Mayo children’s French connection with the Olympics

July 29, 2021

Mayo children’s French connection with the Olympics

Mayo children's French connection with the Olympics

AFTER a long wait the Olympics are finally back and with millions watching the opening ceremony on TV, for local children in Co. Mayo it was no surprise that much of the coverage was conducted in French.

Pupils who attend Westport Language School have been learning about the Olympics and why French is the first language due to Frenchman Pierre de Coubertin, who founded the International Olympic Committee and planned the first modern games which took place in Athens in 1896. With French the language of diplomacy at the time plus, likely due to Coubertin’s French roots, it was made the first official language of the games, with English second, as decided in Article 23 of the Olympic charter.

Owner of Westport Language School, Douglas Whittaker says: “In recent weeks languages have been in the news more than ever. The Taoiseach has acknowledged the importance of learning European languages and wants them to be introduced at primary school level.

“A pilot scheme has been introduced enabling 100 schools to apply for funding to deliver classes during their school weekly timetable and many local schools are excited to participate. Plus, now we have the Olympics showcasing athletes and different languages from around the globe.

“In my language classes, I make it a priority for my students to learn not only the language with a focus on listening and speaking but, also about the country and its culture, showing them how diverse and wonderful the world is. The Olympics has certainly highlighted the French connection.”

Douglas’s classes operate in and around the Westport area, for children aged 5 – 15 years, and are built on the belief that language learning is for everyone.

“In today’s world never has it been more valuable to speak a foreign language, yet it is considered a challenging school subject. At Westport Language School, we aim to dispel the misconceptions and inspire a passion for languages. Languages are fun, but only when children feel confident and enjoy learning.”

Douglas teaches the award winning La Jolie Ronde course, which sees pupils learn in classes organised by age group following the structured and progressive programme. Classes are taught through fun songs and activities using games, stories and role plays in a positive and supportive learning environment. Each child also receives an accompanying activity book plus access to the Media App to enable them to have fun practicing at home whilst giving parents plus other family members the opportunity to have a go themselves.

Douglas commented: “It’s wonderful to see the Olympics inspiring the younger generation not only with the sporting events but also educating the young people culturally. Seeing the variety of cultures, races, and people groups shows children how there’s a much bigger world out there.

“With languages, children have a wonderful advantage in that they pick up languages with ease. When they are exposed to language in an engaging and interactive way they learn in a fun and pressure free environment. Learning becomes a thoroughly positive experience and by the time the child begins secondary school their foundation of language learning will provide them with a significant head start which helps them enormously as they progress with their careers.”

Westport Language School offers carefully personalised tuition for all abilities. Particularly valuable for secondary school students who are feeling out of their depth with language learning, the nurturing and professional nature of the classes ensure rapid progress and motivated learners.

Article originally appeared in the Connaught Telegraph