Benefits of bilingualism
The ‘bilingual’ is more common today than a person who can speak only one language. The various languages you hear while walking along Grafton Street in Dublin, Shop Street in Galway or St Patrick’s Street in Cork highlight this. Ireland is a bilingual country with both Irish and English holding official status. Interest in learning Irish has surged in recent years and Gaelchultúr has witnessed a growing demand for its Irish language courses.
There are so many incredible benefits of learning a second language, in particular Irish. Here are just some of those benefits:
1. Positive impact on the brain
According to research on bilingualism, people who speak two languages (or more) are able to focus on tasks for longer and are also better at multitasking. These skills are developed through the constant switching between languages that bilingual speakers do. Research also indicates that bilingualism can help delay the onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s symptoms.
2. Educational opportunities
Bilingual children often do better than monolingual children in a range of school subjects. There are generally no differences, even between children raised with Irish and children raised with English, in their success in English as a school subject – sometimes those raised with Irish even achieve better in English language exams! Speaking a second language also gives you an advantage when learning more languages.
3. Cultural knowledge
Although you do not need to know a language to learn about a culture, it certainly allows you to better understand that culture. You can get to know the people and learn more about their traditions, opinions and outlook through speaking their language. The Irish language is closely connected to the history of Ireland and its impact on the variety of English we speak today is notable. Through learning Irish you can, therefore, get a new perspective or deeper insight into your own heritage.
4. Social life
Learning or speaking a second language expands your social network. The more languages you can speak, the more people you can communicate with. The Irish language community in Ireland and worldwide is growing and there are regular events throughout the year in which you can participate. The Irish are known as some of the friendliest people in the world and this holds true for the Irish speaking community.
As a bilingual more employment opportunities are available to you. The number of jobs requiring Irish is always increasing and employment is available in a range of sectors, such as media, education, the public service, translation, and culture and heritage.
It is clear that learning Irish is incredibly worthwhile but the question now is ‘how can you develop a kinship with the language and an ability to speak it?’. The simple answer? Input and output. The language that is heard and read is understood as input and the language that is spoken and written is the output. The amount that a language is heard and used is the most important factor in achieving a high standard of language ability. As the proverb states “Beatha teanga í a labhairt” (“the life of a language is to speak it”), but it is also important to read it, write it, and hear it. Here are a few recommendations for children and adults on ways to use Irish daily:
Naíonraí & Gaelscoileanna
- If possible, it is worth giving your children an early start and immersing them in Irish from pre-school age.
- Reading skills are incredibly important in developing language skills and there are plenty of Irish books available in all types and genres of books, from novels to historical books. For children, there are newly written books as well as translations of classics such as The Famous Five and Roald Dahl’s collection of books.
- Even if you sing like a crow, both children and adults can have lots of fun singing rhymes and songs. You wouldn’t believe the amount of new words you can learn from them! (Peigín Leitir Móir and Ceol na Mara by Tadhg Mac Dhonnagáin are available on www.siopa.ie)
- Switch off Netflix and turn on TG4! TG4 has a wide range of excellent shows to suit everyone’s tastes, both young and old.
- Bring out the Scrabble or Monopoly (in Irish) at the next gathering of family or friends. But try your best to avoid insults and curses if the competition gets heated! (Scrabble & Monopoly as Gaeilge available on www.siopa.ie)
Radio & podcasts
- Play a radio show or podcast while you’re drinking your morning coffee, out walking or driving to work (Raidió na Life, Raidió na Gaeltachta, Beo ar Éigean, An Spota Dubh).
Attend classes or language meet-ups
- Check if there’s anything happening in your local area but if there isn’t much available, there are many options online. Register for a course with Gaelchultúr in which you will have plenty of opportunities to speak and listen to the language, attend an online language meet-up or organise your own!
This is just a snippet of the advantages associated with learning languages, particularly learning Irish, and just some of the ways in which you can use Irish in your daily life. Be sure to look at Gaelchultúr’s website for more blogs on language learning and the learning opportunities that are available.