Sunday, May 08, 2011

A few Remaining Questions we can still answer ‘Yes’ to and a Modest Proposal to save Ireland from penury.

The Questions.

Are the Irish sometimes described as wordsmiths of the English language (the world’s lingua franca currently being learned by between 1 and 2 billion people worldwide)?
Have we also been described as ‘a nation of teachers’?
Do we have a worldwide reputation for warmth and hospitality?
Is Ireland considered an attractive and desirable place to visit?
Do we have a large number of graduates and older people with an increasing amount of spare time on their hands?
Does Ireland have a further flung and better networked diaspora than any other English speaking country?
Do we have well respected language schools all over the country as well as people teaching in language schools all around the world?
Do we have ample space, plenty of spare housing, empty hotels and buildings all over the country that could be turned to a variety of uses?
Do we need a clear message to bring to the table both internally and externally? A Mission Possible that everyone can bend their shoulders to that’ll play to all of our strengths and give us some pride back.
Are we perhaps a wee bit stuck? Do we need change?

The Proposal

Ireland makes it its clear and known intention to become the world leader in English language teaching, putting ELT at the forefront of our economy. Yes, really. The forefront. Ireland becomes the English language teaching classroom of the world. There are currently between 1 and 2 billion people learning English worldwide. That’s a class of say 300 people for every man, woman and child of us.

This will require that Ireland becomes world leader in the training of English language teachers. We will step up our welcome to teachers and trainee teachers from around the world. We will also properly train and make it possible for tens of thousands of our own young people to teach English abroad for as long as they want, simultaneously acting as ambassadors for Ireland. These teachers will become identified with the best language teaching practice. When governments are looking for well-trained teachers for their schemes they will come directly to Ireland. Every child in the world will have had an Irish teacher or a teacher trained in Ireland at some stage in their education. Like the old days but different.

We use all these skills and links to make the experience of coming to learn English in Ireland the best in the world. We welcome the people of the world to Ireland. Properly and everybody. We do what it takes to get them here and give them the time of their lives. We make Ireland a place where people come to enjoy learning both from us and from each other. It becomes the world's meeting place. We take a close look at what it really means to welcome people and a closer look at the service, quality and value of what we offer. We make people want to come back.

This leads to us educating ourselves further in cross-cultural communication and taking a good look at our attitudes to people, to service and to immigration. We build equitable bridges, welcoming people from all over not just because of how much we think we can fleece them for on one visit. We make it affordable for people to come here and we make it clear that we want to build life-long friendships with them. We become the stepping stone to the world. Wherever you’re from.

We use our spare rooms and spare time, perfecting the Irish homestay. We offer visitors affordable, free or subsidised if necessary accommodation in our hotels and hostels. We could even offer free housing in our empty estates. Why not?

We lead the world in the increasingly technological aspects of language learning. Short sentence but a big deal.

We embrace the opportunity to learn from past mistakes, harness our wit, our resourcefulness, our intelligence and our desire to find an honourable way out of this mess. We have a huge resource, largely untapped. Talk about free software. Natural gas, even. Language! It's in the mouths of babes and sucklings. And we're very good at it. Where else can you actually pay good money to hang off a battlement backwards to kiss a rock that'll give you the gift of the gab?

Joking apart, this would be a mission in which every single Irish person can play a part in some way or other and know what part they’re playing. It’s also a message we can broadcast far and wide. Let’s make our intention clear and give it everything we’ve got. ‘We’d like to teach the world to speak’.

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