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  • Living

Learing the language is all about living it

Wednesday, 12th July, 2017 10:50am

Story by Siobhan Holliman
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Learing the language is all about living it

Abril from Spain, Hannah from Milltown and Maddy from Germany. Photo: Ray RyanTuam park 14296.jpg

Learing the language is all about living it

Abril from Spain, Hannah from Milltown and Maddy from Germany. Photo: Ray RyanTuam park 14296.jpg

GATHERINGS of foreign students are familiar sightings around Co Galway towns during the summer. Many closed schools become hubs for English language schools as hundreds of Spanish and French teenagers work on staying dry and improving their English.

I admit, my only experience that could in anyway give a sniff of being related to a cultural or foreign exchange was a week or so away when I was 16 to Tuam's twin town of Straubing in Germany where our school trend of second hand suede jackets didn't quite impress the Bavarian club bouncers. I was also beckoned and spoken to under the guise of 'Schiff' for my entire stay – followed by lots of laughter – it being the German for boat.
Perhaps an even earlier summer in the Gaeltacht was my only attempt to embed myself in Irish culture, where I struggled to find the gaeilge for vegetarian and somehow came to tolerate the Bean an Tí's veggie menu of beans, spuds and bread with raspberry jam.
But that was all decades ago and while our island neighbours are preparing for an exit stage left of the EU, we are a hot spot for mainland European youths eager to speak our language. That being English of course, no demand yet for an exchange as Gaeilge!
We're a great nation for studying languages but when it comes to speaking them – that's where we falter. So the aspiration of one young North Galway schoolchild to become multi-lingual before she reaches 18 is not just impressive and surprising, it would unachieveable for most.
Three tweens smiling and chatting around a table isn't unusual – it's only when you speak to them that you realise this bunch of buddies are an international group with Milltown's Hannah Kenny representing the Emerald Isle. Her two close friends are from Spain and Germany. The mind-boggling part is that Hannah can as easily chat to them in Spanish or German as in English.
Two years ago, aged ten, Hannah was the youngest child to embark on a language adventure when she became part of a Spanish family for six months. The Spanish child Abril, of similar age, then came to Milltown and spent five months living with Hannah and her family.

Read the full feature in this week's edition of The Tuam Herald

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