Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is a Gaelscoil?

A: An Irish-medium language school is a school where Irish is:

* The first language of the school

* The business and communicative language of the school

* The teaching and learning language in every subject except English

* The language of the teachers

* The language of the pupils

* The language of all aspects of school life

Early Immersion education is the system of education of the school. This means that pupils are immersed in Irish from their first day in school. The teacher will speak Irish only to the pupils. They will begin English tuition in after Christmas in senior Infants.

The speaking of Irish is part of the school’s behaviour code. Encouragement and enticement are the most desirable ways of promoting Irish in the school by use of strategies such as encouragement, praise, prizes, additional school trip, additional playtime etc.

Q: What are the advantages of my child going to a Gaelscoil?

A: There are many advantages. For example:

* Your child will be bilingual within a very short period of time

* Research shows that children who understand more than one language are able to think more flexibly and creatively.

* There are definite economic advantages later on when your child is looking for a job, as more employers in Ireland today ask for bilingual skills than ever before.

* Bilingualism is a requirement to work for the EU. Now that Irish has been granted official status in the EU those fluent in both Irish and English will have career opportunities in the EU.

* It can help to build a bridge between generations, if grandparents or family members speak Irish.

* A bilingual person can communicate with a wider variety of people than a person who can speak only one language.

* It gives people the opportunity to participate fully in all aspects of community life in the Gaeltacht/Irish-speaking areas.

Q: But I can’t speak Irish!

A: The simple answer is – it doesn’t matter! Between 65% and 70% of parents who send their child to one of Ireland’s Gaelscoileanna do not speak Irish themselves. Your child will not be supplanting one language with another – he will be gaining an extra language, and be able to switch between one and the other effortlessly when he wants to ask you a question!

Q: How do we use Irish at home if only one partner can speak it?

A: This is a fairly common situation, not only in Ireland in the case of English and Irish, but also in many other countries all over the world where two or more languages are spoken. The first step is deciding that you want your child to be bilingual. It’s then important that the parent who can speak Irish continues to use the language as much as possible in the home so that the child becomes familiar with hearing both languages. There’s no need for the non-Irish speaking partner to feel left out, just remember that children love explaining and translating what’s been said in Irish. That partner can use English so that the child becomes fully bilingual. This is a well known route to very successful bilingualism – called the ‘one parent, one language’ strategy.

Q: Do children mix up the two languages?

A: In the early stages they sometimes do, but this is perfectly normal and nothing to worry about. Hearing the sounds of both languages from a very early age is very advantageous to children. If children have attended a Irish medium Naíonra/ playschool, many will already be able to separate the two languages by the time they enter the primary school. They will be able to tell the difference between the two and will speak to you in the language you speak to them.

Q: How can I help my child at Naíonra/play-school or in school if I can’t speak Irish?

A: There are lots of ways you can reinforce what your child is learning at Naíonra or in school:

* You can take an active interest in every aspect of your child’s life.

* There’s no reason why you shouldn’t carry on reading to your child and discussing all his/her activities in whichever language is most comfortable for you.

* It can be helpful for your child’s language, thinking and social skills to discuss with you in English what he / she is learning in Irish.

* As we have suggested, you might also like to consider learning Irish yourself, so that you can keep pace with your child!

Q: Why should we bother speaking Irish at home if our child can learn Irish at school?

A: The home can have a vital role to play in developing language in children. It is a natural place to learn and use language in everyday conversations with parents or other people. If you have the chance to use Irish at any level in your home, this is a great place for your child to use it too.

Q: Will learning two languages affect my child’s English?

A: Research shows that being able to speak and use two languages improves a child’s ability to use and learn language in general. Children can learn about something in one language and talk about it in another, and this often helps them to understand the subject more easily. Recent results have also shown that children receiving bilingual education tend to do better right across the curriculum – including in English!

Q: What if my child has special needs?

A: Children with special needs can reach their full potential in Irish-medium education just as they can in any other system. Evidence shows that bilingualism contributes rather than hinders learning. If you have any doubts, take specialist advice, preferably from a professional with experience of dealing with bilingual children. Gaelscoileanna can help you by ensuring that your child accesses the best support available.

Q: Is Irish a difficult language to learn?

A: No! In a supportive atmosphere, any child can learn to speak Irish easily, just as children can learn any language, no matter how complicated that language may be. Remember that children are born with the ability to become bilingual, and there is more than enough room in the brain for more than one language.

Q: I like to read with my child. How can parents do this if they don’t speak Irish?

A: There’s no reason why you shouldn’t read to your children in English, and encourage them to read English as well. You can ask your local library for advice when choosing books. This will help parents who don’t speak Irish to be able to read some Irish books to their children. As far as your child is concerned, as soon as he/she has learnt to read, the skills can be transferred from Irish to English and from English to Irish very easily.

Q: Why should my child learn to speak what is, after all, a minority language?

A: Within the new European Community there will be about 100 minority languages, spoken by millions of people. Around 60% of the world’s population use at least two languages in their everyday lives. 50 million people use a language everyday that’s different from the language of the country in which they live.

Q: Wouldn’t it be better for the child to learn a more ‘useful’ language like French, German or Spanish?

A: Bilingual pupils will learn a third and fourth language much quicker than a mono-lingual pupil learns their second. The European Languages curriculum does not start until a pupil starts in secondary school. So it is more useful for them to leave primary education with two languages.

Q: How can I instill a positive attitude toward Irish in my child?

A: If you want your child to be proud of being able to speak Irish it’s important that you have a positive attitude towards the language and that you show this to your child. Children often demonstrate the same attitude towards things as their parents. If you show that you enjoy hearing Irish spoken, then your child will probably enjoy speaking it!

Q: Can my child make his / her first communion / confirmation?

A: Yes. The Catholic Committee (Coiste Caitliceach) arranges classes and teachers.

Q: O.K. – I’m convinced! – what’s the first step?

A: If you have a small child, then contact Gaelscoil an Bhradáin Feasa. You can contact us by phone or email... go to Contact Us / Teagmháil linn page for details.


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