Residents of Longford are most likely aware of an influx of almost 100 Spanish students to the town each July. They visit to study English, stay with Irish families, and experience the Irish culture, and bring welcome revenue and diversity to the town each year.
Midland Language Centre is the company who have been bringing these students to Longford for the last 35 years. Previously run by Clodagh Brady, the company continues to be a family business, managed by Angela and Aidan Brady.
Global Languages and Tours (GLT) is also part of their business, and has established a very successful position as one of Ireland’s leading providers of French, Spanish and German language programmes and school tours across Europe.
This year, for the first time, individual students from Longford were amongst those who participated in these programmes and, given the Government focus on the importance of learning a second language, and the wider public acknowledgement that having a second language is a strong advantage to our young people, this is a very positive development.
Groups such as the Modern Languages in Primary Schools Initiative (MLPSI), are even recommending that other European languages are introduced at national school level.
“There are so many reasons why a second language is important,” said Angela Brady, GLT director.
“From an economic point of view, anything that can set you apart from the competition when job hunting is an advantage, and many companies in Ireland either have an export focus or are part of a multi-national, where a second language is either a requirement or a major advantage.
“Having a second language also allows people to integrate abroad, and participating in a language programme is a fantastic way for students to develop personally.
“It’s a fun way to spend a couple of weeks in the summer holidays and it’s an educational way of achieving good results at secondary level.”
Five Longford students who have recently completed programmes abroad with GLT, spoke about their experiences.
Dervla Nevin and Ava McCann, who attend Scoil Mhuire, Longford, stayed with two Spanish families and attended secondary school in Seville with the Spanish girls from the family for three weeks in April 2012.
“The family I stayed with were very welcoming and made me feel right at home,” Dervla said. “We went on lots of trips and I got to visit tourist attractions in Seville.
“The one-to-one classes were great - I learnt new vocabulary and grammar. I really enjoyed the Spanish school; the students made such an effort to help me understand the classes. I have stayed in contact with some of them through Facebook.
“Overall I loved my Spanish experience, it helped me grow in confidence and I have matured greatly because of it.”
Ava added, “GLT helped us decide which course was most suitable and gave us advice whenever we needed it. I definitely achieved my goals of improving my Spanish, learning more about Spanish culture and gaining independence, maturity and confidence.
“We were even able to do a power-point presentation about Ireland to our class in Spanish. I made lots of new friends and lasting bonds during my time in Seville and I would highly recommend the experience to anyone. “
Sarah-Jane Reilly, who attends Moyne CS, participated in an exchange programme where her family hosted a French student for two weeks in July 2012 and Sarah-Jane then spent two weeks staying with the French family in Bordeaux.
“From the second I arrived in Bordeaux Airport, I was completely immersed in the French language.
“At first it was challenging but after a few days my proficiency improved and my oral and listening skills strengthened. I made new friends, tried new things and experienced a completely different culture and way of life.
“My French improved significantly throughout the course of the two weeks. Overall, it was a wonderful experience that I benefited greatly from and would highly recommend.”
Josephine and Tara Sweeney, sisters who attend Mercy Convent Ballymahon took part in a summer programme in St. Raphael, France for three weeks in July 2012. They travelled from Ireland as part of a group of students from around the country.
Students stayed with separate host families and had French language classes each morning, and a packed itinerary of activities such as scuba diving and excursions to places like Cannes and St Tropez.
For more information on language programmes, contact GLT on 043 334 6832 or visit www.glt.ie