Gaeilge: interview in Irish about learning the language, with a native speaker (subtitled)


Benny Lewis is saying that anyone can learn any language to fluency in three months. We invited him a while back to join us in an interview on the programme and he said‥ Give me three months! After just two months of learning Irish, he is now live in the studio to speak to us through Irish. Welcome Benny! Thanks a million! How was learning Irish? Well, I actually started learning Irish maybe five years ago. I had only done lower level Irish for my Leaving Cert (school exam), but I went to the Gaeltacht in Glenn Cholm Cille and spent three weeks there. It was hard, but I started to speak and by now I’ve spent about two months total learning Irish. A lot of people in this country say that Irish is a really hard language. What would you tell them? Well, as I said, I’ve been travelling for 10 years and I’ve been in a lot of countries, learning a lot of languages. For example, this year I was learning Chinese and two years ago I was learning‥ what is it called, Hungarian? People say that these are the hardest languages in the world. But that’s an excuse that you can use with every language. And it’s an excuse that we have in Ireland too. They say that Irish is too hard. But the real problem is that we learn grammar in school, so we only have grammar in our head when we think about the language. But it isn’t like that for me anymore. I don’t think that Irish is harder than other languages; there are no hardest languages. For every language in the world there are children who are 4 or 5 years old who can speak it. So whether it’s Irish or Chinese, it isn’t as hard at all really. That’s a nice way to think about it! So, you﹑re saying that it﹑s really important to be immersed in the language, or to be surrounded by the language. But what about for people who can’t go to Spain or up to the Gaeltacht for three months? What way can they learn a language? Well, I learned most of my Portuguese in FRANCE. Soon, I’ll be going to a country, which is the wrong country to learn that language. That’s my new ﹒mission, that I’ll be starting in 3 weeks. But I’d like to show people that it can be done. I’ll be talking in one language, in a different country. So you’ll be doing something like going to Spain to learn Chinese or going to France to learn German, something like that? Something like that! Irish is everywhere! For example, I’m wearing a t-shirt that says “Speak Irish to me”. And here in Dublin, I went into a café and a girl started to speak Irish to me! And when I was in Cavan town, people started speaking Irish to me! A lot of people don’t know if they are able to use Irish in this country, and they think that they have to go to the Gaeltacht. Now, I love the Gaeltacht, especially where I was in Donegal, but you don’t have to go to the Gaeltacht. Irish is everywhere, and so is every other language. Certainly. You can learn any language anywhere! Thanks a lot Benny and best of luck with your next language, and we’ll be following your blog! Now I’d like to ask you some questions! Most of my readers are Americans and they think that Irish is only used by old people in villages and that it’s a dead language. What would you say about that? You’re in the right place anyway! This is Raidió na Life, it’s a community radio station in the centre of Dublin. There are so many young people using Irish and broadcasting in Irish, speaking to one another in Irish, and like I said it is a community station, and they are all voluntary workers, many of them are not native Irish speakers. They learned Irish in school etc., and not only does this station create a community for those listening, it creates a community within the station, in that we all know each other and that we can then use the language. Sometimes it can be difficult, when you are trying to speak Irish to people, when you’re not in the Gaeltacht, it can be difficult to find people but when you have a facility like this available it is very easy for young people in particular to find other people to speak Irish with. Do you use Irish yourself outside when you aren’t working on the radio? I get plenty of opportunities to speak Irish. I went to University in the Gaeltacht in Connemara in Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge, and because of that a lot of my friends speak Irish. That being said we often speak in English, depending on who is in our company. Sometimes it can be rude to speak in Irish to one person when the other in the group doesn﹑t speak Irish, they may think that you are whispering about them or something, but my whole family went to an all Irish secondary school so when I speak to them I often speak to them in Irish, and at home with my brothers and I work through Irish in my normal working day so I spend more than half of the day through Irish, and because of that I speak Irish more than I speak English. Now that is an exception for the most part, most people don’t get that opportunity and I’m very lucky that I have that opportunity which absolutely great. But you’re right; it is often difficult to find people to converse with in Irish and things like your t-shirt help and people wear a Fáinne (badge) also to show that they speak Irish but not everyone wears it and they don’t wear it every day out on the street. It can be difficult sometimes to find people who speak Irish. Things like Facebook help a lot when you see that someone has a particular language, with things like Facebook and the internet in general it is much easier to say “I’m an Irish speaker” and it’s almost like writing it on your forehead because you can write it on your page, but it’s great that you are wearing the t-shirt and that you managed to speak Irish with people in town, something I rarely succeed in doing even with people I know. You can listen to this station on the Internet. And you can watch TG4 online. These options weren’t there when I was learning Irish (in school). This was my biggest problem. Whenever I thought about Irish, I thought it was just a dead language. Spongebob squarepants wasn’t on TV in Irish at the time. But today it is! It is, and there have been huge changes in the language from a technological standpoint in particular, if you look at this station even, we broadcast online which means it is available all over the globe we post our own podcasts from our own show, and because of that we have had people in contact with us from America, and from other countries looking to download the podcasts, so Irish has spread and strengthened, and minority languages in general have been strengthened because of the internet and that is making things a lot easier for people seeking to learn a language Particularly to learn a language online, I mean you could be over in Texas and speak to someone in Conemara on skype etc. because of the internet, and that helps with the fortification of the language and with supporting people’s ability to learn the language and to use it. For anyone seeking to learn the language, as Benny says, it’s not that difficult, and the main thing to focus on is that it is certainly not a dead language, that it not simply a written language, that it is a language that people are using all the time and that things like Raidió na Life, Raidió na Gaeltachta and TG4 are available all over the world and that you can use Irish anywhere and that it is simple enough as a language to learn. I know that it is easy for me to say that because I speak it well but for anyone who wants to speak it, we’ve seen it with Des Bishop, with Bernard Dunne and even yourself that it is much easier to learn, that it doesn’t take the 18, or 15 years of learning Irish in School that we spend, in order to learn it. And that it can be done within a couple of weeks or a couple of months and you could be speaking Irish That’s right! Thanks a million, and I’ll see you all later! Bye!

7 Replies to “Gaeilge: interview in Irish about learning the language, with a native speaker (subtitled)

  1. Cool. Thought I'd have a listen now that I've been learning on Duolingo and I was pleasantly surprised how many words or phrases I was able to catch and understand. I am excited for the day I can actually understand and speak within a conversation completely in Irish.

  2. It is actually a very important language . Celtic was spoken before the Romanization of Europe. French is a Gallo-Romano language. As a very ancient Indo-European language it has connection to Greek, Latin, Albanian, Lithuanian, Armenian, Russian, Farsi, and Sanskrit.

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