What the Focal!? is a new podcast for people who want to improve their Irish. Tugann an podchraoladh ardán do na saineolaithe is saoithíní is suntasaí dá bhfuil amuigh ann.

Presenter Ciara Ní É tells us how it came about.

Úsáidim Gaeilge gach lá, which is very much by design. I wasn't raised with Irish and I didn't go to a Gaelscoil, so after I did the Leaving Cert I made choices to keep the language in my life. I studied Irish in college and started to socialise with Irish speakers.

As a new Gaeilgeoir, I often found myself fielding questions about Irish - at family gatherings, in smoking areas, anywhere I went really! Tá an Ghaeilge mórthimpeall orainn i gcónaí and a lot of people are curious about the language but don’t know where to go for information.

In 2017 I started answering some of these frequently asked questions on camera, and my YouTube series What the Focal?! was born. I began with the basics - What's a séimhiú? What does a fada do? How do Irish surnames work? The videos were for people who didn’t know much Irish, so it made sense for them to be in English.

The series took off and after a few years I got support from Foras na Gaeilge to make more. Over time the topics I covered became more varied and nuanced - I spoke about how and why I legally changed my name to the original Irish; I chatted with Úna-Minh Chaomhánach about video games i nGaeilge; and I delved into Canúint na nDéise (Waterford dialect) with Trinity College's Dr. Noel Ó Murchadha.

One of the difficulties for life-long language learners is continuing to progress and not allowing your Irish to get meirgeach (rusty). In formal education you get feedback from lecturers, but once you’re out in the real world tá sé níos deacra. It can be hard to distinguish between Gaeilge chliste and Gaeilge bhriste.

Irish people are often described as good storytellers who appreciate a good turn of phrase, and this is certainly true for Irish speakers. It’s valued and remarked upon when someone is deisbhéalach (articulate), and it’s something many strive for. Tá ciall leis sin - for non-native speakers like me it takes years of effort to become líofa - carefully collecting words and phrases and constantly refining shades of understanding. As far as I see it, only grá could fuel this never-ending pursuit. It’s an act of love - I want not only to speak Irish but to speak it well.

I did an undergrad in Irish, then a masters, so I’ve met plenty of academics, and I’ve been lucky to work in various guises with some of the best speakers in the country. Similar to listening to RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta or watching TG4, speaking to people with that saibhreas teanga elevates and improves your own Irish. I often take the opportunity to ask questions - How do you answer when someone says 'Nollaig Shona duit’? An focal é 'scaif’? An bhful ciall le ‘fear le feasóg’? It seems like nerdy stuff on the surface, but for someone who speaks Irish daily, it's the stuff of life.

After one of these eye-opening conversations, I’d often wonder how best I could share the reliable eolas with other life-long learners, and I came up with the idea for the What the Focal!? podcast. In each episode, I sit down for an informal hour-long chat with a saineolaí and pick their brains about whether there are any common misconceptions they can help clear up, what their favourite phrases are, and anything else they want to bring to the table.

Cad is brí le 'neamhchorrabhuaiseach'? Cén fáth go mbíonn an focal ‘dúshlán’ ag crá na nGael? An ionann ‘neamhchaighdeánach’ agus mícheart?

My expert guests include university professors, professional translators, editors, a lexicographer, and the author of several grammar books. Tá an plé dírithe ar dhaoine a bhfuil Gaeilge acu agus ar mhian leo barr feabhais a chur uirthi, mar sin tá an comhrá i nGaeilge.

Sound quality was important to me and I’m very happy to be recording in Stiúideo Raidió na Life. There are ten episodes in this first series, agus is cosúil go bhfuil na héisteoirí ag baint taitneamh as!

Más maith leat snas a chur ar do chuid Gaeilge ach níl an t-am agat leabhair ghramadaí a cheadú, seo an podchraoladh duitse!

What the Focal!? is sponsored by Foras na Gaeilge and An Foclóir Nua Béarla-Gaeilge. Éist anois ar Soundcloud, Spotify agus gach áit eile!