Gaelchultúr has been providing Irish language classes in Mayo County Council since 2015, with a wide range of Council employees, from every section in the organisation, attending those classes.
Over 120 people have completed one of Gaelchultúr’s courses in those four years, according to the Council’s Irish Language Officer Marian Uí Mháille, and a majority of those participants have gained the Certificate in Professional Irish (CPI) qualification.
Classes have been provided in the Council for every type of learner, from total beginners in the bonnleibhéal course, to learners returning to the language and undertaking the Level 3 course, to those undertaking the Levels 4 and 5 courses in order to add to the language skills they already had.
“The learners here in the Council have really enjoyed the Irish courses,” says Marain, “even though some of them didn’t realise there would be homework to do in the case of the CPI! But they gained a certificate at the end of the course and the teacher they had, Siobhán Patten who came to us from Achill Island, was extremely good.
“We’ve been providing the courses through Gaelchultúr for about four years now and there are people who began at the beginners level who are now ready to undertake classes at the higher levels. There are other people who came into the course at Level 3 or 4 and who have now gone on to the next level, so they’re constantly improving.”
Marian says that some learners found the jump from Level 3 to Level 4 of the CPI very challenging, but that being able to gain a qualification at the end of the programme provided motivation for them. Some of the participants also found it challenging to speak Irish rather than English to their colleagues during the classes but they gradually got used to this change.
Marian says that quite a few Council employees are now able to converse in Irish and that focussing in class on topics relating to work proved very helpful.
“The classes provided by Gaelchultúr focus on ordinary things that happen in an office or a workplace, such as sending and answering of e-mails in Irish, for example, dealing with phone calls in Irish and other useful topics. The biggest challenge for us in the Council now is to inspire people to do their best and to use the Irish they learned in the classroom.
“We’re thinking of erecting signs in the Council offices to encourage people to use their Irish, or to do their best. ‘Their best’ is what’s important here because people tend to be hesitant about using the Irish they have. Our language scheme mentions that Irish speakers will be able to conduct their business with the Council in Irish and there are more people available in the Council now who can cater for that need.”
The most important thing about Gaelchultúr’s approach, according to Marian, is the process of assessing the learners’ linguistic competency before a course commences. She says that other classes were held in the Council in the past in which all staff members were placed together in the same level, despite the participants being at various levels.
“Gaelchultúr does assessments with learners and that’s extremely important. Those who have a good standard of Irish are placed into classes where they’ll have an opportunity to progress further, learners whose Irish isn’t quite so good are placed in the lower level classes, and those who have no Irish at all have an opportunity to start from the beginning.”
Like other learners, those working in Mayo County Council are happy with the amount of Irish they’ve learned with Gaelchultúr but have few chances to speak it, now that the classes are finished. Marian hopes to create those opportunities in the Council in the future, with “improvement classes” that won’t be as intensive as the TGG, as well as various Irish language events.