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Seachtain na Gaeilge: RTÉ RnaG: Ar an gCoigríoch

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Press Release:-

Ireland through the eyes of the rest of the world, on RnaG

Ar an gCoigríoch is a new series which will be starting on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta on Sat 6 March featuring foreigners living in Ireland who have developed an interest in the Irish language and culture.

Ar an gCoigríoch means 'in foreign parts' and the 15 episode series will feature interviews with 15 foreigners who have made Ireland their home who will be speaking to series producer Tomás Mac Con Iomaire about their experience of living in this country - some for as many as forty years, others relative newcomers who have been here for three years.

They will describe their impressions (and those of their fellow country men) of Ireland before they came here, what they were expecting when they arrived and how these expectations correlated to their actual experiences, as well as sharing their ideas on the country, the Irish people and their traditions.

As Seachtain na Gaeilge kicks off, it will be interesting to hear about how the rest of the world views Ireland from fluent Irish speakers from as far afield as Japan, Australia and Hungary, the series will tell us how the rest of the world views Ireland.

The first programme at 10 a.m. on Saturday will feature Áine Uí Ghiollagáin. Áine was born and raised in the US - in Connecticut and Florida - and met her Irish husband while working in Poland. They now live in Carraroe where they are raising their family with Irish.

Ar an gCoigríoch starts on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta on Sat 6 March at 10 a.m.


Ar an gCoigríoch ( which means 'Abroad') - Radio na Gaeltachta

For further information about the show please visit:

Other nationalities include a Japanese lady, a Hungarian man, a German man, an Amreican and a Danish lady - to name just some of them.

This show was funded by the Broadcasting commission of Ireland as part of the Sound & Vision Scheme

Lucia Atencia Fernandez

Lucia Atencia Fernández has been in Ireland since 2001 and is living in Trá Lí, Co Kerry and is fluent in West Kerry Irish. She is originally from Galicia in Northwest Spain.

1. Where are you from originally?

Lucia is originally from Galicia in Northwest Spain. She moved to Ireland in 2001 and has been here ever since bar one year when she lived in France.

2. What made you move to Ireland?

She was looking for some adventure and wanted to travel and see more of the world while also learning English. She had never visited Ireland but had heard many good things about it. She loved the Celtic link and the music and culture.

She decided to come here as opposed to any other English speaking country because the people were meant to be so friendly and she felt closer to Ireland.

3. What expectations did you have on arrival?

She expected the people to be friendly and was looking forward to hearing the Irish music and seeing the beautiful landscape.

4. Was the reality different?

It met all her expectations and more. The Irish are known as the 'Spaniards of the North'. She found the music sessions particularly enjoyable as people who did not know each other would come together and play fantastic sessions all night, it's in no other country.

She also found the people very friendly and helpful. Her first experience in Dublin was with an old lady. She was looking at her map in the street and the lady approached her and asked her if she needed help with directions and actually brought her to the destination.

She has experienced this with many other people. You can start a conversation about the weather and the people are very welcoming and will always talk to you and make you feel at home.

5. What do you think of the Irish men?

She thinks Irish men are very very shy.

6. Was it easy to find Irish language classes?

She started some intensive Irish language courses four and a half years ago with Gael Linn and Gael Chultúr in Dublin. These were very structured courses and she moved up to more advanced classes as she progressed. She decided that she would keep doing the courses until she was fluent and used the language as often as possible. She also spent some of the summer in the Gaeltacht improving her Irish.

This was a great experience because the teaching was very intense with 4 - 5 hours a day and she could see the improvement on a daily basis. There were great activities in the evenings with music and ceili's and they visited the Blasket Islands and local writer's houses.

After one year doing the courses she had conversational Irish and after three years and with her trips to the Gaeltacht she was fluent. She noticed that there were many foreigners in her beginner's classes but less in the intermediate and she was the only one in the higher classes.

7. How do people react to you speaking the language?

The majority are very positive and excited and they can't believe it. They are completely amazed that someone can come to the country and learn the language so well; some people even think she is Irish. Her friends tell her that growing up there were no foreigners who spoke the language and they thought it was not valuable, but now they see her speaking the language and it brings value to it.

8. You lived in Dublin for the first four years and then moved to Kerry?

She lived in Dublin at the start and although she had a great time she prefers the quieter style of life in Kerry. She feels Kerry is more in touch with Irish culture. Dublin is so big that sometimes you can lose your identity in the big city.

In Kerry she feels like she is in Ireland, she sees the culture and the music & traditional dancing and hears the language. Although it is the countryside and a quieter pace of life there is lots to do with plenty of festivals throughout the year and lots of music sessions. She found it easier to make friends in Kerry rather than Dublin. She can also get parking!

9. Now you're a teacher yourself, and teach Spanish to Irish speaking students.

She was teaching Spanish in Dublin so when she moved to Kerry she travelled around to the different schools and talked to all the principals. There is a grant for schools were it is free for them to teach foreign languages for free.

She felt that this was a huge asset to primary schools and meant that the children were being exposed to new languages at a very early age and would then go on to do them well in secondary school.

They had another language and were also exposed to that culture and it made sense for a person from that country to teach them. She had a great reaction from the principals who were very supportive. She feels that without Irish she would not have got the job and it was a huge asset to her. She teaches in different schools around Kerry and they are all only 15minutes from each other. She only teaches one English speaking school in Tralee two days a week so this is the only time that she does not speak Irish.

10. Did you find it easy to understand other people (west Kerry accent)?

One of the draw backs of learning Irish in Dublin was that she was taught different regional accents by different teachers. She might learn a phrase in a Donegal region and then it could be a different phrase in another class. The West Kerry Irish is different but she knows it very well now.

11. What has been the best thing about learning the language?

Irish has brought her so many good things. She says that it is the best thing that she has ever done in her life! If she did not have the language the schools may not have been so willing to give her the job.

She was even offered a job teaching Irish in Spain with the 'Official School of Language' in Madrid, but she wanted to stay here.She really believes in the language and thinks it is possible to learn it.

She really believes the language is worth learning and speaking. If she meets someone who is trying to learn it she will always speak to them in Irish to help them; when she was learning sometimes people would talk to her in English.

She says that you should try and use it whenever you can and that many people in Dublin speak it but you just don't realise until you speak Irish to them. She suggests using simple terms like 'go raibh maith agat' in everyday conversations. Irish is a very precious language and we should take it on board and use it to give it the value it deserves.

12. What would you say to Irish people who are not fluent in Irish?

She understands that when you're trying to learn a language for over 20 years you can loose motivation, but it is possible. You have a good level from school so that's a good start. The language needs more support; she believes there should be free courses. It's difficult when there is a strong dominant language but it would be such a shame for it to die out if it wasn't supported.

13. Do you think you'll settle down in Ireland forever?

She would love to settle down in Ireland but you never know where life will take you. She is very happy here at the moment and feels very Irish. When she talks about the country she uses the phrase "we" and includes herself in that without even realising.

14. What are your favourite Irish phrases?

My favourite expression in Irish is "lán de cheol" because it literally means "full of music", and it is used to talk about someone who is "full of life". I love it because it really shows the importance of music in Irish culture, up to the point to having such an expression, and how music is life and life is music for the Gaelic culture.

I also love when people around here say "ana chailín" to women of all ages, to compliment their singing or just to praise them. I think it's a very nice and sweet expression. For men they use a very nice one too " ard fhear"."

Ariel Killick

Ariel is currently studying for a Masters in Legislative and Legal translation as Gaeilge in NUIG. A fluent Irish speaker, she is originally from Sydney, Australia.

One of Ariel's favourite Irish Sayings is: 'Ní bhíonn an sonas gan an donas ina orlaí Tríd'; literally meaning:-- 'There is no rose without Thorns.' "I like this saying because it gives a sense that you actually have to try to find happiness because there will always be challenges, no matter what you're doing, who you're with!"

1. When did you move to Ireland?

In 1998 I came to Ireland to visit briefly but returned and moved permanently in October 2000 when I began to apply for full citizenship which I have since gained.

2. Why did you decide to move to Ireland?

Believe it or not it was the Australian climate! It is extreme - almost debilitating one could say! I much prefer the mild climate in Ireland; the cold doesn't bother me at all. I appreciate that you can step outside your door without getting sunburnt! I like to be able to experience crisp light, shade, mist and snow! Rather then 40 degree plus temperatures!

Of course the Irish language was a huge lure for me. I grew up in a community south of Sydney that was full of different cultures and languages.

I was completely immersed within a multicultural society so I was attracted to various linguistic heritages. I caught the bug for languages when I was 15 years old and began learning German.

I don't have very prominent Irish roots infact am more linked with Scotland but what really attracted me was the Irish Gaelic rather then the Scottish Gaelic and the fact that Ireland is a Republic- the Irish government supports the language more so then the Scottish and there is much more activity here with the language then in Scotland so it was my first choice.

3. You lived in Dublin for 9 years before moving to Galway - where you are settled at the moment. Were you working/studying in Dublin? Bit of background to this part of your life?

For six months, I was working with The Irish Media and Education Council, when I got an offer to work for a production company. This fell through however, but I eventually managed to get work as a freelance translator and artist/street performer from 2001 up until September 2008.

This period of my life involved everything from stilt walking to working as an Oompa Loompa, rainbow fairy and fire monster .various nightclub adventures with drag kings and queens and angle grinders, a TV documentary (I think they were connected), art and circus skills workshops for schools, one art exhibition!! I had a very brief stint as a TV presenter and loads of other adventures in between!

4. You were already fluent in the Irish language before coming here, so where did it all begin?

I actually sat the Ordinary and Higher Irish Leaving Certificate in 1996 after 9 months of learning the language.

In Australia, I worked with a Radio station that was broadcasting minority community languages. So I worked as a commentator and presenter with them.

I also had the opportunity to work on and produce a 1 hour long show as Gaeilge in 1998 on current affairs.

So prior to setting foot in Ireland, I had a lot of experience with the Irish language.

5. What did Irish people think of you learning the language/being fluent?

There was a mixed reaction. It really depends on who they are! For example, Irish speakers in Ireland embraced me... They have welcomed me into the fold so to speak! Even my college lecturers told me recently that I was apart of the family - which is a really wonderful thing to hear when you are so far away from your relatives. They have always spoken so kindly to me and been so gracious with me.

However, on the other hand, the English speaking Irish people were alot more hostile and negative about the fact that I had really educated and informed myself about everything to do with the Irish language and Irish culture. I've had people tell me that they find it intimidating - a foreign person speaking their tongue and knowing more about the language then they ever have or ever will has caused some conflict.

6. Can people ever hear an Australian accent when you speak Irish or is that even possible?

I don't think you can pick up an Australian accent when speaking as Gaeilge.

7. You are currently studying for a Masters in Legislative and Legal translation as Gaeilge in NUIG but prior to this you did something completely different?

Yes, performance and creativity has always played a major role in my life. I worked a street performer and in the circus!

I have a lot of information on my website at and on my myspace page about the artistic side of my life!

8. You are the founder of iMeasc - can you tell us abit about this?

Yes, was founder and spokesperson for iMeasc which was run on a completely volunteer basis to help teach the Irish language to foreign speaking students. I guess I was the public representative for Irish speaking immigrants! I actually resigned from iMeasce at the end of 2005.

9. Did you find there was a strong attendance and interest in the Irish language through iMeasc?

The interest is there! The thing is the reports that we are now getting is that - young immigrant children who are coming to the country are picking up Irish at a far more impressive rate then the Irish students themselves, possibly because they don't associate it with the sort of baggage that seems to come across in schools and with the way it's taught! These young children are coming from cultures and societies that are already multi-lingual so I suppose they are more used to incorporating numerous languages.

10. You had set up a performance group called Na Fomharaigh - tell us abit about this? What are you currently working on at the moment? And any events coming up?

Na Fomhóraigh is a street theatre production originating from a troupe of stilt walking djembe drummers co-coordinated by me in 2005. The troupe went through various transformations in the meantime before I applied for and received a grant from Údarás na Gaeltachta to develop the troupe into a fully fledged high-standard street theatre production, incorporating African djembe drumming, stiltwalking and scripted swordfighting action drama with a script by award-winning dramatist, Darach Ó Scolaí, directed by Dublin Fringe Festival award-nominee Paul Burke, with costumes finalised by the very fabulous theatre and film costumer, Breege Fahey; Fomhóraigh pants are hand-painted by me!!

It ran for the 2008 summer season and whilst I have all props and costumes etc for future use, the troupe was limited to that season in that format. I'm currently working with three new professional and highly experienced stilt and fire performers under the company name of Réalta in Galway developing a commission I received from Féile na Bealtaine for this year's festival at the beginning of May in Dingle, on foot of the performance I brought there two years ago with Na Fomhóraigh.

This new show, named Akasha*, from the Sanskrit, is an innovative stilt performance work featuring Irish-language elements, newly designed high-standard music and costumes and walkabout entertainment relating to the natural environment and the elements. We are currently in workshops/rehearsals in Galway and are really looking forward to bringing a totally new kind of locally-produced stilt-based show to the festival circuit this summer.

11. Do you think you will settle in Ireland will be your home forever more?

You can't say forever, but certainly it has been my home the last ten years and will continue to be for the foreseeable future!

Tomás Mac Con Iomaire: Series producer - Ar an gCoigríoch

Where did the idea for the series come from and what did you want to achieve?

I live in the Gaeltacht region myself and during the summer I would see foreigners visiting the region and partaking in Irish language courses in the Gaeltacht and at University Galway.

I thought it was interesting that they had chosen to learn Irish out of all the languages and I began to wonder what they thought of us and if those preconceptions of a friendly, catholic, drunk nation still existed outside of Ireland. It seems that those stereotypes are still prevalent in the older generations but not so much in the younger generations who have witnessed the change in Ireland.

How did you find these people?

I had met some before and once you start investigating one person might lead you to the next. Both Ariel and Lucia had some great connections and I also found some through the university.

Besides the language what other interests had they in Irish culture?

They were very focused. You could divide them into two groups - one that had met an Irish partner and were now living here and become involved int he language and culture and one that had a great interest in Ireland in general. For example one archaeologist couple from Hungary took interest in the language because it was such an old language.