Language Classes

By Frank Bolger - Last update

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Peruse any recruitment website and the huge amount of career openings for candidates with a foreign language soon becomes apparent. The Irish public s long acknowledged reluctance to learn a continental tongue is back to haunt us…

Never fear however, as there are plenty of part time courses on hand. Shane Zerbe of the Sandford Language Institute admits that learning a language from scratch to a professional standard can take up to 600 hours of study, but mitigating factors such as existing knowledge and the chosen language can speed up the process.

Which language

Some languages, Shane says, are a lot easier to learn; Romantic languages such as French, Spanish and Italian for example. In addition, many adult learners will have experience of a language from their school or college days. You would be surprised how much forgotten phrases and grammar will re-emerge in the immersive experience of the classroom.

Apart from the ever-popular French, Spanish and German, Shane says there is a noticeable growth of interest in more exotic options such as Chinese, Russian and Brazilian Portuguese. These may require a good deal more work, but the career prospects at home and abroad for fluent speakers of such languages are continually on the rise. A particular skills shortage exists in the area of Dutch and Scandinavian (Swedish, Danish, Norwegian) languages he adds.

It seems that the message regarding career prospects is getting through the adult learning public. Before the recession struck, many of the Institute s students were learning a language in preparation for travel, or in order to communicate better with a foreign partner. Now, says Shane, the vast majority are looking to upskill with a language with an eye toward to the jobs market.

Of course the other benefits of learning a language remain as real as they ever were. Languages reveal wholly new and fascinating foreign cultures to the curious adult learner, including literature, music, theatre, food and much, much more. Not to mention the opportunity make new friends in a classroom that naturally encourages conversation and friendship.

And now for the science part, as annoying shampoo adverts like to say. Research upon research is revealing the many hidden benefits of bilingualism/multilingualism. These include increased ability to multi-task, improved problem-solving skills and reduced decline of key brain functions. All of which might help explain why the Gaeilgeoir always seem to clean up at Leaving Cert time

Some top tips when it comes to learning a language:

Be a Parrot!
Repeating new words and phrases out loud is key, it encourages spontaneity (which is vital in learning in a new language) and improves pronunciation.

Passive learning be a little lazy!
Actively trying to understand a conversation in a new language can lead to frustration as you focus on what you don t know. Listen passively and simply take in the sounds and pronunciation, and be proud of the parts you do understand!

A word a day
Learning a few words each day is a good way of steadily building your vocabulary outside the classroom.

Frank Bolger

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