Welcome back…For anyone who missed last week's article, my name is Seán Ó Maoilchiaráin and I’ve been on a journey with discovering my identity as a Gaeilgeoir for the last few years. I wasn’t raised with the language and never had any immersive education in it so when I arrived in to the University of Limerick in 2017 to pursue a degree in Gaeilge and History, I felt very much out of my depth.
That feeling is possibly one a lot of Irish people feel with the language. Even though I, like most of you, had just spent the last 14 years learning Irish every day, when I got to college I felt like I was back to square one. For the first time in my life, I had to deal with classes entirely through Irish and listen to lecturers and tutors, some of whom had a seriously strong blas. I had a good level of Irish coming in to college naturally or I wouldn’t have done it but this was a whole other ball game. I knew I’d need make a serious effort to get my comprehension and writing ability up to scratch. The only problem was, I was never great to study which meant I’d have to find a way to do it that I enjoyed.
So here’s how I did it…
Did you know that there are lots of TV shows and even a whole channel that are broadcast as Gaeilge? Yeah, I knew that too but I never really paid too much attention to it growing up. Apparently I was a big fan of Spongebob Squarepants on TG4 as a child but then again, I’m still a big fan of Spongebob so that may not have had much to do with the show being as Gaeilge. When I found myself needing to engage with more Gaeilge at the start of college, I took baby steps and went to something I knew and loved, Rugby.
For years now, TG4 have been broadcasting Rugbaí Beo and have done some great documentaries on the sport so I started there. I tuned in to any match that I could on Rugbaí Beo, even if Leinster were playing (I’m a proud Limerick and Munster man so that was tough) and I watched any bit of documentaries or shows they’d have relating to the sport. I could see what the players were doing on the pitch so when I listened to the commentary, I’d understand more and more what they were saying.
I also found a wealth of old Gaeilge TV shows on Youtube. Des Bishops series In the Name of the Fada was a favourite but there are also great clips from Manchán Magan’s Déanta in Éirinn and Nó Béarla. These shows were of course based around the Irish language for the most part but as pieces of television in general, they were seriously interesting and engaging. They presented the Irish language to me as a medium of entertainment in a way I’d never experienced. Happening upon these old gems on YouTube, left me wanting more. Not only that though, without knowing it, I was learning the whole time I was watching and enjoying it too.
The shows, like most shows as Gaeilge were subtitles so I was able to pick up on the bits I didn’t understand. Over the last few years, television as Gaeilge has gone from strength to strength. It’s not just on live TV or old clips hanging around on the internet either. With the RTÉ Player and Seinnteoir TG4, there’s an absolute wealth of Irish language telly for you to get in to. There’s something out there for everyone. From heavy hitting documentaries to light entertainment, there’s a show as Gaeilge to suit you, it’s just a case of finding it.
They say to really understand a language, you need to 'have an ear for it’. That makes it sound like you’ll be given this magic ear but I didn’t think that way, I was going to make myself one. I made a conscious decision to turn on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta’s wide range of shows and broadcasts as much as I could at home or in the car I also discovered Newstalk’s Splanc, an excellent current affairs show. I may not have had much of an interest in what was being discussed all the time but it definitely helped to be listening to the language as much as possible.
It wasn’t until the summer of 2019 when a friend of a friend said to me ‘Oh you’re a Gaeilgeoir, do you listen to Beo ar Éigean?’ that I discovered the world of podcasts as Gaeilge. I had been an avid fan of The Blindboy Podcast and the 2 Johnnies for years at that stage but hadn’t realised that there was a while world of podcasts available as Gaeilge too.
Beo Ar Éigean was a fantastic insight into how people lived in 'Saol na Gaeilge' and a perfect example of how easy it could be to have a chat with your friends as Gaeilge about pretty much anything. The wide range of topics covered by Siún, Áine and Sinéad keep the podcast fresh and entertaining always, not to mention they’re all serious craic! Finding new ways to keep Gaeilge in my ears really helped me grasp the language in a deeper way.
Podcasting as Gaeilge has taken off in recent years with a great range available on most streaming platforms. I’m going to have to shamelessly plug my own podcast (Gaeilge Anois) but also make sure to check out Na Seansálaithe, Na GaelGals, Seal Le Seán, An Spota Dubh and Sílim That for a start. There’s a great mix of topics and voices there and a great range of dialects which will really help with understanding different types of Gaeilge.
Don’t forget that there are other radio stations as Gaeilge too. RTÉ Raidio na Gaeltachta is around the longest but it isn’t alone in broadcasting An Ghaeilge on our airwaves. Make sure to check out Raidió Rí-Rá, Raidió Failte and Raidió na Life too if you really want to get your fix of Irish language radio.
Get out more!
We all know that to learn a language, you need to immerse yourself in it but that’s not always very easy with An Ghaeilge…or is it? Being immersed in Irish doesn’t mean you have to move yourself to An Ghaeltacht or go back to an evening class. There are plenty of ways to get out and be social through the Irish language.
The most popular way in cities and towns around the country to get some immersion and have a bit of craic is the Pop Up Gaeltacht. These events were pioneered by Osgur Ó Ciardha and Peadar Ó Caomhánaigh with an aim to bring the Gaeltacht to you! The idea is simple, people gather together in a social space (pub, hall, park, whatever works) and the main rule is everyone makes an effort with their Gaeilge. You can check out Pop Up Gaeltacht’s social media for upcoming events but if you can’t wait, why not organise your own? Just ask a venue for permission to host and get spreading the word…or the focal in this case.
If you’re looking for a more private space to practice before you get out and go socialising, why not try a Ciorcal Comhrá? These are generally smaller and more intimate gatherings of people who want to practice their cúpla focal and get to know other Gaelgeoirí (You don’t have to be fluent to be a Gaeilgeoir!!) Again you can organise your own Ciorcal but if you’re looking for one in your local area then check out Peig.ie for a list of conversations circles in your area.
If you’re in college then make sure to join the Cumann Gaelach, most third-level institutes have one. It’s another great opportunity to meet people with similar interest and socialise together as Gaeilge. I was a member of the Cumann Gaelach in UL in my time and I couldn’t recommend it enough. Through different events and gatherings, not only did I improve my Gaeilge but I also made friends for life.
However you do it, socialising as Gaeilge will take your language skills to the next level. I’ve often said I learned much more about speaking as Gaeilge sitting on a bar stool than I ever did in a classroom! There’s a whole world out there as Gaeilge, you just need to take the step into it!
On the Socials!
Who of us isn’t on social media these days? They’re a huge part of modern life but did you know that there is a huge amount of Gaeilge to be found online? For years now people have been creating content as Gaeilge to help people learn, to connect with other Gaeilgeoirí and just posting regular content as Gaeilge.
When scrolling social sites, we often take in information without even realising so surely if there was more Gaeilge in our feed, we’d take in more Gaeilge right? Well it worked for me anyway. I was blown away when I discovered how much Gaeilge content is all over socials right now. On TikTok for example, probably the biggest social app in the world right now, the hashtag #Gaeilge has over 117 Million views, not bad for a ‘dead language’. If you’re looking for TikTok-ers to follow who create content as Gaeilge, you can’t go wrong with;
@eadaoinfitzmaurice, @seamboyseam, @gaeilge_bheo and @gaeilgelejane.
The same goes for Instagram of course, there’s a huge amount of Gaeilge to be found on the app and a great network of creators promoting an teanga as best they can. Everything is covered from food, fashion, comedy, travel and everything inbetween, theres a Gaeilgeoir instagrammer for everyone out there and here are just some of my favourites. @Poilinaiton, @GaeilgeVibes, @KerryCowboy, @BlocTG4 and @Roisin.na.gaillimhe.
Once you follow one page in Gaeilge, the suggestions for more will just keep coming. Social media is doing a great job at keeping the language alive and well and giving creators opportunities to show off the possibilities that come with an Ghaeilge in the most modern context possible. Time to get on trend and get some Gaeilge in your feed!
Hit the books!
Look, I know this whole piece has been about how to learn Gaeilge in a different way but there does come a stage where formal learning can be needed. If you want to just speak a bit more Gaeilge or spend more time immersed in the language then the above bits are perfectly fine. However if you want to make sure your Gaeilge is grammatically correct and that your written Irish is up to scratch, you’re going to need to knuckle down a bit.
That being said, this doesn’t mean that you need to go back to school or that you won’t enjoy getting back into education as Gaeilge. For years now, the likes of Conradh na Gaeilge and GaelChultúr have been offering online classes as Gaeilge. They have classes to cater to all levels of Gaeilge and more info can be found in the links above. If a formal class isn’t your thing, DuoLingo have had Gaeilge available on their platform for a while now and over 1 Million people have used the app to brush up on their cúpla focal!
Learning Irish formally can be intimidating, it can bring up memories of school where a lot of people didn’t enjoy learning the language. That being said, returning to formal Irish classes is a great step to let someone else lead the way in your language learning and a way to meet people at your level of Gaeilge too. Making that choice to go back is a powerful statement of intent and shows a real dedication to bringing back that knowledge of an Ghaeilge that’s in us all somewhere.