English as a Second Language (ESOL)

By Frank Bolger - Last update

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English is among the most spoken languages in the world, and definitely the most used language in Ireland. Therefore everyone who wants to work and live here needs a good knowledge of English – as given by an English as a Second Language (ESOL) course.

English is one of the most spoken and written languages in the whole world. Due to a variety of factors (including the British Empire in the 19th century and US influence in the 20th century), English is probably the primary global language of business and the internet, as well as being widely used all around the world in the media, science, education and diplomacy fields. It has become a common intermediary language, and is often used by people of different first languages to communicate. It is also (of course) by far the principal language in Ireland. So it’s handy to know.

(Digression / opportunity to show off university learning that rarely arises: The ‘English’ language isn’t really English at all. It is a Germanic language brought to Britain by Northern European settlers in the 5th century AD, while later Norse, Norman and French settlers also added many words and features to the language that would become known as English. Modern English was standardised around the time of William Shakespeare, and is still evolving and gobbling up new words all the time. End digression. )

The fact that most Irish people speak English as a first language has possibly been a major factor in our recent economic successes, which have lead to many people moving to Ireland to live and work. Most Irish employers want their staff to have a good working level of English; while many professional positions require complete fluency. Therefore lots of people who move to Ireland decide to take an English course on arrival, even if they have studied the language before and have a basic level of proficiency.

A wide range of English as a Second Language or ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) courses have been put in place to meet this demand. The Advisory Council for English Language Schools (ACELS) is an Irish government appointed body which has the responsibility for overseeing English language teaching in Ireland. ACELS inspect language schools to ensure that instruction and facilities meet the required standards.

There are a huge variety of course options available at locations all over Ireland. The National Education Database holds details on hundreds of courses ranging from absolute beginners, to improving your reading and writing, to refresher courses for people who need to brush up on their idioms.

The English language courses listed here vary in content and length but most will provide training and confidence in grammar, vocabulary, comprehension, and pronunciation. Some are formal with set programmes and examinations, while others are more relaxed and based around conversation and everyday English use.

There are also specialist courses available for people who use English in their workplace (e. g. business language courses which teach students to write letters and emails, make presentations, negotiate, sell, and correspond with customers and clients), as well as more advanced courses that teach you about English literature or Irish culture, while also improving your language skills.

Some people decide to gain an approved English language qualification to prove that they have excellent English language skills. There are a number of approved English language proficiency exams which are widely accepted and offered by Irish schools, including the Cambridge, JMB, IELTS, TOEFL and GCSE tests.

English is the language of instruction at the vast majority of study and research programmes at Irish education institutions. It is expected that all students applying for undergraduate or postgraduate courses at Irish universities or colleges are able to speak, read and write English fluently, so they can play a full role in lectures, tutorials, seminar discussions, and examinations. All candidates have to prove they have a certain level of English before being accepted onto a course; for example, by gaining one of the qualifications outlined above. Students sometimes come to Ireland and take an English course for a year, before continuing their studies at college or university.

English language skills are necessary for anybody looking to live, work, or study in Ireland. Whatever your current level, or your particular requirements, you should be able to find a course that suits you.

Frank Bolger

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