Newsletter #46: September 2019

Learning Irish: an interview with Tarsila Krüse

Nuachtlitir Ghaelchultúir recently spoke with Tarsila Krüse. Tarsila is a book illustrator from Brazil. She has illustrated seven children’s books, including four in the Irish language. She has completed two evening courses (Bunrang 1 agus Bunrang 2) with Gaelchultúr. We spoke with her to find out her thoughts about Irish and about learning the language.

How did you first become interested in learning Irish?
I have always been interested in languages and linguistics. Brazilian Portuguese is my native language but I have also studied English and German. In 2015 I illustrated my first Irish-language book and this introduced me to an Irish speaking community. Since then I have illustrated three more Irish-language books and have undertaken several workshops and school visits with authors. Furthermore, our young son has been learning Irish at playschool. This has all heightened my interest in the language.

I believe that the Irish language is an integral part of Irish culture. It not only shapes the English spoken in Ireland, it influences how Irish people see the world and how they behave. I want to be a part of this culture and learning Irish seems like an important step towards this.

What did you know about Irish before coming to Ireland?
Zilch! My husband and I chose to move to Ireland in 2007 because it is an English speaking country with a reputation for friendly people. At that time, we knew of the Irish language but all we heard from people was that it is very hard and that nobody speaks it!

I think that Irish people underestimate their ability in Irish. Even though they learn it for years at school, they often say they can’t speak any Irish. I also think they sometimes have preconceived notions about Irish being either too rustic or too elitist. Having now studied the language, I find that Irish grammar is very interesting and quite unlike that of other languages. For me it’s a beautiful language – something new and interesting that I want to be a part of.

Why did you decide to study with Gaelchultúr?
We enrolled our young son in Portuguese classes some time ago. One day, while chatting with other parents at the class, I mentioned that I was keen to learn Irish. One of them, a fluent speaker and teacher, recommended Gaelchultúr. I enrolled in Bunrang 1 and did Bunrang 2 after that.

What have you enjoyed most about your courses with Gaelchultúr?
I really enjoyed the atmosphere in each class. The teachers were very friendly and willing to answer all our questions. All the students were really interested in learning the language. Because the classes took place just one evening per week, I found the online resources on a great way to revise what I had learned.

The main challenge I found was listening comprehension as, sometimes, even though you know the words, it can be difficult to keep up with the pace of the speaker. But just like physical exercise, this comes with practice!

Have you had a chance to go to the Gaeltacht?
I’ve taken a few short trips to the Gaeltacht, but for my job rather than to learn Irish. I have taken part in book launches in Spiddal a couple of times and have really enjoyed this. I also took part in a workshop in Rathcarran on one of the books I illustrated.

If I had grown up in Ireland, I would definitely have done summer courses in Irish in the Gaeltacht. They look like so much fun. Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to get away as an adult!

What learning resources do you use outside the classroom?
I try to make use of any chance I get to practise Irish. A close friend of mine is a fluent speaker and we use Irish whenever we chat or communicate by text. I also use Irish when dealing with the publishers I work with.

When I’m driving I listen to Raidió na Gaeltachta. It can be hard to keep up with the speed of the speakers but usually I get the gist of the story. I can generally understand current affairs quite well as I keep up to date on what’s happening in the world. Tweets are easy to follow as they are always short! While they are mainly in English, I also enjoy listening to Motherfoclóir podcasts as they give me new insights into the Irish language and Irish culture.

Our son will start at a Gaelscoil this September and I’ve already enjoyed reading emails in Irish from the school. I’m really looking forward to joining him on his Irish language journey.

Do you plan to study Irish further in the future?
My ultimate goal is to be as fluent in Irish as I am in English! It’s a daunting challenge but I’m going to take it step-by-step and give myself ten to twenty years to achieve it. When I think about it, I have already undergone this kind of journey with English so I think I can do the same with Irish!

Being fluent in Irish would be make me feel like I fully belong in Ireland. As my son grows up, I want to be able to converse with him in Irish, to read novels with him, watch TV shows with him, and so forth.

Even though I’m Brazilian, I want Irish heritage to be a central part of my life. For me, having Irish is kind of like having an Irish passport!