When I first started learning Irish, I was really jealous of friends who were learning Spanish. Here in my home in California, you can just turn on the TV or radio and be instantly immersed in Spanish. You can surround yourself with the language all day long if you want to, picking up vocabulary and useful phrases and absorbing its rhythms while learning a bit about Latin American music and culture.
Enter Raidió na Gaeltachta
One day an on-line acquaintance happened to mention that he’d been listening to an Irish-language radio station — Raidió na Gaeltachta (“Gaeltacht Radio”) on-line. That passing mention revolutionized my Irish language learning.
Listening is an important part of learning
No matter how many learning programs you try, ultimately nothing really substitutes for regularly hearing the language spoken naturally, at normal speed, by fluent, and preferably native, speakers. Unless you’re lucky enough to be sitting in a pub in the Gaeltacht listening to the locals converse, on-line radio is one of the best and easiest ways to do this.
To listen to Raidió na Gaeltachta (affectionately known as “RnaG”) first go to:
http://www.rte.ie/radio/ (opens in a new browser tab)
This is the radio section of the website for RTÉ (Raidió Teilifís Éireann): Ireland’s national public broadcaster.
Click the button that looks like this:
(You’ll see a row of circular buttons across the top of the page. Click on the one that says “Raidió na Gaeltachta,” which is the fourth from the left. Their logo is displayed so badly, you won’t be able to read the last bit of that phrase.)
This will bring up a drop-down menu, with choices that include “Listen Live,” “Schedule,” and “Podcast.”
Click on “Listen Live” on the menu that pops up.
This will bring up the RTÉ Player, and whatever program RnaG is currently broadcasting will begin to play.
Start slowly — just listen
When you first start listening to Irish radio, even if you’ve been studying the language for a while, you’ll have a difficult time following it (in fact, it will probably sound like a lot of gibberish!). Don’t worry about that! What you want to do is just have it playing in the background while you go about your daily routine. What you’re doing is getting your ears accustomed to hearing the language. Eventually your brain will start finding patterns, and you may find yourself recognizing familiar words, even if you’re not following the broadcast entirely. The more often you do this, the better your comprehension of the spoken language will become!
Customizing your listening
As you get more used to listening to the radio in Irish, you may want to tailor your listening to programs that are more to your tastes, or that will help you with particular terms (such as weather terms). Fortunately, a lot of RnaG’s programs are archived, so you can listen to them whenever you want.
To do this, look at the upper right corner of the RTÉ Player. You’ll see a button that says “Schedules.” Click on that button and you’ll see a calendar, with the programs that are scheduled for that day highlighted. Many of those that have already aired will have a “play” button (right-pointing arrow) next to them. Simply click on that button to listen.
If nothing on that particular day appeals to you, you can navigate to other days by clicking on them. Any program that has a “play” button is available to be listened to.
Some RnaG programs are also available via podcast. If you’d like to explore this option, go back to http://www.rte.ie/radio/. Click on the “Raidió na Gaeltachta” button again, and choose the “Podcast” option from the drop-down menu. You’ll be taken to a new page, on which you can see the programs available for podcast (these have descriptions both in English and in Irish). Click on the button that corresponds to how you prefer to receive podcasts — iTunes, Yahoo, or Google — and follow the instructions to set things up.
When trying to decide which program you’d like to listen to, you might want to keep these useful terms in mind:
- Ceol Traidisiúnta: Traditional Music
- Ceol na Cruinne: World music
- Nuacht: News
- Priomhscéalta Nuachta: Headline News
- Caint agus Comhrá: Talk and Conversation
Other radio stations and a TV station
Once you’ve gotten comfortable with RnaG, you may want to explore these other on-line radio stations, as well as TG4, Ireland’s national Irish-language TV station. All offer the majority of their programming in Irish, though they do have more English-language content than does RnaG:
Raidió na Life: “Liffey Radio,” originating in Dublin. Click on “Listen Live” to listen.
Raidió Fáilte: “Radio Welcome,” originating in Belfast. Live broadcast will begin as soon as the page loads.
TG4: A TV station broadcasting primarily in Irish, offering everything from documentaries to talk shows to soap operas. Many programs have English subtitles. From the website, click on “TG4 Player.” If the station is currently broadcasting, you’ll get the live feed. If not, or if you want to watch something different, you can click on the tabs below the player to access archived programs.