THOUSANDS of people, from all over the world, have signed an online petition to save the teaching of modern languages in Irish primary schools from the Budget axe.
Language academics and the Irish diaspora in countries such as Germany, the US and Canada are among those supporting the campaign to reverse the move.
It will be adios to Spanish, au revoir to French, auf Wiedersehen to German and arrivederci to Italian in 550 primary schools if the cut goes ahead as planned next year.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn said it would save €2.5m, which is being diverted to support the new strategy to improve literacy and numeracy among students.
Mary Moore, who teaches Spanish to 180 children in seven primary schools in Co Kerry every week, is one of 260 teachers who face the dole queue as a result.
She said it had been of major benefit to them as they prepare for second-level school.
"What it means is that they are not afraid of languages when they make that big step up. It gives them a great grounding and it teaches them all about other cultures, about travel and about other languages," she said.
Tanya Flanagan, the Kildare-based national co-ordinator of the modern languages in primary schools initiative said it was a devastating blow.
She said, in terms of early-language training policy, Ireland was already years behind in its commitments under the Barcelona Agreement and the Lisbon Strategy, which called for systems to be in place to facilitate early-language learning of at least two foreign languages by 2010.
She said years of expertise would be lost to the system and a whole generation of our children would be placed at an even greater disadvantage as they try to compete for jobs with our fellow Europeans.
"This decision will result in the only children accessing modern-language classes being the privileged classes who can afford to pay for them, and it will also result in more teachers on the live register."