Broadcaster Áine Ní Bhreisleáin writes about the privilege of being raised as a native Irish speaker and how it has shaped her mindset and career.

It is difficult for me to try and explain my journey or connection with Irish, perhaps because in my mind there has never been anything else but Irish in my life – it has been there always. That, in itself, is a privilege – being raised through Irish, in the beautiful Gaoth Dobhair Gaeltacht, and it is now, as an adult who has been immersed in Irish in so many ways through work and my social life, that I am truly grateful for that privilege since infancy – of having the language passed on to me.

Irish sparked in me the confidence to be visible and to use my voice – in a childhood spent in school plays, Irish language events and recitations, we were taught never to be afraid to makes our voices heard! Irish lit my path towards a university course – I wanted to study Irish but to stay clear of teaching, and I was drawn to Arts in UCD.

That journey with Irish was a new branch in my relationship with the language- in a new environment where, though Irish speaking, not everyone could (or wanted to!) understand Ulster Irish. I loved the course, and it gave me a new understanding and view of myself from the outside as a Gaeltacht person and a 'native speaker' - the term people eagerly branded you with once they heard your home address.

Gaoth Dobhair

Is deacair an rud é míniú a thabhairt ar m'aistear nó mo nasc leis an Ghaeilge, mar i m’intinn ní raibh a dhath eile ann ach an Ghaeilge i rith mo shaoil. Sin pribhléid ann féin, a bheith tógtha tré Ghaeilge i gceantar álainn Gaeltachta i nGaoth Dobhair agus is anois, agus mé fásta, tumtha sa teanga ar go leor bealaí ó thaobh oibre agus siamsaíochta de, atá mé buíoch as an tógáil a fuair mé, agus an áit as ar fáisceadh mé. Las an Ghaeilge ionam an muinín úsáid a bhaint as mo ghlór féin, tré dhrámaí scoile, aithriseoireacht agus imeachtaí eile i m’óige - ní raibh eagla orainn ag fás aníos ar mbéal a oscailt!

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Las an Ghaeilge casán na hollscoile romham - bhí mé cinnte gur theastaigh uaim staidéar a dhéanamh ar an Ghaeilge ach fanacht glan ón teagasc agus mar sin chuaigh mé i dtreo na nDán i gColáiste na hOllscoile, Baile Átha Cliath. Ba sin ar bhealach tús úr nó géag eile i mo chaidreamh leis an teanga – timpeallacht strainséartha úr, áit nár thuig achan duine an rud a bhí a rá agat – ach bhí a fhios agam gur thaitin an cúrsa liom agus fuair mé tuigbheáil eile agus radharc ón taobh amuigh orm féin mar dhuine Gaeltachta agus mar 'chainteoir dúchais’ an téarma sin a bhronnfadh daoine eile ort go fonnmhar nuair a d’inseofá do sheoladh baile daofa.

Thuig mé ó aois óg go raibh cumarsáid agus féidearthachtaí ag baint le Gaeilge a bheith agat – bhí sé thart orm sa bhaile le craoltóirí, aisteoirí agus ceoltóirí a raibh Gaeilge acu, chonaic muid Breandán de Gallaí I Riverdance i 94, bhí Altan ar fud an domhain ag ceol ‘Dúlamán’ agus bhí an tArdrí on teilifís ag an am, Rónán Mac Aodha Bhuí ina chónaí sa cheantar.

I realised from a young age that to have Irish was to have an extra means of communication and a passport to new possibilities; we were surrounded at home with broadcasters, actors and musicians who had Irish. We had witnessed Breandán de Gallaí in Riverdance in ‘94, Altan were taking the world by storm with ‘Dúlamán’ and we had our own local ArdRí or High King on TV at the time - Rónán Mac Aodha Bhuí.

I was ten years old when Teilifís na Gaeilge began, 20 when I took a part-time job with Raidió na Gaeltachta and 23 when I began to work in Baile na hAbhann for Nuacht TG4. If I didn’t have Irish, I wonder sometimes would I ever have stepped foot in that world of work, because it was Irish language broadcasting that drew me in first and gave me the opportunity to express myself and to tell the stories of others.

Bhí mé deich mbliana d’aois nuair a thosaigh Teilifís na Gaeilge don chéad uair, 20 bliain d’aois nuair a thosaigh mé ag obair le RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta agus 23 nuair a ghlac mé le post le Nuacht TG4 i mBaile na hAbhann. Muna mbeadh Gaeilge agamsa, níl a fhios agam an leagfainn cos sna meáin go brách, mar gur ann a bhrath mé ar dtús an tarraingt agus an deis le mé féin a chuir in iúl nó scéalta dhaoine eile a inse.

Cha mbeadh mo dhlúthchairde agam anois is dóiche, diomaite gur chas muid le chéile fríd an líonra aisteach (cung!) sin ar a dtugar Saol na Gaeilge. Is ann a fuair mé mo threibh, mo chairde agus neart de mo shaol sóisialta. Ón chairdeas a d’fhás as corr-oíche i gClub an Chonradh, shíolraigh Beo ar Éigean, sruth cainte I nGaeilge idir thriúr, tearmann docht a lasann splanc i gcomhrá, nach gcuireann srian ar rámhaillí agus a thugann spás do bhandacht.

Beo ar Éigean

I doubt that my paths would have crossed with my best friends, but for we encountered one another in the strange and narrow network called Saol na Gaeilge. It was in this sort of Otherworld that I met my tribe, my companions and created much of my social life. From a friendship that began casually from occasional nights in Club an Chonradh, the Beo ar Éigean podcast emerged, a stream of Irish language consciousness between three women, a fortress of support that sparks conversations, doesn’t restrain our ravings and gives breathing space to female friendship.

The language, in my view, is not a heavy burden to carry at all. I would love people to discover their own space or connection with Irish, in which they can feel at ease- be it a social event as Gaeilge, making a new friend in a conversation group or sitting and listening to an Irish language podcast or radio show every week. The language gives me a creative expanse in which to work, identity and a sense of self as well as many work opportunities, I hope people can get a taste of the possibilities if they decide to start or restart their own relationship with Irish with Creidim Ionat.

Níl an Ghaeilge trom le hiompar agus ba mhaith liomsa go naimseodh daoine a spás féin leis an teanga, ina mothaíonn siad compórdach - bíodh sin ag dul chuig imeacht shóisialta tré Ghaeilge, ciorcal comhrá le cara úr a aimsiú, nó suí agus éisteacht le podchraoladh nó clár raidió i nGaeilge achan seachtain. Thug an teanga spás shamhlaíoch, féiniúlacht agus deiseanna oibre domhsa, ba dheas liom dá bhfaigheadh daoine ar an turas le Creidim Ionat blaiseadh de seo fosta daofa féin!

Áine is part of Creidim Ionat, an innovative and collaborative online initiative aimed at nurturing widespread awareness and everyday use of Irish. Find out more here