During the “Deiseanna Duitse” series, which was broadcast on Facebook Live last year, Gaelchultúr interviewed various people working in sectors in which a high standard of written Irish is required. In this article, we look at some of the advice they had to offer those who are interested in adding to their language skills, particularly in written Irish.
Firstly, the interviews often touched on the importance of an in-depth knowledge of vocabulary and linguistic registers, especially in the areas of translation and editing. All of the interviewees emphasised the need for continuous learning, so what steps should a person who wants to perfect these aspects of the language take? Listening comprehension, reading and writing were mentioned in most interviews.
One step that is necessary to become fluent in a language is to continually practise listening comprehension and communication skills and some guests recommended listening to radio and television programmes regularly to improve these skills. Fionnuala Croker, Press Officer with the European Parliament in Ireland, highly recommended immersive education, citing the periods she spent in France and Spain learning the languages. Susan Folan, a freelance interpreter, also noted the importance of listening comprehension skills, especially for interpreters. She mentioned that Irish is alive and well in the cities now too, in Dublin, Belfast and Galway for example. Therefore, those who cannot spend time in a Gaeltacht area should not lose hope.
The guests all agreed that the two related skills of reading and writing require regular practice. Aislínn McCrory, Acting Head of the Irish Language Unit in the European Commission’s Directorate General for Translation, is of the opinion that it is impossible to write good Irish without reading good Irish. In terms of reading materials, there were recommendations ranging from novels to academic articles, and lecturer Eimear Ní Chinnéide mentioned the value of reading not only for the sake of improving language skills, but also to take pleasure in reading stimulating materials.
As for writing, the guests mentioned the importance of writing regularly. Regularly writing blog entries and articles were common suggestions. In addition to that, Labhrás Ó Finneadha, translator and Quality Coordinator in the Irish Translation Unit in the European Parliament, provided a comprehensive guide for those who wish to pursue a career in translation. According to him, translation is a craft, “a process that is always ongoing” and he explained his approach to working independently. This approach involves choosing a reasonably complicated Irish-language text, a newspaper article for example, and spending two hours translating it. The article should then be set aside for two days, and after that it should be re-read and re-structured. Feedback should then be sought from somebody with good Irish and then the aspiring translator should review and practise one point mentioned in the feedback. Ó Finneadha emphasised that this process should be repeated at least once a month. Practise of this sort is an indispensable step in learning the craft and this approach should be suitable for anybody.
As mentioned above, excellent language skills are extremely important in Irish language sectors, and the tips covered above are a good starting point to improving these skills. But what did our guests have to say about the employment opportunities that are available to those who already have excellent language skills what suggestions did our guests have regarding the world of work? The interviewees discussed these employment opportunities in detail and they had the following suggestions for those who are at the beginning of their journey.
Firstly, Mícheál Ó Conaire, of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, mentioned the importance of keeping abreast of the available vacancies. Vacancies in the civil service and in the European Union are advertised online on publicjobs.ie and eujobs.ie, and he said that it would be useful to create accounts on these websites in order to receive email notifications when new vacancies are posted. Similarly, he said that it is worth following the social media accounts of the European institutions as well as those of the Department [of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht].
When Irish language careers are being discussed, we often hear mention of the challenging EPSO examinations, which candidates for permanent jobs in the EU must pass. According to Ó Conaire, however, there are different ways of negotiating this system. He recommends applying for a training course, either in Europe or here in Ireland, or applying for a temporary position to get a glimpse into the world of translation before diving headfirst into the complicated recruitment process.
This approach brings with it certain advantages - Labhrás Ó Finneadha mentioned the invaluable support received as part of the European Parliament's training courses. As well as that, people in temporary positions in the EU can avail of the opportunity to learn a third language as a part of their job, as Róisín Ní Bhaoill, proofreader in the EU Publications Office, is currently doing.
Of course, there are those who would prefer to carve out a career here in Ireland. Mícheál Ó Conaire is very positive regarding positions in the civil service here. There are a lot of benefits to jobs in the civil service and Ó Conaire also mentioned that positions come up not only in Dublin, but all over the country.
This article gives you a small taste of all that was discussed in the “Deiseanna Duitse” series but, if you would like more information, the full interviews are available on Gaelchultúr's YouTube channel and Facebook page. The guests' inspiring contributions will be very useful for those who are considering a career through Irish, and we're very grateful to them for sharing their expertise with us.