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Expert in the Spotlight in 2010: Eugene McKendry

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Featured Expert / Area of focus:

Eugene McKendry is director of NICILT, the Northern Ireland Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research in Belfast. Queens University Belfast and CILT  the National Centre for Languages in London are partners in NICILT. NICILT aims to serve all sectors and stages of education in Northern Ireland and support the implementation of national objectives in language learning and teaching. This includes, where appropriate, support for early language learning, for the post-16 sector and for adult education.

Ask Eugene

Face to face with Eugene McKendry

What is your background in the field of regional and minority languages/education/multilingualism?
I learnt Irish in secondary school and encountered Breton while still at school.  I was later a French Government postgraduate scholar in the Celtic Studies department of Rennes University.  While in Brittany I learnt about the other regional languages of France and the wider issues of Regional and Minority Languages across Europe.  After a period as research assistant in the Celtic department of Queen’s University Belfast I was appointed Celtic lecturer in Uppsala University Sweden and taught Modern Irish, Welsh, Breton and Scottish Gaelic, as well as Old Irish, Medieval Welsh and an introduction to Celtic Cultures and Languages.  Since then I have been involved in primary and secondary teacher education in Northern Ireland.  I am currently responsible for post-primary modern languages teacher education in Northern Ireland, including Irish.  I am director of NICILT, the Northern Ireland Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research, a partner of CILT, the national centre for languages in London. 

What do you think is the major challenge in your field of work?

My experience as a language learner at school and then as a teacher and learner in university in Rennes and Uppsala made me realise that minority languages in education, whether in school, community education, or in higher education abroad, are frequently delivered with inadequate pedagogic resources or teacher training. Language competence does not guarantee pedagogic experience and skills. This is particularly evident in teaching Celtic Studies in universities abroad where knowledge of the classical forms of the language is often the main criterion for appointment.

An antipathy to Regional Minority Languages, often on political grounds, also endures as an obstacle and challenge.

The recent Revised Curriculum in Northern Ireland will provide opportunities and challenges for languages in school and for me as a teacher educator.

What is one of the hottest new projects / items you are working on?

I am particularly pleased to be involved in providing the Irish content for Linguanet Worldwide, a multilingual, on-line resource centre for language learning funded by the European Commission. I am also involved in EUNoM, the European Universities Network on Multilingualism, funded as well by the Commission and coordinated by the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya. The EUNOM project looks at multilingualism in the context of globalisation, the information society and the knowledge economy from various aspects (see also the interview of Miquel Strubell in Expert in the Spotlight of January 2010.

Are there any important references such as articles, links, etc. you would like to mention?

Some recent publications and projects:

Irish in English-medium Schools in Northern Ireland
The International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism Vol. 10, No. 4, 2007, 394-409

Immersion Education – A Guide for teachers

The CRAMLAP Project – The Celtic, Regional and Modern Languages Abroad Project

NICILT – The Northern Ireland Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research

The Northern Ireland curriculum

Do you have any questions on these topics?
Ask Eugene 

Featured topic: Bilingual education and learning in Northern Ireland

Further reading:
CCEA Council for the Curriculum Examinations and Assessment
CnAG (Irish Medium Education)
DE : Department of Education in Northern Ireland
GTCNI : General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland