The language of instruction of the school is the worst language for dyslexia, it takes longer to learn how to read it than most languages, and it will teach the children very little about their country and culture”,
would you want to send your children there? You would probably ask what bloody eejit decided to teach children in the worst language for dyslexia. You might feel the urge to barge into principal’s office and start thumping the desk to get them to use a better language of instruction.
The reality is that is how most schools in Ireland are. English is the worst language for dyslexia, it takes longer to read than most languages, and is of very little use when learning about Irish culture.
September is here and children are beginning school or returning to school. It is a good time to think about education and how parents can help their children with their schooling. By speaking Irish with their children, parents can make a huge difference to how their children perceive Irish, and they can also help the Irish economy.
Recently there has been talk about the new exemptions’ policy for the Irish language. I would like to share my school experience. I come from an English-speaking family in northern county Kildare. My mother doesn’t speak Irish but my father does, however he chose not to speak Irish with us at home as my mother did not speak Irish. I sometimes feel that we missed out on something at home due to my father’s decision not to speak Irish to us as we grew up. I was sent to a gaelscoil, Scoil Chearbhall Uí Dálaigh in Leixlip. I did not speak a word of Irish when I first started school at the age of four but within a few years I was fluent. This shows that it is possible for children from English-speaking families to become fluent in Irish in the space of a few years. We do not need exemptions from the Irish language, we just need more gaelscoileanna.
In the absence of Irish-medium schools there are a few things that parents can do to help their children with learning Irish and becoming fluent in it. The most important thing that any parent can do regarding Irish is to speak it as much as they can with their children. Even if you only know a few words or a few phrases, that can make a huge difference to your children’s appreciation of the Irish language. Children will hear it at home in day-to-day situations such as during meals, when getting ready for school, going to the shops etc. Hearing their parents saying Irish phrases to them during the day will just be a normal part of life.
Parents can also help the economy by buying products in the Irish language for use at home with their children. There are microenterprises employing one or two people who make books, comics, games, DVDs, toys, clothes, school products, decorations etc. in the Irish language. If more people bought products in Irish, they would boost these enterprises who would then be able to develop more products and employ more people. When parents buy English-language products, it is highly likely that their money is going to companies outside of Ireland.
When Brexit happens, Ireland will have to do more business with other EU states, most of whom do not use English. Irish students need to be encouraged to be multilingual. The mindset in Ireland is “English is the only language that really matters”. That mindset will have to change if Ireland wants to succeed in doing more business with the EU. Parents can instil a positive attitude about languages in their children. All that needs to be said to children is “You have already mastered the worst language for dyslexia, so every other language will be easier from now on”.