23 January 2006

Plan urged to resolve Irish language crisis

Irish Independent

A NATIONAL action plan to save the Irish language has been called for by a leading academic who says such a plan would need all-party agreement, writes John Walshe.

Dr John Harris, a languages expert, said an increasing minority of students were failing to acquire a worthwhile competence in Irish.

He warned that if this minority grew then the position of Irish in the education system would be questioned and perhaps undermined.

Dr Harris said that if a substantial minority did not acquire competence in Irish then they would not have any sense of 'ownership' of the language.

"It will become just something that was a failure experience for them . . . it will not be something which as parents they will want to pass on to their children."

Dr Harris from the School of Linguistic, Speech and Communication Sciences at TCD, said we needed to examine and understand the causes of failure and identify effective ways of eliminating or minimising that failure. He called for a radical rethink of existing approaches and provision for the teaching of Irish and a substantial investment in research and innovation.

A National Action Plan which had political agreement at the highest level, was needed, he said.

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