Walter Jayawardene has completed three levels of the Certificate in Professional Irish (An Teastas sa Ghaeilge Ghairmiúil, or TGG, in Irish). He did Level 4 in 2018 and Levels 5 and 6 last year. Nuachtlitir Ghaelchultúir spoke with him to find out his thoughts on the course.
Tell us about your experience learning Irish prior to the course.
To tell you the truth, I had very little experience when I undertook Level 4 of the Certificate in Professional Irish. I learned Irish at school, of course, but English was the main language of the school and the main language of my family when I was growing up. I hadn’t studied Irish in about twenty years when I embarked on Level 4 of the course a couple of years ago.
What made you decide to do the Certificate in Professional Irish?
I decided to do the course for two reasons. The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, where I work, is a civil service organisation. The Commission offered Level 4 of the Certificate in Professional Irish in 2018 and I decided to seize the opportunity. It’s a fantastic opportunity, really – you can do a first-rate course free of charge in your own workplace, during working hours! I’m very interested in languages and so it didn’t take much to motivate me to do this course.
At the same time, I was trying to use Irish more in my personal life. My plans were accelerated when my daughter was born as I intended raising her through Irish. I’ve now completed three levels of the course and I’m happy to say that Irish is the language I speak with my daughter at home. My wife is from America but she has already picked up a few Irish words and phrases. Having completed the course, my own Irish has improved immeasurably.
What did you think of the course, on the whole?
I have to admit that I was a little unsure about the course when I first applied for it. I was completely out of practice. One of the best things about the course, though, is the assessment that Gaelchultúr carries out with the students beforehand. Before we set foot in the classroom, we did an online exam and a phone interview. Because of this, when we attended our first class we knew that we all had more or less the same standard of Irish and so the interactive tasks, which were a key component of the course, were very effective.
I really enjoyed every aspect of the course. While it comprised of some written and grammar activities, the emphasis was always on the spoken language. I think this is really important. As well as that, the design of the course was excellent. Although people who work full time don’t have much free time to study, we had access to first-rate learning resources. We used a comprehensive handbook while in class and outside of the classroom there was a host of excellent online resources available to us on ranganna.com.
Do you think that you made much progress from level to level?
I felt that I made great progress from level to level. I undertook Level 4 in 2018 and Levels 5 and 6 last year. Level 4 was the most challenging one for me as I was out of practice at the time. Before long, though, the other students and I felt comfortable conversing in Irish. While Levels 5 and 6 required a higher standard of Irish (as well as considerably more homework!), I felt more confident about my ability in Irish when I undertook them. By that time, I felt that I was thinking in Irish more and more and that it was becoming easier for me to express myself to others.
In what ways were you able to put the skills you attained on the course into practice in your workplace?
I speak in Irish every day with my colleagues here at the Commission and when we need to send each other emails or other written messages we do so in Irish. We always encourage each other and, as a result, there is a very positive attitude towards the language here. I did a couple of interviews with Raidió na Gaeltachta recently and really enjoyed them. We’re a fairly small organisation and so people don’t contact us in Irish that often. Although, having said that, we feel that we’re now ready to communicate with people through the medium of Irish. I hope that more people will choose the Irish-language option in the future when they find out that we’re very happy to use the language with them.
Would you recommend the Certificate in Professional Irish to others? What advice would you give to others who are unsure about the course?
Yes. Do it! That’s my advice.
There’s a great demand for people with Irish in the civil service and the Certificate in Professional Irish is a wonderful opportunity to develop your skills in the language. As I mentioned already, I was kind of unsure when I applied for Level 4, but that didn’t last for long. After completing just a few classes, I felt at ease speaking in Irish. You really get a lot out of this course in both your professional life and your personal life.
Do you intend doing further courses in the future?
I’d love to do more Irish courses. I’ve completed each level of the Certificate in Professional Irish but a friend of mind told me about Gaelchultúr’s Intensive Preparatory Course in Written Irish and I’m considering this option at present. I’m very interested in languages, especially in grammar, and I’d love to explore the rules of Irish grammar in greater depth.
Do you have any New Year’s resolutions in relation to Irish?
I plan to continue using Irish in my daily life in the workplace and at home. As I mentioned already, I’d also like to do another Irish course. I’m originally from Youghal, a town which is very near the Waterford Gaeltacht, and I intend to make more trips to the Gaeltacht there this year.