Mother Teresa – Learning English in Dublin, Ireland

by Ciaran Donnelly

Did you know that Mother Teresa came to Ireland in 1928 to improve her English?

Mother Teresa Learning English Dublin Bestow Education

Why did Mother Teresa go to Ireland?

Mother Teresa wanted to become a missionary. She believed improving her English would make her a better teacher when working as a missionary in India.

Mother Teresa spent 6 weeks in Ireland before she set sail to India where she spent the next 20 years of her life as a teacher in Calcutta for the Loreto Order. She then went on to set up the Missionaries of Charity which is the work she is most renowned for.

When did Mother Teresa go to Ireland?

On October 12, 1928, an 18-year-old woman named Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu came to Dublin and joined the Sisters of Loreto. It was in the Loreto Abbey in Rathfarnham that Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu took her vows as a nun and changed her name to Sister Mary Teresa.

Dublin in the 1920s

The Dublin Mother Teresa came to was a lot different to the Dublin students come to learn English in nowadays.

In fact, Dublin was part of the Irish Free State and was a dominion of the British Commonwealth. It was only in 1937 that the state was called Ireland and 1949 that the Republic of Ireland was officially recognised as a republic.

The years 1919-1921 mark the official years of the Irish War of Independence, but a lot of violence had occurred before these dates.

Then there was the Irish Civil War from 1922-1923.

Of course, there was also World War One before these events (1914-1918) that saw many Irish people leave Ireland and unfortunately never come home.

In the early 20th century Ireland was a country of emigration rather than immigration.

In 1926, the population of Dublin was 495,000 (1).

In 2016, the population of Dublin was just over 1.173 million (2).

Have a look at the below population information and chart.

Irish population in Dublin 1920 - 2016 Bestow Education

1841: 370,000 people lived in Dublin, 8,021,000 people lived in Ireland

1926: 494,000 people lived in Dublin, 4,041,000 people lived in Ireland

2016: 1,300,000 people lived in Dublin, 4,726,000 people lived in the Republic of Ireland, 1,682,000 people lived in Northern Ireland

What did Dublin look like in the 1920s?

Learning English in Dublin 1920s Bestow Education
Dublin in the 1920s v 2020s

As you can see, a car was a rare sight and only beginning to be introduced. Trams, horses, and bicycles were the primary mode of transport and remember, I said Mother Teresa set sail for India when she left Ireland. The first flight from Dublin airport didn’t happen until 1940!

33% of all families in Dublin lived in one-roomed accommodation. For example, there was a 19-room boarding house in Dublin where 114 people lived, 108 of them were born in Dublin (3). In certain parts of Dublin there was a massive mortality rate where people were mainly ignored and disease was rampant. In other parts, many people in the city were rich.

The English language learning sector in Dublin in the 2020s

Nowadays, Dublin ranks very highly in many reports as one of the best cities to live. For example, it ranked the 33rd best city in the world to live in the 2019 edition of the Mercer Quality of Living Survey (4). In addition, Dublin is one of the most popular cities for people to come and learn English in.

In 2016, it was estimated that there were 106,000 English language students in English language schools in Ireland. Ireland’s education strategy for 2016-2020 hoped to increase the output value of the sector ‘by approximately €200m from €762m to €960m’ (5).

It is clear that Dublin is a different and better place than the 1920s in many regards for most people, but it still has its problems. English language learners (and people in the English language learning sector) are some people who feel these problems the most.

As can be seen above, there is a lot of money in the English language sector in Ireland and it is important for our economy.

English language learners contribute in many ways to the economy and to many aspects of life in the country.

However, the conditions they are subjected to don’t represent the advancements this country has made and in many ways are familiar to the harder times spoken about above.

Many English language learners are forced to work 2 jobs, sleep in bunk beds ranging from 4 – 8 people per room and 12 – 20 per house! The English language academies they pay thousands to are sometimes inefficient and lead to very serious visa problems. Sometimes, the schools are so poorly run they shut down and leave their students (and teachers) completely stranded.

The teachers in the industry are nearly all on contracts. This means they can never successfully apply for a mortgage (if they could even afford one). The sick pay and holiday pay vary massively from school to school and is often quite poor. Many schools also refuse to recognise and interact with trade unions.

Ireland is an amazing country and it does offer many benefits to people coming here. If it wasn’t, there wouldn’t be as many people coming to Dublin as there are.

However, the industry needs improvements in many areas.


We would be really interested to hear what your experience is of learning English in Ireland, please comment below to give your thoughts. As always, if you have any comments on the blog, please let us know.

If you are interested in studying English for either personal or professional development, why don’t you tell us your goals and we’ll help you achieve them. You can contact us or check our online classes.

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