In a previous blog post, we said that you don’t need Irish ancestry to learn Irish Gaelic. While this is still we believe in, we also have to give credit where credit is due. After years and years of helping people learn Irish Gaelic, we can say for sure that the language has an important role in reconnecting to your Irish Heritage and ancestry.
Trying to reconnect to your ancestry, to identify with your heritage is such a worthy goal and if this involves the amazing journey of learning Irish Gaelic, even better! A lot of our students are using the language to better understand who they are and where are they coming from. Two pretty big questions if you ask us – and we’re glad to help!
If you are looking to rediscover your Irish heritage, learning Irish Gaelic can surely help. It can allow you to read long-forgotten documents that help you learn more about your ancestry. It can also help you reconnect with far-away relatives, not necessarily by speaking to them (although that would be the ultimate goal) but as a way to show your dedication to the Irish heritage.
If you’re a bit underwhelmed by all of this or if you don’t know where to start using Irish Gaelic to reconnect with your Irish heritage and ancestry, that’s ok! As always, the Bitesize Irish Gaelic community is here to help. Read the David Smith’s interview below and see how he uses the language to connect to his Irish heritage and make everyone’s day better with a few Irish words.
Bitesize: Where abouts in the world do you live?
David: Tá mé i mo chónaí i Olalla, Washington State, in aice le Seattle.
Bitesize: Do you have Irish ancestry? Tell us about it.
David: My great-grandmother, Kathryn McBrierty, came to the west (through) Canada in the late 1800’s. She was born in County Fermanagh, in 1870, and always identified as Irish, though her family moved to Springburn, Scotland (outside of Glasgow) when she was quite young. She moved to Bremerton, Washington, in 1918, with my great-grandfather, George Bates.
She said Washington State, known as “the evergreen state”, reminded her the most of home, so here she would stay. Grandma said that when great-grandma made a decision, no one argued. She died in 1937 (before my mother was born) so none of the family now living got to meet her.
Bitesize: What got you wanting to speak Irish Gaelic?
David: My journey into Irish language started in 1987, with a 3-week tour of the Emerald Isle, a vinyl LP and book on Irish language. I never made it past “Dia duit” but decided to try again when I stumbled upon Eoin’s YouTube explanation of Irish/Irish Gaelic vs. Gaelic. His explanation made sense to me and I decided to try and bridge the gap of time, with the help of Bitesize Irish, in an attempt to get to know my great grandmother, and her ancestors, through the language she/they would have known and/or spoken.
My most direct ancestors include the surnames Gallagher and McBrierty and are located in Counties Donegal, Tyrone & Fermanagh. 2 of my 3 brothers, and I, returned to Scotland & Ireland last fall, with our mother, and were able to find our ancestral homes (the land only, as the houses were long-gone), grave-sites, and even a living relative or two, with the help of a local genealogist!
Bitesize: How do you use Bitesize Irish Gaelic?
David: Bitesize Irish is very helpful to me in that it breaks things down into manageable pieces that allowed me to learn useful words and phrases right at the start. Relatively quick learning kept me motivated to keep trying, that, and the impending travels to your beautiful country.
I use a few different sources, lately, to help me in learning Irish. Duolingo, YouTube videos, and upcoming this summer a two-week course in Irish, taught by Oideas Gael, but I always come back to Bitesize Irish because I like the format of sight & sound in helping me learn.
Bitesize: What advice would you have for a total beginner of Irish Gaelic?
David: As a beginner I would pick a program like Bitesize Irish and just give 30 minutes, 2 to 3 times a week, to the study. Watch some Irish programme, Des Bishop’s “In the name of the Fada” was a lot of fun. I enjoy traditional Irish music by Clannad & UCD Choral Scholars and less traditional music by Seo Linn and TG Lurgan. I am a classically trained musician so words set to music helps me to enjoy the learning process and I don’t see it as a chore.
I think that the single most important step to learning a new language, especially Irish, is to find a way to incorporate the language into one’s daily life, even if in very small ways at first, and you will find that, in time, comprehension and a desire to learn more will happen naturally. I greet everyone at my work place with “maidin mhaith, conas atá tú?” in the morning and say “Slán” when leaving for the evening. The receptionist says she looks forward to it every morning.
Even half a world away, a little bit of Irish brightens even the rainiest Northwest day!
You have your reasons to learn Irish Gaelic and we can help. Take David’s advice and make the first step of learning Irish Gaelic – singing up for a free trial. The Bitesize Irish Gaelic method of learning Irish doesn’t stop here, though!
Enjoy the experience, learn at your own pace, be confident, get in touch with your Irish heritage, and sign up for Bitesize Irish Gaelic.