Belfast Telegraph

Chinese students learning Irish

A group of Chinese students are grappling with the intricacies of the Irish language in the first university course of its kind in the Asian country.

Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU) has been holding classes for 16 students since late September under its policy to teach all tongues of the European Union.

Tutor Seamas O'Murchu, who travelled to the sprawling capital to teach the course, said the students were making gradual progress despite the obvious language barriers.

But he admitted he wasn't pushing them too hard quite yet.

"They find the pronunciation quite difficult. But they seem to be coping okay," he said. "I haven't been overwhelming them with grammar so far, I've been doing it quite gently."

And Mr O'Murchu believes the language has a future in China.

Although they have been focusing on just the present tense this semester, the students are taking the new language in their stride. But they are questioning whether it will ultimately be of any use to them.

"It certainly is very difficult," said 24-year-old undergraduate Chen Qi, from Wuhan in central China. "The most difficult words for now, I think, are 'cen', 'cad', 'ca', because I'm still not very clear if they can be equivalent to the what, how and where in English."

The course is taught within the English department of BFSU, under the auspices of the Irish Studies Centre in collaboration with NUI Maynooth and the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

The Irish Government, which last week announced a 20-year strategy to boost the language at home, pledged almost 22,000 euro in funding earlier this year to help the university kick-start the course.

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