Language study is good, economically and socially

The renewed enthusiasm among Leaving Certificate students for the study of languages (‘Languages gain student popularity in Leaving Certificate’, Irish Examiner, 10 March) bodes well for Ireland’s future economic development and the promotion of a multi-cultural, linguistically diverse society in Ireland.

From an economic viewpoint, the limited supply of suitably qualified foreign language graduates has been a lingering footnote of the nation’s prolonged economic weakness in the face of rising exports and increasing interaction with international markets.

A recent study by Forfás highlights the importance of improving foreign language competencies across the population to support Irish-led enterprise and trade into international markets.

Language learning per se is not exclusively focused on the acquisition of vocabulary, but rather develops a multifaceted skill set that is immensely attractive to employers and applicable to many career choices. Those skills with an immediate transferability include: enhanced written and oral communication, cultural competence, autonomous learning capabilities, presentation skills, teamwork and multi-tasking. The collection of these diverse abilities increases the readiness of language graduates to avail of language-related opportunities in national and international jobs’ markets, or support their transition into a wide range of other employment sectors.

In a national context, improving the foreign language abilities of the population also contributes positively to Irish society and culture. Throughout the last 20 years, Ireland has evolved significantly in terms of its cultural and linguistic make-up, making the diversity currently found in Irish society incomparable to any previous point in its history. Developing and promoting the importance of a multilingual population will be central to continuing Ireland’s global identity as a recognised knowledge-based and culturally-sensitive society.

Waterford Institute of Technology offers a suite of language modules across a variety of courses up to Level 8. This positions the Institute well to address the current needs of the labour market to produce highly skilled language graduates in the national and international jobs market.

Dr Chris Mulhall

Lecturer in Modern Languages

Waterford Institute of Technology

Co Waterford

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