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535FW: Study: native language V second language (math; Irish)

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  • Don Osborn
    Sep 4, 2009
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      FYI (seen on the Marga list [Songhay language(s) group])…

      Gaeilgeoirí better at maths in Irish

      Native Irish-speaking maths students may not be displaying their true
      numerical knowhow when tested in English, new research revealed today.

      A study found pupils moving from Gaelic-only primary schools to
      English-medium secondary education scored almost 9% higher when quizzed in
      their mother tongue.

      But despite the language gap, number-crunching Irish-speakers still
      outperformed their classmates by 5% when tested in English.

      Researcher Dr Máire Ní Riordáin said a specially devised 12-question maths
      paper pinpointed specific translation problems encountered by the 37
      participating Gaeilgeoirí.

      “They may, for example, have been confused by the words ’multiple’ and
      ’multiply’ in one question and may have been unsure of the difference in
      meaning,” she said.

      Dr Ní Riordáin suggested tests of Gaeilgeoiri in second-level schools could
      be initially conducted in Irish to ensure they reflected true mathematical

      The University of Limerick study involved two parallel English and
      Irish-language word problem tests devised using standard maths textbooks for

      The results revealed that Irish-speaking pupils answered four questions
      equally well in both languages, while one question appeared to be easier in

      In nine questions, however, they performed 10 per cent better in their
      mother tongue.

      A smaller survey of students in the first year of third-level education
      found some mathematics terms such as ’numerator’ and ’denominator’ proved
      tricky for Gaeilgeoirí.

      “I believe this is because they would have acquired these words through the
      medium of Gaeilge at a young age and would not have encountered the English
      versions of these words,” Dr Ní Riordáin said.

      The findings, presented at a British Educational Research Association
      conference in Manchester, echoed a 2005 New Zealand study which found
      students with English as a second language experienced a 10 to 15%
      disadvantage because of language problems.

      *Story reported in the Metro newspaper: Thur Aug 3rd 2009

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