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Helen Irish learner


Helen moved from Maine to Connemara

Helen Aylward comes all the way from Maine, USA, but now lives in the Gaeltacht! Here’s her member interview with Bitesize Irish.

I am very lucky to be able to say I live in An Droim, South Connemara in County Galway. Originally, I am from Portland, Maine, USA.

How I started

I moved to Ireland specifically to study the Irish language and culture so that I could get a better understanding and appreciation of my Irish roots.

Irish ancestry

All of my grandparents were from Ireland. On my father’s side his father was from Recess and his mother from Connemara. On my mother’s side her family was from Tipperary and County Clare. I am still looking into their exact origins.

My learning journey

I started using Bitesize Irish over two years ago because there were not too many easily accessible opportunities to study the Irish language back in Maine. I recently returned to using Bitesize (after a break) in order to supplement informal classes I have attended here in Ireland. It has been difficult here where I live to locate “Beginning Irish for adults”.

I find this ironic because I live in a Gaeltacht! There are lots of classes here in the summertime for high school students. There are pockets of learning taking place …informally… with locals “teaching” Irish that I have sat in on and I discovered that my learning style requires more of an organized/systematic way of teaching/learning.

This is the first year that I have been able to access a “formal class” with an instructor. Class will begin next week in Carraroe. I also begin a “conversation group” next week that is facilitated by a trained instructor. So, I will continue to use Bitesize, along with these formal learning experiences to improve my Irish.

Advice for total beginners of the Irish language

The advice for the total beginner that I would give is to find some opportunity to be able to speak with another person in Irish who knows the language. You can learn to read Irish on your own eventually by studying but speaking the language really makes it your own.

* If you’d like to give Bitesize Irish a try too, sign up for our free Taster membership here.

15 thoughts on “Helen moved from Maine to Connemara”

  1. Hi there ,my name is Mary Connolly.MyMum was from Toureen,her maiden name was Walsh.My Dad was from Oumeney.Mike Joyce.I live in Dorchester Massachusetts.My husbands Dad was from Pouleywerrin and his Mum from Rossaveel.I speak the gaelgie and he has a bit.Helen you are so brave to move there.I wish you much happiness and luck in all your ventures.I have many cousin’s and one Uncle and friends still living there.❤️🙏❤️

  2. Hello Helen,

    I have queries on your Maine to Ireland journey…do you have an email?
    Thank you. 🌻

    Kind regards, Felicia

    1. Joyce is their surname. I have a cousin who reached out to me and her son lives on my grandfather’s land☘️

  3. Pádraig mc nally

    Hi Helen, it’s nice to see you and your family over here in Ireland, fáilte romhat.
    As you know it is winter time here in Ireland.
    An unbelieveable mild winter I must say. No white Christmas this year and no snowmen.
    I am not complaining!
    Will your children be learning Irish in the Gaeltacht?
    Does your dog understand you if you talk to it in Irish? Every little bit helps!
    Well Helen, all the best to you and your young family.
    Go n-éirí go geal leat
    Slán agus beannacht.

    1. Dia Duit a Chara,
      Well those little ones in the photo were actually a friend’s children???? I did teach my two granddaughters a few sentences in Irish when I visited them in November☘️ My dog is a native and he does “get his Irish up” when our neighbor’s dog trespasses and tries to “Mark” in HIS yard!!!
      Yes, it really is mild this winter but it WAS March when we got snow last year so it may be a bit too early to breath a sigh of relief! Being from Maine… I LOVE snow and I hope we do see some again☃️
      Cá bhfuil tú i do choni?
      Le meas,

    2. Hiya Pádraig,
      These are our friend’s children. They re sure to be studying Irish in school.. Sadly my dog is no longer living. He never had and Irish. My new dog, Órlaith reacts to a word or two of Irish☘️

  4. Hi Helen. All of my Grandparents and both of my parents were born in Ireland. My Mother was aa McDonough from Carraroe. Her family was known as “the Cassidys” My father was born in Lettermullen. I have Irish citizenship, and am in a small Irish learning group on Cape Cod.
    I am very interested in staying with an Irish speaking family in the Carraroe area or on the Aran Isles etc. I have had no luck so far. I am not that interested in the schools but prefer the family immersion system.
    Any ideas? Terry McDonough svdusaf@aol.com

      1. Hi Helen – Terry replied to your comment via email. Here it is:
        “Thank you Helen,
        I think my father might have even been born in Gorumna, but his birth certificate lists Lettermullen. I have been to Carraroe & Lettermullen several times. You may know my cousins Michael Mc Donough & Sean McDonough, They and their families live in Carraroe, as does The Griffin Family, and many others.I appreciate your reply. I will contact Bayview

    1. Sorry I am just now seeing these questions/comments. There is a big influx of Ukrainians here in Carraroe at the moment plus summertime is when Irish language students all come here to learn Irish. You may have better luck waiting for the fall months and looking for a FB group to post your query.

  5. Hi Helen, I’ve so many more questions for you! But here’s a couple:

    Do you here much of the Irish language around you at all, when the locals are speaking?

    That must have been a huge decision for you to move countries, do you still have “one foot” back in the States?


    1. Hi Eoin,
      I hear irish in the local shops and the postman and my neighbors all speak with me in Irish in I initiate it first. I return once a year to the States to visit with my family and have a yearly foctor’s Check-up. I really enjoy living here. Today I walked all around Cornamona (where my grandmother lived) and showed a friend the double Holy well that is there. So much to see and do here ????

    2. Hiya Eoin,

      Yes I. The shops they use Irish and my neighbors all have Irish. When I go to the hospital and speak to folks they sometimes use Irish.

      I have both feet planted here (bought my house and car here), pay taxes , etc. I manage to fly back to visit family and friends although Covid has held me back a bit over the past two years.

      I love where I live on Gorumna. It is peaceful yet still very wild here. I have great neighbors who have the biggest hearts♥️😊☘️

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