Why do people embark on hard journeys throughout their lives? Why do we set up goals and do whatever we can to reach them? It’s quite simple. We either do stuff for our or others’ well-being. We want to improve ourselves or do something for those who we care about.
But what sparks our desire to do such things? What would spark your interest of learning Irish Gaelic?
For some, that spark is a straight up epiphany, a single moment that changes their existence – such as finding the existence of Irish heritage and trying to connect with their ancestors to better understand who they really are. For others, the spark that gets them to learn Irish Gaelic is like a knowledge itch on the top of their brain. Let’s say you gradually start listening to Irish folk music and get really into it, devouring discographies. The more you listen, the more you want to know about the Irish culture and language – until one day when you feel confident enough to take the next step – get in touch with your Irish heritage by learning Irish Gaelic at your own pace.
As you see, the spark is always there but it just manifests differently. James Sweeney discovered the Irish language with the help of Irish folk music. The knowledge itch on the tip of his brain made him want more and so he took the next step of learning Irish – becoming a Bitesize Irish Gaelic community member. This is his story.
Bitesize: Where abouts in the world do you live and what do you like about that place?
James: I live in Newcastle, Australia, a city of about 300,000 people. I enjoy the growing music and arts scenes that the city has to offer. It is a pleasant surprise that a city that started out very much as a coal mining and steel manufacturing town and port has diversified so that it can now support a healthy alternative music and arts culture.
Bitesize: What got you wanting to speak Irish Gaelic?
James: I enjoy listening to traditional and contemporary Irish folk music, especially Enya, Clannad, Altan and the Chieftains. Many of the traditional songs that these artists sing are in Irish Gaelic. Not only did I think the language was beautiful when I heard it in these songs, I also desired to understand what they were singing about (ideally without relying too much on a translation!). It was for these reasons that I decided to start learning Irish Gaelic.
Bitesize: Do you have Irish ancestry? Tell us about it.
James: Yes, I have Irish ancestry on my father’s side. My grandparents emigrated to Australia after World War II. I believe I have some relatives, whom I have never met, in Ireland today. The Sweeney clan was historically based in Co. Donegal, but has in more recent times moved to many locations around Ireland. I have never been to Ireland, but I would very much like to visit one day to see the country and meet my relatives there.
Bitesize: How do you use Bitesize Irish Gaelic?
James: I use Bitesize Irish Gaelic on my laptop computer, going through each lesson and jotting down notes in an exercise book as I go. I find that taking notes helps me remember what I’ve learnt and makes it quick and easy to look things up.
Bitesize Irish Gaelic is a great resource for learning Irish, especially because of the recordings of spoken words and phrases.
– James Sweeny
This makes it much easier to get a grasp of the different sounds of the Irish language and the pronunciation of vowel and consonant combinations.
Like a number of other Irish learners in the Bitesize Irish Gaelic community, I do not know of anyone else in my local area who is learning (or teaching or otherwise) Irish. This makes learning Irish slower and perhaps more difficult than it otherwise would be. There is arguably less incentive or motivation to continue practising and learning. But if you are determined and you enjoy, as I do, hearing and speaking Irish then you can persevere.
Bitesize: What advice would you have for a total beginner of Irish Gaelic?
James: I recommend setting goals that are achievable and not too big. For example, a goal might be to think or speak in Irish a little bit each day or to recall the Irish words of things (such as food like apples, tomatoes, eggs, or bread) that you see every day.
When using the Bitesize Irish Gaelic lessons I suggest listening carefully to the pronunciation of Irish words and phrases in the sound recordings and repeating them out loud afterwards. Making handwritten notes is also a good way to reinforce what you have learnt.
Thank you, James, for taking the time and answering our questions. Your story may give other people the courage to take 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!
Don’t keep your spark hidden! Be confident, get in touch with your Irish heritage and sign up for Bitesize Irish Gaelic.