Irish overtakes French as second most popular language at A-level in Northern Ireland

Irish overtakes French as second most popular language at A-level in Northern Ireland

IRISH has this year leapfrogged French as the second most popular language A-level in Northern Ireland.

That’s according to the Northern Irish Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research (NICILT).

The Queen’s University-based organisation says French has now slipped into third place behind Spanish and Irish.

Irish on the rise

Figures released by the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations & Assessment (CCEA) show 325 candidates took Irish this year, up from 315 last year and 291 in 2019.

French meanwhile had only 322 candidates this year, having dropped from 333 in 2020, continuing the fall from 2019 (358).

According to CCEA figures, French last topped the A-level language rankings in 2015.

Spanish however continues to be the most popular, having had 451 candidates this year, accounting for roughly 1.4 per cent of all A-levels sat in Northern Ireland.


Commenting on the results, the British Council Northern Ireland said it predicted the rise in Irish language entries.

Jonathan Stewart, Director of the arts and educational organisation, said: “It’s encouraging that numbers for A-level languages have remained relatively steady this year, but this has to be seen in the broader context of a huge decline over the past 20 years.

“Spanish is still the most popular A-level language, but for the first time, Irish has overtaken French to become the second most popular language at A-level, which we predicted in our Language Trends survey earlier this year.

“As education begins to recover from the pandemic, it’s essential that schools prioritise language learning and look to build back international opportunities and connections.”