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Kids get tongue around Chinese as East meets West in schools



Date Published: 01-Nov-2012

It is a scene that is repeated in classrooms throughout the country, and has been for generations – the teacher walks in, says a greeting, and the class responds as one. The same . . . but yet, completely different.

It is just past 11.45am on a Tuesday when Sixth Class in Scoil Mhuire in Maree greets their teacher, not with ‘good morning’, but with the very different ‘ni hao’ – ‘hello’ in the Chinese language, Mandarin.

The regular Sixth Class teacher in the school is Cathal Duffy, but he steps aside for 45 minutes or so every Tuesday for Jia-Li, a young Chinese student who travels up from Cork every week to deliver Mandarin classes in three neighbouring Galway schools – Scoil Mhuire in Maree; Scoil Mhuire in Clarinbridge; and Calasanctius College in Oranmore.

Jia is studying at Shanghai University to become a teacher, specialising in teaching Chinese as a foreign language, and as part of her course, she is spending this academic year attached to the Confucius Institute in University College Cork.

As part of her internship/volunteer course work, she travels to Galway every Tuesday to teach in the three Galway schools, starting in Maree. She gets the 8am bus from Patrick’s Quay in Cork, and is met at the bus-stop opposite GMIT by Dermot Cleary, the principal at the Maree school.

“It is a long day for her coming up on the bus from Cork early on Tuesday morning, and not getting back until late in the evening, it is basically a 12-hour day, so we really appreciate the effort she is putting in,” says Dermot, as he puts the kettle on in the school staffroom.

So where did the idea of introducing classes in Mandarin to some of the pupils under his care come from?

“This is something I looked at a couple of years ago, but for whatever reason, it just didn’t come to fruition. We would also be on the lookout for new things to introduce the children to, but it just didn’t happen a couple of years ago.

“This time around, however, Fidelma Healy Eames had a contact with Professor Hong Fan in the Confucius Institute in Cork, and it emerged from there, and the children absolutely love it,” he says.

Senator Eames – who lives about a kilometre away from the school – says it is clear that the workplace is changing, and with Mandarin set to make it on to a revamped Junior Certificate syllabus, she felt the time was right to introduce a pilot project to see how Irish children took to the new language.

“I have received very positive feedback from the three schools, so I am delighted it is going so well. Mandarin will be one of the new short courses on the Junior Cert, so it was time to look at rolling out a pilot project, and I had a contact in Professor Fan Hong in Cork, and it evolved from there,” she explains.

The initial project is being run on a 10-week basis, from October up until Christmas, though all sides are keen for it to continue in the New Year.

“It is 12-hour day, and I tired in the morning at the start, but not now, I used to it,” says Jia on the short trip from Maree to Clarinbridge for her second class of the day. “I like it [teaching] very much, the children very kind and very interested,” she explains.

The interest is certainly there from the children’s point of view – during her class in Maree NS there is a tremendous, and constant, interaction between herself and the class.

“Miss, what’s Australia in Mandarin?”; “Miss, what does Jackie Chan’s name mean in Chinese?”; “Miss, how long does it take to write a sentence in Chinese letters?” are just some of the questions asked by the 26-strong class. The interest amongst the children is clear to see.

“Being honest, we didn’t know how it would go, but you can see how the children are really getting in to it, and it is something we would like to continue and develop,” Dermot says after the class.

“We would always encourage giving the children an introduction to other cultures – some of the classes learn Spanish, for example. Education is as much about that as it is about the curriculum, so we were delighted to take this opportunity to introduce Chinese to our Sixth Class.

“You can see that the workplace has changed so much in the past few years, there is much more global contact now, so we jumped at the chance to give the children even a small grounding in the language of a country that has become so important on a commercial scale.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Galway have lot to ponder in poor show



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013




GALWAY’S first serious examination of the 2013 season rather disturbingly ended with a rating well below the 40% pass mark at the idyllic, if rather Siberian, seaside setting of Enniscrone on Sunday last.

The defeat cost Galway a place in the FBD League Final against Leitrim and also put a fair dent on their confidence shield for the bigger tests that lie ahead in February.

There was no fluke element in this success by an understrength Sligo side and by the time Leitrim referee, Frank Flynn, sounded the final whistle, there wasn’t a perished soul in the crowd of about 500 who could question the justice of the outcome.

It is only pre-season and last Sunday’s blast of dry polar winds did remind everyone that this is far from summer football, but make no mistake about it, the match did lay down some very worrying markers for Galway following a couple of victories over below par third level college teams.

Galway did start the game quite positively, leading by four points at the end of a first quarter when they missed as much more, but when Sligo stepped up the tempo of the game in the 10 minutes before half-time, the maroon resistance crumbled with frightening rapidity.

Some of the statistics of the match make for grim perusal. Over the course of the hour, Galway only scored two points from play and they went through a 52 minute period of the match, without raising a white flag – admittedly a late rally did bring them close to a draw but that would have been very rough justice on Sligo.

Sligo were backable at 9/4 coming into this match, the odds being stretched with the ‘missing list’ on Kevin Walsh’s team sheet – Adrian Marren, Stephen Coen, Tony Taylor, Ross Donovan, David Kelly, David Maye, Johnny Davey and Eamon O’Hara, were all marked absent for a variety of reasons.

Walsh has his Sligo side well schooled in the high intensity, close quarters type of football, and the harder Galway tried to go through the short game channels, the more the home side bottled them up.

Galway badly needed to find some variety in their attacking strategy and maybe there is a lot to be said for the traditional Meath style of giving long, quick ball to a full forward line with a big target man on the edge of the square – given Paul Conroy’s prowess close to goal last season, maybe it is time to ‘settle’ on a few basics.

Defensively, Galway were reasonably solid with Gary Sice at centre back probably their best player – he was one of the few men in maroon to deliver decent long ball deep into the attacking zone – while Finian Hanley, Conor Costello and Gary O’Donnell also kept things tight.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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