IRISH LANGUAGE Q&A

your greatest challenges learning irish

Shownotes

Niall and Ben answered questions about how to tackle your greatest challenges in learning to speak the Irish language. They gave tips on spelling and pronunciation, where to find other learners to practice Irish conversation with, how to structure your practice and how to maintain a sense of momentum as you progress along your learning journey!

Dennis told us that his greatest challenges are vagaries in pronunciation, speed of speech and a fear (on his part) of coming off as a dolt for asking others to speak more slowly or to repeat themselves.

Niall explained that nearly everyone gets that social anxiety in this situation. Just try to remember you don’t come across as a ‘dolt’ if you don’t understand or make a small mistake, you come across as a learner.

There are lots of things we can do to understand Irish speakers better: more listening practice at home, on the radio/podcasts, on TG4, social media, and in person.

Niall reminds us that we have excellent resources at hand: the online dictionaries teanglann.ie and focloir.ie, the pronunciation sites fuaimeanna.ie and abair.ie as well as all the help that is at hand on the Bitesize Irish self-study platform, of course!

Peggy asked How she can practice actual conversation in Irish? she has trouble understanding the spoken Irish and being able to quickly respond.

Niall advised Peggy to find people to practice with. At Bitesize Beo we offer weekly and monthly live conversation role-play sessions on our ‘Beo’ video calls as part of our Grow and Explore membership plans respectively. Peggy could also look for Pop Up Gaeltachts in her region, or look for Irish groups on Facebook wherever she happens to live.

Niall suggests trying controlled practice at first, sticking to a script (like Bitesize Beo) or a topic you know you can manage comfortably.

You can slowly expand from there, varying the ‘script’ and finding a way to include other things you have learnt.

Our motto here at Bitesize Irish is Gaeilge gach lá, meaning Irish everyday! The principle of daily practice pays a dividend – there are no quick fixes, but doing a little regularly will yield results.

Seán got in touch to tell us that his greatest challenge is Conversing with native Irish and other speakers in person or live online.

As Niall explains, speaking can be very daunting, so break it down. Make it Bitesize.

There are two main types of practice: 1. Controlled practice 2. Free practice.

Controlled practice is working from a script or an agreed-upon topic that’s not too broad, that’s at the right level for you.

In free practice the emphasis is more on fluency and communication than perfect grammar and pronunciation. Give yourself licence to relax and have fun.

Kathleen says that she finds written pronunciation guides for Irish challenging.

Niall agrees, saying that it all depends on the accent/dialect of the person who writes and reads these descriptions of the sounds. IPA is used in more academic sources, but most of us aren’t too familiar with that. It’s always best to trust your ears, and the website fuaimeanna.ie has phonetics as well as high-quality audio.

P.S. What did you learn from this Q&A? Leave a comment below!

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