Caron Osberg is the leader of an Irish Gaelic study group in Des Moines, Iowa. She has signed up her students as members of Bitesize Irish Gaelic to start to learn Irish Gaelic online.
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What did you think of the tips that Caron gives in this video? Leave a comment below!
EÓC (Eoin): So, hi, I’m Eoin from Bitesize Irish Gaelic.com. And today I’m joined by Caron Osberg, who’s a leader of an Irish Gaelic study group in Des Moines in Iowa. And I’m talking to her because as part of their learning methods I think they’re using Bitesize maybe as some part of their lessons. Hi Caron, how are you?
CO (Caron): Hi Eoin, I’m fine, how are you?
Eoin: It would be nice to talk about how you approach learning the Irish Gaelic language. But can you tell me first how come you’re interested in learning the language in the first place? Because Caron Osberg’s not exactly the most Irish name I’ve heard.
CO: That’s true. However, I do know that my family is from Ireland on both sides. My mother’s side and my father’s side. And we come from Northern Ireland, we come from the south of Ireland. Some of my ancestors came in the 1600s and 1700s. So there wasn’t anything recent from most of them. But, so that’s the connection. And I find that all of my students in the study group have some kind of ancestral connection to Ireland. And the way I approach it is with a lot of encouragement. It’s a difficult language to learn. And I think learners need to be gentle with themselves, and encourage themselves, and be encouraged by their teachers as well.
EÓC: So the people in your study group, would they have spoken a word of Irish Gaelic before they came to this group, or what’s their background in general?
CO: Not one of them had ever even spoken it. And I’m not sure if any of them had even heard it, to be honest.
EÓC: Why would somebody then decide to join an Irish Gaelic study group?
CO: You know, other than the ancestral connection I think it’s something very interesting to do. It is bit of a brain teaser, isn’t it. It’s not a language that very many people typically even think about. And yet, if it’s on your mind you’re very keen and interested in learning what to do and what to say and how to say it. I think it’s a curiosity.
EÓC: Is that why you started learning the language? I mean most people might have heard of “Gaelic”, potentially.
CO: You know, the way I started was 10 years ago. I was in a job where I had free Internet access. I mean, I was not restricted in my Internet access. And so when I would come in to work early, I would listen to Radio Ulster on the BBC. And so, I would listen to Hugo Duncan and shows like that. And then I started to fiddle around and I found over the years things like radio shows in Irish, and I found teaching tools. 10 years ago, it was a lot more intimidating, in my mind, than it is now. I don’t know when some of their other helps came about. But I first went through the BBC. I don’t so much anymore. But Collin and Cumberland, and Giota Beag, they were very helpful tools over the years. But really it started because I was bored early morning on my job.
EÓC: You’re right about the Internet, becuase for example, there’s Raidió na Gaeltachta in Ireland, and TG4 TV station that you can watch live online. And it’s so much more open I think than just 5 years ago.
CO: I imagine so. It’s wonderful. We watch TG4 in the classroom.
EÓC: So I’d encourage people watching this to check it out as well. We can add a link to it. So, in your study group, what do you do, do you work of worksheets, or what’s your general approach? You said you take it easy in little steps.
CO: I did take it easy. And we’ve been doing this for 1 year and 1 month now. And I’m really very proud of my students. They’ve learned a lot more than they think they’ve had. I started off using Progress in Irish because in Iowa, there are 3 Irish language study groups. There’s one on the eastern border, there’s one in the middle of the state, and then there’s one here in Des Moines which is the capital of Iowa. And, one of the other teachers had some information from Progress in Irish that were just worksheet handouts that he gave to me. And I struggled along until I found a grammar guide that’s kind of like a teacher’s help from Progress in Irish. We do watch the television quite a bit. We have a man here, I can’t remember where he’s from right now, but he is from Ireland. And he has come to our group before and he’s going to come again this winter. And he does things, he’s really funny, and he is very encouraging, and he checks our pronunciation, and he makes us speak to him in Irish. He’s very helpful. He also suggested that we watch sports shows like live sports shows to listen to the language as well because it’s kind of fast and excited.
EÓC: Because there’s Gaelic Football and hurling, amongst others that would be on TV.
CO: It would have to be on television because we don’t have that here. On TG4 the shows have English subtitles, and I’ve made a little piece of paper that goes around my laptop and hids the subtitles and they get really frustrated when I do that. But I like for them to listen to the language and to stop trying to translate it all the time. It doesn’t really translate literally to English. I want them to hear the language and not worry about the words themselves that the sounds that the letters make.
EÓC: So for somebody who’s maybe not fortunate enough to live near a physical class, what would your first couple of tips be for them for learning the language?
CO: Oh, honestly I would recommend Bitesize Irish Gaelic.com. I have, as a matter of fact, I have just in the past two weeks, two people who are brand new. Now, my study group is small. We’ve been doing this for a year. And so then I have people coming in who have again absolutely no exposure to the language that they’re interested in. And I have recommended Bitesize Irish Gaelic to them both because the lessons are structured in a logical intuitive path. And, they get to hear the language. The explanations within each lesson are really helpful because questions always arise. You start out with the alphabet. Things like that. Things that are really basic. But you really quickly bring the student to a point where they can have a beginners’ conversation. I really do like that. I used to refer them to the BBC tools because that’s where I started. But now, really, your werbsite is the one that I think everybody should start with. Because it’s just fabulous in a way that the others maybe move too quickly, or might be a little more itimiditatingy. So I see them as the second and thirds step for a real brandnew beginner.
EÓC: So if somebody’s starting off, you think a nice goal for them is if they can have a very short conversation with Irish Gaelic introdutions, and just maybe say their name, that that’s a really nice step to work towards, am I right?
CO: Oh, yes, I do. I think it’s the best thing. It also sort of gives you a sense of completion so that you can be encouraged. You’ve done something, you haven’t just learned the alphabet, or just learned to count to 10. You could actually go to a class an introduce yourself. Yes, I think it’s a great goal.
EÓC: This is the last question for you. What do you think is the hardest thing for somebody learning the language when they first encounter the language?
CO: The letter combinations, I think are what trip people up the most. I jokingly say that they forgot some of the letters, and so they combined the existing letters to give you the sounds that they forgot to give a letter for, if that makes sense. And I really just say that to make people laugh, and to put people at ease. But in a way it’s true. And they I segway directly into, for instance, “bh”, and the way it sounds when it’s next to an “a”. The way it sounds when it’s next to an “i”. Then you’re understanding that this is isn’t just a typical A through Z type of language. It begins to unfold in your mind. And hopefully it’s not a very intimidating way to go into it.
EÓC: What I say to people is, well, it doesn’t look maybe to an English speaker how it’s written. But there are rules there. So once you start learning some of the rules you start to decypher some of the words.
EÓC: Caron, so it was great talking to you. If people are in Iowa, or around Des Moines, how do they get in contact with you to find out more about your study group?
CO: Our website is learnirishdesmoines.blogspot.com. And the email address is learn [dot] irish [dot] dsm [at] gmail [dot] com.
EÓC: Perfect. So whoever’s interested should contact Caron. If you don’t happen to be as lucky to be near a study group, I suggest to you on Bitesize Irish Gealic.com to try out the free demo lesson. And if you are interested, join us, even if only for one month. You’ll have access to all of the 50+ lessons that we have up there. So, Caron, thanks a lot. Go raibh maith agat, agus slán leat!