Friday 20 September 2019

Time to learn a language

Look, listen and learn: Carmela DiStefano teaches young language students at the Linguaplay Summer Camp in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4
Look, listen and learn: Carmela DiStefano teaches young language students at the Linguaplay Summer Camp in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4
Kim Bielenberg

Kim Bielenberg

The punishment for persistent English-speaking at the Euro Language Summer camps in Ireland is immediate expulsion. Attending one of the residential camps is like being holed up at a boarding school where everyone is required to speak a continental tongue.

During the summer months, well-known schools such as Clongowes Wood College, Alexandra College and Cistercian College in Roscrea, are transformed into small corners of France, Germany or Spain.

Students who lapse into English during idle moments are first given a warning. But for a second or third offence, they are given their marching orders, with no reimbursement of fees.

"It's very strict,'' says Jane Costello, spokesperson for the Euro Languages colleges.

"The students are compelled to speak the language. There are no mobiles or iPods allowed.''

Language immersion is growing in popularity as a summer activity for school pupils.

A growing number of parents are bidding to give their children a head start in their exams by packing them off to language school.

The most popular courses are still the traditional summer courses in Irish in the Gaeltacht.

Around this time of year, the skies above Donegal are filled with affluent young South Dubliners jetting in so that they can brush up on their Gaeilge.

Frank Mor O Maolain, teacher at Colaiste Bhride, in Rannafast in west Donegal, created something of a stir recently, when he said there was a notable upturn in the number of students arriving by plane. Not for them the interminable road trips along long and winding boreens.

Foreign language immersion has also become popular, and students are now availing of it without the inconvenience of travelling abroad.

"From the feedback we receive from parents and students who have had previous experience of an exchange programme, 90pc said that our courses are at least as good, if not better than going on an exchange programme,'' says Jane Costello of Euro Languages.

"As the courses are based in Ireland they eliminate the expense and anxiety sometimes involved in going abroad.''

In a typical day at a Euro Languages camp, students attend classes in the morning, and engage in sports and other activities in the afternoon. They are only allowed to speak English on Sunday afternoons.

So are these courses useful? Anne Kerrien, a second-level French teacher and co-author of the Leaving Cert textbook, À vos marques, prêts, says: "I have come across students who have done these courses and they clearly benefited from them. The more exposure to the language the better.

"While these courses can benefit a student, the best thing of all is to visit the country. There is so much involved in learning a language.

"When you go to the country you are also learning about the people, the food, the culture and so on.

"If a student is doing French during the Junior or Leaving Cert cycle, I would certainly advise parents to encourage them to visit France during the course, so long as the finances permit.

"You could go on holiday there, or the student could go on an exchange.

"Parents are sometimes concerned that they do not know anybody in France, but there are good exchange schemes available.''

The language boarding schools for second-level students have been in existence for nearly two decades.

Now a new non-residential language immersion summer camp for primary school children has also opened in Dublin.

The Linguaplay Summer Camp, situated in the International School in Ballsbridge, runs from the beginning of July until the start of August.

Students can be signed up for the summer camp as young as four and the camp caters for kids up until the age of 12.

The children take part in activities such as crafts, music, painting, storytelling and drama. And it is all taught through French or Spanish.

Cristina Gonzalez, one of the Linguaplay teachers, believes children learn languages best at a very young age.

"For me it is amazing to see how children pick up the sounds so well. The whole idea of Linguaplay is to make it fun. That is why we bring in activities like cookery and singing songs.''

The camp is divided into weekly units. Pupils can join at any stage, and stay for one or more weeks.

It is based around themes such as pirates and princesses, robots and dinosaurs.

Euro Languages

Students attend a foreign language boarding school for three weeks. French, German or Spanish. Fees for courses in Clongowes Wood College, Alexandra College, St Flannan's College and the Cistercian College are €1,065; fees for courses in other locations are €1,025. `

Course fees include tuition, accommodation, meals, entertainment and activities.


or telephone 091-502542


Fun, games and learning in Spanish or French for four- to 12-year-olds. Songs, arts and crafts, painting, stories, sports, cooking in a foreign language while discovering culture and language. International School Pembroke Road, Dublin. It costs €190 per week. See or telephone 087-7809000.

French exchanges

Athlone-based agency Apprendre et Vivre organises exchanges, home stays and courses for Irish students travelling to France.

Call 090-6474480 or see

Gael-Linn Summer Irish Schools

Gaeltacht Summer Colleges in the Cork, Mayo and Donegal Gaeltachts for students aged between 1 to 18. or call 01-6751200.


Irish Language Summer Camps for six- to 12-year-olds in July and August. Venues in Dublin, Mayo, Kildare, Derry, Donegal, Cork, Galway, Kerry.

Call 01-4751487 or see

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