BELFAST, Northern Ireland - The EU encourages every citizen to learn two more languages on top of their mother-tongue. They also recommend making language learning a priority among primary schools. Children in Wales, England and Scotland learn indigenous or foreign languages as a part of their curriculum.
However, in Northern Ireland, pupils are barely given the chance to learn another language. This is the only part of the UK where children can learn a language only when they are aged 11 to 14.
If there are primary schools that do offer languages, they do this voluntarily and not a spart of the school curriculum.
A survey shows that children in the region are eager to learn more languages early on. However, less than 50% of the respondents said that they are currently learning another language in primary school, Irish and Spanish being the most common. The languages offered are limited to Irish, Spanish, and for a time, some Polish. German and French are rarely covered in Northern Ireland. This is worrying given that these two languages are part of the top 5 languages identified by the British Council as requirements to stay competitive.
The inadequate and inconsistent experience when it comes to language learning definitely needs attention. With Northern Ireland's lack of government since 2017, decision-making on these important issues has been deficient or non-existent. Especially with Brexit around, Northern Ireland may gravely feel the impact.