A teenager who went from having no English to being multilingual in just seven years is one of Northern Ireland’s top young Irish speakers.
Mateusz Jadczak is among the top-performing GCSE students in the North, scoring the highest overall marks in both Irish and music.
The St Colman’s College, Newry pupil has had his remarkable feat recognised by the North’s exam board – the Council for the Curriculum Examinations and Assessment (CCEA).
Now in 6th form, Mateusz arrived from Poland as a nine-year-old with little English. He is now fluent in multiple languages.
Eight secondary pupils who sat their Irish GCSE last summer shared first place in Northern Ireland. Mateusz’s name appears on the CCEA honour roll alongside traditional Irish names including Sorcha, Blanaid and Eibhlin.
St Colman’s principal Cormac McKinney says his pupil’s achievement is “remarkable” considering the speed at which he first had to learn English.
The teenager studied in the Irish-speaking Gaeltacht in Donegal in the summer to further master the language.
Jerome Mullen, honorary Polish consul for Northern Ireland, says Mateusz’s exam performance was incredible. He adds that Polish children are often more willing to tackle languages compared to their peers from the North.
Many excel in Northern Ireland secondary schools, he says, because they quickly embrace local culture and have a strong work ethic.
Mateusz, who is now tackling maths, physics, chemistry and biology at A level, was among 59 pupils recognised for their efforts by CCEA.
CCEA chief executive Richard Hanna says those honoured can look to the future with optimism.
“It takes a huge commitment and effort to achieve top marks in GCSE examinations,” he said. “Our young people face an increasingly challenging and competitive world of employment.
“It is critically important that their skills and knowledge are relevant, fit-for-purpose and meet the evolving demands of the 21st century.” CAPTION: ‘Remarkable achievement’: Polish student Mateusz Jadczak receives the CCEA’s Top Candidate Award for music and Irish from its chairman Trevor Carson