Jak, 26, Arts Facilitator, Derry
Irish Language Beginner Class, Clooney Hall and Zoom 2019/20
"I've wanted to learn Irish for as long as I can remember. I used to sit for hours in front of the TV watching TG4 as a child, not a notion of what was being said, but being hypnotised and lulled by the fast paced indiscernible sounds I was hearing. I jumped at the chance to learn Irish with the Cultúrlann, first with múinteoir Meabh and then with Bernie. I've been obsessed since I started, one year in and I can't get enough - my hunger for the language just keeps growing. As a wee protestant lad from a family in the fountain, I never felt Irish was 'for' me, but always deeply curious. How wrong I was - I've felt a new found connection to our land, to our community and to OUR shared language. Irish is for everyone, it’s never too late to start."
David, 45, Community Worker, Derry
Irish Language Beginner Class, Clooney Hall 2019/20
"My journey in the Irish language began in 2013, City of Culture year. I attended a lecture by Linda Irvine entitled “The hidden history of Protestants and the Irish Language”, this sparked an interest and I immediately went home took the Liofa pledge, intending to learn as much as I could from the online resources as I could. This approach could only take me so far and I soon hit a wall and got a bit disheartened.
Then last September I saw an “Irish: Beginners Class” advertised on Facebook by An Cultúrlann, the time & place suited me perfectly so I took the plunge and signed up. I wasn’t disappointed. Everyone was very welcoming and made the classes enjoyable each week. The lecturers, Meabh and then Bernie, delivered the classes in a way that made learning easy and enjoyable. Friendships have formed within the group and we all look forward to meeting up every week.
I have already learnt a lot on my journey but unfortunately it was cut short due to the COVID 19 Pandemic, I look forward to continuing the journey soon."
Helen, Community Worker, Derry
Irish Language Beginner Class
"As someone who grew up in a culture that sometimes perceives the Irish language to be irrelevant and controversial, I am increasingly finding more appreciation for the language as I learn it. Like many indigenous languages, this language was marginalized over many years. Whilst in today’s context this is not the fault of any one person, however, there is still an important restorative process required to bring this language back to the fore.
I believe that the language can play a role in healing our divisions, old wounds and the ‘bog sadness’ that inflicts many of our people today. I don’t have any answers to how this works but I can only speak from personal experience. I have found the process of learning the language both healing and illuminative. In the context of huge systemic changes in our world, there is something reassuring about this ancient language, not just in its poetic turn of phrase but also in the connection with the ancestors. My ancestors were probably not native or indigenous to Ireland but they did live on the land and speak the native tongue. My Grandad from Drumahoe, who recently passed away at the age of 96, had quite a few focals and often reminisced about the times when the language was widely spoken in the North.
Learning the language is fascinating as it reveals so much information about the land and an indigenous way of living that was more collective and less extractive or consumerist. Irish is like a portal into another world, and it contains nuggets of wisdom that I find helpful in creating meaning and understanding in our modern world. For example, I love the framing of the phrases concerning emotions and sensations. ‘tá bron orm’ translates as ‘the sadness is on me’ . ‘Ta ocrus orm’ translates as ‘the hunger is on me’. This reinforces a sense that emotions and sensations are transient, they pass. This understanding helps me cope with sadness, anger and other difficult emotion as I know that they too will pass in time.
Sometimes when I am challenged on why I would want to learn the Irish Language, my defensive response is ‘What harm can there be in learning another language?’. However, if I am totally honest, I used to think that Irish had no relevance in the modern world too, and that everyone should speak English to make communication easier. Thankfully, my limited perspective has been widened and enriched thanks to Culturlann Ui Chanáin and all the wonderful teachers and learners I have met on this journey. The tutors Bernie and Carol makes the class so interesting by dotting in quirky phrases and magical myths that bring the language alive. Lisa and Catherine are passionate about promoting the shared heritage of the language in the North. Linda Irvine risks her belonging all the time by staying true to values and her passion for the language. Go raibh maith agaibh.
The language of this land contains the possibilities to reconnect us to our natural environment, our ancestors and perhaps even our soul."
Linda, 60, Retired Pharmacist
Irish Language Beginner Class, Clooney Hall and Zoom, 2019/20
"MY JOURNEY INTO THE UNKNOWN……..LEARNING IRISH!
Last Autumn I noticed a message on Twitter about Irish lessons starting soon in the Waterside. I’d never had any experience of, or contact with the Irish language – I just thought it wasn’t for me, but spending a bit of time in Gweedore over the last few years and hearing it in everyday use in shops made me think I’d like to find out more.
So I signed up for the class, and apprehensively turned up, not knowing what to expect.
Little did I realise it would be one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life. Our class commenced before the days of social distancing, and was held in the comfort of Clooney Hall, with the bonus of a break for tea and biscuits – sos – as Meabh our young, quirky teacher taught us. She had an infectious enthusiasm for the Irish Language, and easily passed it on to her students! We were a mixed bunch in terms of age and experience of Irish. Some, like me, had never come across it before, while others had a rusty recollection of words taught in school or previous classes they attended.
Meabh left us after a few months to continue her studies, and Bernie took over. Little did we know that in a few weeks, due to the Covid pandemic, our class would have to transfer online to Zoom, leaving us diminished in numbers. We were not diminished in enthusiasm, however, and have continued to link up on cyberspace every Tuesday, even all through the summer.
Bernie has an amazing knowledge of Irish folklore and history, as well as being a fantastic teacher and I look forward to our Tuesday lesson.
One of the highlights of this year, again pre-lockdown, was our class visit to Turas – an Irish Language project in East Belfast. We heard about the work they are doing to promote Irish as a language for all, met Linda Ervine and did the Gaelic Bus Tour of East Belfast. It was a great day.
I have met really lovely people as I’ve taken my first steps in learning Irish and I’ve realised the Irish language is all around us – in our names, our place names and in words we use in everyday speech. Most importantly, it’s for everyone – no matter who you are or where you’re from.
To An Cultúrlann, Derry for funding our course, to their staff Catherine and Lisa for journeying with us on Zoom, to Meabh and Bernie for their enthusiasm and patience with us and to all our amazing class members – hopefully we’ll meet as a group soon and continue our journey in person! Go raibh maith agaibh!"
Irish Language Beginner Class, Clooney Hall and Zoom 2019/20
"How I feel about learning Irish?
In my personal journey through life reconciliation and inclusivity have become a passion, from my student days when I first discovered the distance between our two communities in Northern Ireland, through my career, which drew me to work in a community as far removed as possible from the one I grew up in. I have always said that I wanted to learn Irish when I retire (reckoning that I would have neither time nor energy until then!), but to be honest the main barrier was my social anxiety, which prevented me going to a centre which was very much out of my comfort zone, given my background. When the opportunity arose to learn Irish in a building which I was already very familiar with (being my own Church) I was delighted, and it happened at a time when I was working to expand my social horizons, so the timing couldn't have better. I also was fortunate enough to join a class that has turned out to be a little bit 'special' - we're slow to the point of going backwards sometimes, but have formed a solid band of fellow learners and I have made some good friends, as well as finally feeling I am getting to grips with the language. I have really enjoyed the journey so far and look forward to continuing it; go raibh maith agat Cultúrlann."