[lg policy] FW: Study: native language V second language (math; Irish)

Don Osborn dzo at BISHARAT.NET
Fri Sep 4 18:33:50 UTC 2009

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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