Transition students looking east with lessons in Mandarin

MANDARIN is fast becoming the language of choice at Colaiste na Trocaire in Rathkeale where Transition Year students have undertaken a weekly immersion language course with a native Chinese teacher since the school year began last September.

MANDARIN is fast becoming the language of choice at Colaiste na Trocaire in Rathkeale where Transition Year students have undertaken a weekly immersion language course with a native Chinese teacher since the school year began last September.

Now, two of the students, Fiachra O’Gorman, Croagh and Cormac Lynch, Adare will shortly be testing their language skills, in Shanghai. The two have been awarded places, along with about 80 other students nationwide, on a two-week trip organised by the Confucius Institute in UCC and the Irish Institute of Chinese Studies.

The pair, school principal Kevin Cusask explained this week, will stay in accommodation at Shanghai University during the Easter Camp and the programme will include Mandarin as well as focusing on different aspects of Chinese culture. It will also include sightseeing tours.

Meanwhile, each Monday in Rathkeale, teacher Xhang Gowei, originally from a small town outside Beijing, conducts his active learning Mandarin class, focusing on basic grammar and pronunciation but enhancing the lessons through active participation in things like Tai’chi and calligraphy.

“They are enthusiastic about it and look forward to it,” Mr Cusack says of the lessons.

“He encourages the students to speak and they have lost their inhibitions and shyness.”

The Rathkeale school’s Chinese connection began last year when Mr Cusack responded to a call from the Confucius Institute in UCC, which is trying to promote two-way learning experiences between Ireland and China. As part of this, Mr Cusack visited China along with other Irish teachers to find out about their education system and introduced the first module for Transition Years last September. At the conclusion of the module the students will sit a Chinese proficiency test in both oral and written Mandarin called the HSK test, a standardized test.

Now, first years are about to get their first taste of Mandarin and the hope is that the school will offer a short course on Chinese language and culture as part of the new Junior Certificate curriculum.

“As principal, you want your school to be at the forefront of any worthwhile innovation that is available,” Mr Cusack said, explaining his enthusiasm for the venture.

“This was an opportunity for our school to partipate in an educational programme that is pioneering.

It is well recognised that China is one of the most powerful economies in the world and is growing at an enormous rate. I just wanted our school to have the opportunity to engage with that, to sow the seeds of innovation in our students.”

Mr Cusack believes there will be career opportunities for students who study Chinese and business at third level. While Colaiste na Trocaire was the first school in Limerick to sign up for the Chinese module, Colaiste Iosaef in Kilmallock has since introduced it also.