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Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe



You are never too old to learn a new language

by Jonny Lear
Language: EN

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You are never too old to learn a new language

Newry U3A (University of the Third Age) is a learning co-operative where the teachers learn and the learners teach. With over 60 activities on offer including German, French, Spanish and Irish language classes there are now 800 members with retires giving their time free of charge as tutors.

Attempting to learn a new language is not always easy for adults but research is suggesting that it is of benefit to our brain health, even perhaps delaying the onset of dementia. But whatever the outcome, the U3A tutors go the extra mile to make learning a language a fun and rewarding experience. The process includes watching films, playing board games and learning songs in the chosen language.

Mary, one of the tutors said:

“Singing songs is a great way to learn pronunciation and the flow of the language” 

Ed has been teaching French in the U3A for over 17 years. He is retiring now but his wife Brea is continuing the great work. They typed up stories from Children's’ Fairy Tale books and realised that the French Class loved reading the stories, especially ones like The Little Match Girl. They found that they not only enjoyed being able to read the stories, but that they were once again tapping into their memories of childhood wonder. All of the language classes contribute to the Annual Christmas Concert in the U3A by singing Christmas Carols. The aim of the three Irish Language tutors, Roisin, Maire and Seamus is to make the learning of Irish as simple and as much fun as possible.

Asked about the learning experience one member said:

“I learned Irish as a child and I didn't enjoy it, but now this is not like school at all, its fun” 

Some members of the Irish classes have received gold and silver Fainnes. These are awarded by an outside accredited organisation for proficiency in the language.

It is lovely to hear members conversing with each other over a cup of tea after the various classes. That social element is a very important aspect of the U3A in Newry.

Dr Sabina Brennan, Professor of Psychology in Trinity College Dublin says that “Social isolation and loneliness are as bad for your health as obesity and smoking” 

The communication and the friendships formed in the classes quickly break down barriers. Jeanette can be seen carrying coffee cups and goodies to her classroom before members arrive for the German class. Birthdays are celebrated with a special cake. One can hear laughter as one passes the various classes. Often members of the Spanish Class meet socially in a cafe where the proprietor speaks Spanish and assumes they can do likewise.

Terry has been teaching Spanish for 5 years and says “People are interested and motivated and no one has dropped out of a class during those five years”

Marion says she absolutely loves the Spanish language and anything pertaining to Spain, so being one of the Spanish tutors is something she really enjoys. She loves to play Spanish music as a background to her class.

As of March 31st. 2016 there were 1,304 Language Class attendances and soon the U3A in Newry will be filled and buzzing with older people who are happy to take time out for them to learn a new language or pick up on one they dropped many years ago. They will come to make new friends and link up with old ones in a place of welcome and shelter - the U3A.

Guest blog post by Mary Cunningham, U3A ​

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