'Evening Extra' meets teacher Noeleen O' Connell and some of the pupils attending a weekly Irish language class in Kilburn Polytechnic in London.
Noeleen O' Connell from Cloughergoole, Virginia, County Cavan teaches an Irish language class for adults every Tuesday evening in Kilburn Polytechnic College in London. The course participants are mostly young people, but also include a number of retired Irish people who have spent most of their lives in London. All of the students are keen to learn the language from scratch or brush up on what they learned at school.
Noeleen takes a different approach when teaching adults as they learn languages very differently to children. Adults are less prepared to repeat phrases. They also try to translate from English directly into Irish and try to rationalise why this can or cannot be done.
As well as Irish being a very different language to English, people brought up in England have different ways of speaking to those raised in Ireland, and this is a disadvantage to learning Irish.
It is easier to teach people who have been brought up speaking English in the Irish fashion than it is people who are speaking English we’ll say more pure English as it were, uncorrupted English, they have the advantage of the turn of phrase colloquial sayings and so forth.
Some of the students explain why they have decided to take the evening class. John O'Brien, an actor with an Irish background lives close to Kilburn Polytechnic. Therefore he felt he had no excuse to not learn Irish. A woman who is a writer enjoys the teaching approach in comparison to the nuns who taught her at school. An elderly man nearing retirement is leaning Irish again as something to do in his spare time.
Noeleen O' Connell cannot over emphasise the importance of the Irish language for anybody with Irish blood as language is an important part of identity.
The Irish, I feel will lose a great deal of their strength as a people, if they lose their language, and the more of it can be spoken no matter where it is, that it be London, or Monaghan, or Cavan, or wherever, the better.
An ‘Evening Extra’ report broadcast on 18 March 1987. The reporter is Richard Crowley.