The past couple of weeks, I’ve been studying to learn the guitar. It’s been a real challenge, yet it’s satisfying. You might find the same with your Irish language journey.
Here are a few thoughts that come to mind on learning a guitar, and how those same concepts can apply to learning to speak Irish.
It seems impossible at first
I was telling my fingers “move this way!” and they just wouldn’t. I’d stare at my hand, knowing what the instructor in the video had described.
And yet my hands and fingers wouldn’t move the way I wanted them to.
It’s like learning to speak a language where there are sounds that you simply haven’t been trained to say.
You hear the sound from a native speaker, you start to catch the sound, but when you try to say the phrase, it doesn’t sound like you intended it to.
Yet you try and try again. And what seemed impossible seems to be more within reach with practice.
Concentrating intensely is key to adult learning
Neuroscientist Andrew Huberman emphasises the benefits of intense focus when learning.
It might feel uncomfortable trying to focus like that, seem like something that you need to escape from.
Yet it’s that intense focus that can bring your skills up a notch (and then getting enough sleep for those learnings to be solidified at night).
It’s strangely addictive
The challenge is immense, but there’s something calling me back to it.
That’s what we hear a lot from Irish language learners – there’s something much deeper driving your curiosity and connection with language.
It’s endlessly complex… and rewarding
I think what’s so interesting about language learning is that it’s such a hard problem.
Learning to speak Irish is never something you’ll “fully crack”. There is no finish line.
So with the complexity comes on-going reward.
Learning to speak Irish is about finding something within yourself, but it’s ultimately about expressing yourself with others in the same language. There’s something personal about that.
Like playing a guitar, speaking Irish is something you can get better at over time at your own pace, but you get to enjoy it more in sharing with others.
There’s something fun intertwined with all this learning.
Gaeilge Gach Lá
As we say at Bitesize Irish: Gaeilge Gach Lá. Irish every day.
We previously drew the comparison between Gaeilge gach lá and Yoga gach lá.
It’s obvious: practice every day, and you get better at it. But not just that, you get to move from being “merely” a learner to be a “practitioner” of the language. A Gaeilgeoir.
Also, I have numb finger tips from pressing on the strings. That’s not related to learning Irish, right??
What other connections do you see? Please leave a reply below.
14 thoughts on “Learning Guitar // Learning Irish”
Maith chun Eoin!!
Go raibh maith agat, Ryan! As my friend said, “play through the pain”.
Well done Eoin! Having the confidence to make mistakes is vital to learning anything. Nobody is perfect. After just over a year of learning Irish I find that I know a lot more of the language than most people do so I am so appreciative of that. I’m also really enjoying learning to play the feadóg stáin and branching out to playing the instrument in different keys. The enjoyment is the important thing in learning a language so keep enjoying and keep learning! Tabhair aire.
Maith thú Linda. I’d love to hear how you’re learning the feadóg stáin. Yes it’s a humbling experience to start learning the guitar, a good reminder 😊
I’ve been studying Irish, off and on, for about 23 years. I hadn’t heard of Gaeilge, before that. I think it’s a beautiful language, and would like to be a fluent speaker some day. 😉
Gaeilge gach lá 👍 Keep it up Charlotte and thanks for taking the time to leave a reply.
The more you practice the more you begin to see the patterns – like chord progressions in the language
The patterns – good point Lawrence. Go raibh maith agat.
I think Irish, like learning an instrument, is something that goes on evolving in your brain even when you take a break from it for a wee moment. You struggle to learn a sheet or a few bars of music, you intensely study it, then need to leave it for a day or so. And then when you come back to it, your mind has been secretly whirring away, and all of a sudden, you can play it a little smoother, or your fingers finally synchronise. Likewise with Irish, practice is important, but it’s also the space in between using it thats key. Later, when trying to ‘remember’ what you’ve learnt, your recall is activated and synapses thus strengthened, and then surprisingly, you can remember a phrase you used to forget or you get closer to perfecting that pronunciation! Its in the remembering that the magic happens 🙂
Love it, Amy. I agree with every word you’ve said. Giving it space, and the magic happens.
Have tried both…the guitar is hanging up….still working at the irish😀
As a guitarist for 65 years and one who seems to be a perennial student of Irish Ifind the word that is most ENCOURAGING for me regarding Irish and which describes playing the guitar is: JOY!
The joy of learning Irish surpasses the challenges and keeps me going!
Love it, thanks for sharing Cait. Similarly for me, it’s the essence of fun that makes it interesting. 65 years, I’ll take your advice!