• Éadaoin Fitzmaurice

My Imperfect Gaeilge And Why I'll Never Change It

I've been learning Irish since I was about four years old and I've always enjoyed it.


To read this article as Gaeilge click here.



I have this memory of sitting in a classroom with a nasty teacher I had in fourth class and she asked us to name out the Briathra Neamhrialta, which we hadn't learnt at that stage. I just seemed to know the answer and she smirked unimpressively thinking I had cheated.


Fast forward a few years and I left all of my friends behind to go to a Gaelcholáiste, an Irish-speaking secondary school, where I didn't know anyone, nor had I spoken Irish outside of my short classes.


This was the place where my interest turned into a passion and I knew Irish would be something that stuck with me for life. This was down to the positive way Irish was used around me in my teens.


My teachers' Irish came from all over the country - Dingle, Cork, Galway and even Donegal so my Irish developed from a pretty large mix.


Holding my thesis from my Masters Degree in Journalism which focused on Irish and social media

After secondary school, I wanted to keep up my Irish and extend my education. I applied to study Gaeilge agus Iriseoireacht/ Irish and Journalism in DCU as I dreamed of working as a TV presenter and in the media.


Unfortunately, I didn't get the required grade in English (even though I got the points), so I ended up doing Communications in DCU. I was heartbroken because I thought that my Irish would go down the swanny. I made it my mission to continue, even when the odds were against me. I joined the Cumann Gaelach in college and I went to events like the Oireachtas and Pop Up Gaeltacht, picking up all different kinds of dialects and phrases as I went along.


I could see a drastic improvement in my spoken Irish during my years in college.


I went on to do a Masters in Television and Radio Journalism and still kept the Irish language close to my heart. I based my thesis on the language and how individuals were using social media platforms to promote it.


My Gaeilge became part of my identity and story over these important years in my life.


In the Irish language, the most beautiful spoken Irish is considered to be from the Gaeltacht areas and a lot of people train themselves to speak in this way. Over the west in Connemara, the Irish is quick and throaty, up towards the hills of Donegal you'll find more of a twang and different grammar.


This is the Irish you'll hear mostly on television and radio because it's musical and it's stunning and the people who speak it have been doing so since they were born.


You will rarely hear the Irish that I speak though, which I think is a shame.


Would I change my Irish to sound like that though?


No, I wouldn't, ever.


I was approached recently by this random guy on a night out who recognised me from my YouTube channel that I do with my best friend Caoimhe called 'TusaTube'. What makes this channel special is that our Irish is completely different and it's something we joke about quite often in our videos.


This guy said to me "Bhfuel caithfidh tú a rá nach bhfuil do Ghaeilge chomh maith is atá Gaeilge Chaoimhe" meaning "Well, you have to admit your Irish isn't as good as Caoimhe's".


Caoimhe studied Irish in college so her Irish education is better than mine for sure, but this guy wasn't referring to that, he was referring to the fact that I have "Dublin Irish".


I love my Irish because it shows that you don't have to be brought up in the Gaeltacht to be able to speak it fluently. My Irish is made up of lots of different types of canniuntí and I think that's a really beautiful thing.


It's not perfect but it's me.


There can sometimes be an elitism when it comes to the language and I for one, have no time for it. If someone is trying to speak it, why would you put them down?


Sure isn't one of the most well-known seanfhocail:


"Is fearr Gaeilge briste ná Bearla cliste"


(Meaning it's better to have broken Irish than smart English)


That guy in the nightclub really bothered me.


It irks me that he went out of his way to criticise my spoken Irish and make me feel like it wasn't good enough.


I have had so many people say to me that they've watched TusaTube and they "actually understood" what I'm saying and most other times when they hear Irish on TV or radio etc. it can be intimidating or hard to understand.


This for me, is really important. I want people to hear me speak Irish and think:


"I can understand this, I still have it, I could speak it too."

It's important to have a mixture of dialects and Irish speakers in the media so that the language is accessible to everyone. The fluent speakers will still find the Irish that makes their heart happy and those looking to learn it or maybe even just have a listen to it should be able to find that too.

I am proof that anyone can learn it, speak it and become fluent.


If you are looking to learn or improve your Irish all I can say is, do it!


Don't let anything or anyone hold you back. It's created so many opportunities for me and I feel so proud whenever I speak it. You don't have to be from a certain place, school, family or country to speak Irish, you could pick it up right now if you wanted to.


There are loads of outlets to do so around right now some of my top picks being:


-TusaTube (mise agus Caoimhe)


-Bloc on YouTube


- Duolingo


- Classes

-cnag.ie

-gaelchultur.com

-nightcourses.com


-Pop Up Gaeltacht


-Podcasts

- Beo Ar Éigean

- Motherfoclóir


To finish, let me share one of my favourite seanfhocal with you that I think is also very relevant to this topic:


Ní neart go cur le chéile


There is no strength without unity.


To read this article in Irish click here.