Raising the profile of language learning in Ireland


 In advance of next week’s GRADchances Language Fair, Tanya Flanagan, of the recently established One Voice for Languages group, writes about the group’s aims –primarily the promotion of the knowledge of other languages as an essential skill in 21st century Ireland. 



The One Voice for Languages (OVFL) Group is a unified voice for various language networks, associations and linguistics experts in Ireland. One of the aims of the group is to highlight the benefits of all aspects of language learning and teaching in a multilingual and multicultural context. OVFL, as an umbrella group, is representative of all levels of the education system and all its partners, including the arts community, foreign embassies and cultural institutes.

The Group was established to foster a greater awareness of the critical importance of language learning not only in terms of increasing employment possibilities and meeting industry needs, but also its broader value in the spheres of education.

One Voice for Languages – highlighting language needs across all sectors of society

Building on ample research evidence regarding the numerous benefits of language learning and as a response to repeated calls from high level industry leaders, employment specialists, advisory bodies and experienced linguists, the OVFL group intends to raise awareness at government level of the deficit in appropriate language skills. We will also aim to reinforce the important role the learning of languages can play in the improvement of literacy levels.

One Voice for Languages – highlighting the exciting potential of language learning for our young people, for Ireland’s economy and for Irish society

The last census indicates that there are over 160 languages spoken by the new citizens of this country, highlighting the tapestry of languages spoken in modern Ireland. Both in the contexts of social cohesion and resource potential, it is imperative that we harness this enormous linguistic wealth and foster awareness of the many benefits of learning languages and of acquiring additional communicative and intercultural skills. We hope to support the Irish Government in capitalising on the significant varied language and cultural backgrounds of the new Irish population and to equip our young people with the language skills they need to fully integrate and assume their role in the global marketplace.

The past number of years has seen an acknowledgement of the need to improve and support the teaching and learning of the science, mathematics and engineering fields. OVFL aim to begin the dialogue to ensure that language learning may now also be accorded the same priority and commitment which we believe to be of fundamental importance to the educational and economic future of this country.

One Voice for Languages – our first steps

The OVFL group was officially launched at a packed event hosted by the Schools of Languages and Education in Trinity College, Dublin on November 14th 2013. A very distinguished panel of speakers including Prof. Sarah Smyth and Dr. Lorna Carson, TCD, Prof. Finbarr Bradley, UCD Smurfit Graduate Business School, Tony Donohoe, Head of Education, Social & Innovation with IBEC and Barbara Nolan, Head of the European Commission in Ireland, warmly welcomed the establishment of the OVFL group. They spoke of the urgent action required to ensure that language learning is accorded the importance it merits in terms of industry, education, social cohesion and culture.

Since its official launch, OVFL has continued to attract media and online attention through its webpage and facebook campaign and it has initiated an action plan exploring a number of key areas including language policy, social media and research in the areas of language teaching and learning and language awareness. The group meets regularly and has met many interested agencies in recent weeks, including representatives from gradireland, AHECS and Quality & Qualifications Ireland, with whom valuable links have been established. Details of this ongoing work are published on the OVFL website – www.onevoiceforlanguages.com – please visit the site and join the Facebook campaign if you would like to add your voice!

Tanya Flanagan is PR Officer with the One Voice For Languages Group. She is a post-primary teacher of French, Italian and English at St Farnan’s post-primary school, Prosperous, Co.Kildare. 

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