Well it’s been five weeks since I relocated from Dundee to Belfast and in my quest to make friends/acquaint myself with local culture/stop binging on rubbish BBC shows, I enrolled on an Irish Language course for complete bunranas.
I never learned any Scots Gaelic when I lived in Scotland and I never felt an urge to. I have vague memories of visiting my great auntie as a child, on the Isle of Skye, and feeling suspicious of people speaking in Gaelic; I can also remember feeling bored out of my mind as I was made to watch Machair, a Scottish Gaelic soap opera that would have been at its peak over the years that I holidayed on the island. I don’t know if the show tied in with some form of punishment, eg I had been fighting with a sibling and made to stay inside while they got to torment the sheep outside, or if it aired at the same time as we were forced to eat dinner (a welcome break for the sheep) but I seemed to harbour a surly intolerance for the show and subsequently the language. On one hand, I feel really bad admitting that; on the other, the video below makes me want to groan!
Thankfully I’ve grown up and realised that there are a lot of benefits to learning a new language: as well as cultural engagement, studies have shown that it improves our memory; also, data indicates that due to increased professional opportunities, bilinguals are more likely to have a higher income. Most importantly for a self-respecting PR student, though, is that learning a new language helps to improve communication skills and spark creativity.
Finding a class in Belfast was very easy; for many reasons, there is a huge demand for learning the language in the city. I chose An Drocheid, a welcoming cultural centre off Ormeau Road and found that approximately sixty others had decided to do the same. Our tutor, Clíodhna, was very informative and encouraged us to repeat aloud the greetings and phrases we were learning. Once upon a time, I would have felt too shy to say it loud and proud but the beauty of moving to a new place and looking for a job, a room to rent, and like-minded individuals that make a habit of drinking gin (not an exhaustive list), is that you learn not to sweat the small stuff. So, I called out the phrases with intent, trying as hard as I could to perfect my pronunciation and the two hours sailed in – I can safely say it’s one of the best things that I’ve done with my time since moving here. Very reasonable too, at £50.00 a semester (10 weeks).
For more information on learning Irish with An Drocheid, go to:
Alternatively, if you would rather be schooled from the privacy of your own home, there’s an abundance of free tutorials on YouTube. I tried this one but found the instructors quite hard to take seriously:
I don’t know that I’ll ever become fluent in Irish Gaelic but I’m looking forward to learning more. For now, I’ve mastered basic greetings and can talk about the weather – I guess whether in English or Gaelic, the same primal human need to comment on the weather applies.
Go raibh maith agat.
Fay Costello is an MSc in Communication & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @fay_costello.