Member Interview – Being an Ambassador For Gaeilge!

Many people seek Gaeilge before they’ve ever set foot on the island of Ireland, they use it as their nasc (connection) to their ancestry. For Seattle high school teacher Ann Marie, however, it was a trip to Ireland for her birthday in 2016 that started her journey diving into her heritage.

Thanks to the world-wide web, Ann Marie has connected to Bitesize Irish and other teachers. Now she combines her Bitesize Irish lessons, with Skype tutorials with a native speaker from Connemara.

She says she can’t imagine how difficult it would have been for her to learn the language twenty years ago, and I’m sure many other members will agree!

Now she’s an ambassador for the language, and sometimes that just means telling people Gaeilge actually exists!

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself!

I live in Seattle and am originally from the San Francisco Bay Area.I’m a high school English teacher, which means I spend too much time grading essays when I could be studying Irish! If only I had more time…..

2. What got you interested in speaking the Irish language?

I first went to Ireland in 2016 for my 50th birthday. I was quite unexpectedly moved and deeply affected by being there. This was a complete surprise to me but it sparked my interest both in researching my family history and learning the Irish language. I’m now more than a little obsessed!

3. Do you have Irish ancestry? Can you tell us about it

Yes, I have Irish ancestry on both sides of my family. The most recent emigrant was my paternal great grandfather, who came from Tyrone about 1880. I also have roots in Clare and Kerry.

4. What advice would you have for a total beginner of Irish?

There are so many resources out there, thanks to the internet, including radio and TV stations in Irish that you can watch or listen to. I can’t imagine trying to learn Irish 20 years ago but there’s so much available now beyond just grammar books. And obviously, try to find a way to talk. I have Skype lessons with a native speaker every week, which gives me an accountability that I need. I know he’s going to ask me about my weekend and that I will need to be able to tell him in Irish! And I think that what Bitesize is doing now with the “Gaeilge Gach Lá” groups is fabulous. I’d recommend joining one. Also, read Motherfoclóir and listen to the podcast. Great stuff!

5. How do you use Bitesize Irish?

Honestly, I love the Facebook community page most of all these days. People have great resources to share. In the beginning I listened to Eoin’s audio lessons a lot, and I still do use the grammar lessons online.

6. What’s been the hardest thing so far about trying to learn Irish?

I try not to be put off by the different dialects…Eoin was my first “teacher,” and my next teacher was from Belfast…quite a difference! And my current teacher is from Connemara, because of course he is. It’s confusing but I try to see the positive…it’s all good, as we say in the US! Other than that, the hardest thing is that I want to spend so much more time on Irish than I’m able to.

7. What do your friends and family think about you learning the Irish language?

When I tell acquaintances I study Irish, I’ve gotten comments that range from, “I don’t know what that means” to “You mean you’re learning to speak English with an Irish accent? Cool!” Usually it’s just a “Wow.” I don’t know what my friends and family think…maybe that I should get out more? Anyway, I try to be an ambassador for the language. Lots of Americans don’t know it still exists.

8. Tell us about any related interests you have, like do you listen to Irish music?

I listen to all kinds of Irish music and I listen to RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta every day. I am a recovering Ros na Rún addict but still enjoy other shows on TG4. I’m learning about GAA football (Tír Eoghain Abú!) and am becoming an Irish history buff as well.

9. Have you been to Ireland, or do you plan to visit?

Yes, I’ve been twice now, most recently to the north to see my great grandfather’s village as well as the Antrim Coast and Belfast. In 2018 I spent a week at Oideas Gael in Donegal, which I would recommend to everyone! It was so reasonably priced and so worth it. I made friends there who I’ll visit in Ireland next summer. I fly to Dublin on my birthday!

If you’d like to find out how you can join Ann Marie and the Bitesize Community, check out our plans on www.bitesize.irish.

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