IRISH students need to be taught more languages in school to help domestic businesses succeed in China, Brazil, India and Russia, a Limerick TD believes.
Fine Gael’s Patrick O’Donovan said that in a week in which Ireland has signed new trade agreements with China, the Government should consider a new root-and-branch approach to languages in schools and colleges.
Mr O’Donovan has written to the Minister for Education, Ruairi Quinn, about the possibility of new Mandarin, Cantonese, Portuguese, Hindi and Russian programmes being introduced in second and third level schools.
“Secondary schools all over the country should be encouraged to offer these languages”, the Newcastle West based TD said. “Brazil, Russia, India and China have been experiencing sustained growth while Ireland’s more traditional export partners have gone through a recession.
“Having a work force that can speak the languages of these countries in years to come would give Ireland an edge over competitors”.
Mr O’Donovan submitted a Dail question to Minister Quinn this month requesting information on how many schools were offering these languages at present.
The Minister confirmed that a total of 625 students are currently studying Russian in 20 schools. A post-primary initiative has also been in place since 2000 with the aim of diversifying the languages being taught in schools, with particular emphasis on Spanish, Italian, Russian and Japanese.
Mr O’Donovan said that the Government could harness the skills and expertise of many third-level language schools, including the University of Limerick, in rolling out Portuguese, Mandarin and other new courses at second level.
“The University of Limerick could certainly be considered as one of the institutions to lead such a drive. UL has an internationally-respected language school. It would be in a strong position to spearhead any efforts to increase the number of speakers of these languages from Ireland”.