Muiris Ó Fiannachta, who works as Station Manager of Raidió na Life, did the Intensive Preparatory Course in Written Irish (an Dianchúrsa Ullmhúcháin i gCruinneas na Gaeilge) last autumn with Gaelchultúr. We spoke with him recently to find out what it was like to go back to the classroom.
Tell us about your experience learning and using Irish up until now.
I’ve been speaking Irish since I began speaking! So, I suppose I began learning it when I was born! We were raised through Irish at home and my brother and I attended an all-Irish primary school. After completing my secondary schooling through English, I returned to Irish at university, completing a degree in Modern Irish and Spanish at Maynooth University with first class honours. I’ve been working through Irish since leaving university and my professional life up to now has been spent mainly working in Irish-language media.
What made you decide to do the Intensive Preparatory Course in Written Irish?
Since I was young, I’ve had an interest in Irish and English, and more recently in other languages. I understand the function of the media in granting legitimacy to linguistic conventions, particularly in the case of minority languages like Irish. The media have an important role to play in the conservation of the language and, as Station Manager of Raidió na Life, I feel a certain responsibility in this regard.
An accusation that is often made against the station is that the Irish heard on programmes is inaccurate but, as a community station, we simply reflect the public itself and the language that is being spoken by people. In just a few hours we cannot remedy linguistic weaknesses that Irish society has picked up over a very long period of time. As manager, however, I can cultivate good practice and conventions at the station. For example, I give an induction pack to every new presenter comprising a compilation of useful sentences for radio scripts, common mistakes to avoid, as well as other practical tips. I also give presenters feedback from time to time regarding something or other that they may have said on air, that they wrote in a script or uploaded online. Obviously, it’s important that I myself am highly accurate if I’m taking it upon myself to correct others!
In addition to this, I’m the one who proofreads everything that goes on our website and scripts for adverts that are to be broadcast on air. I also have to write a plethora of official documents and I try to ensure that these are written in precise Irish. While I had quite a high standard of writing before undertaking the course, this can always be improved. I also work as a freelance translator and that’s another reason why I wanted to hone my accuracy in Irish, my knowledge of grammar in particular.
What did you think of the course in general?
I found it both enjoyable and useful. There was a nice mix of face-to-face classes and interactive learning resources on ranganna.com. A broad range of aspects of grammar, writing and translation was covered in the classroom and ranganna.com was a great help when looking back over the topics.
We were given homework at the end of each class, generally comprising translation from English to Irish. The feedback we received on the homework was really useful as it was very detailed and had a particular focus on aspects of grammar and writing.
Which aspects of the course did you most enjoy?
The grammatical rules that I hadn't fully grasped were clarified for me. The conventions of punctuation were also elucidated - punctuation permeates all types of text and it was really helpful to explore it in detail.
Some of the most important and challenging aspects of grammar were covered on the course: the relative clause, how to make the correct choice between the nominative and genitive cases, how nouns change after numbers or other nouns, and many more topics besides. We had many opportunities to put grammatical rules into practice in reading, writing and translation exercises.
Do you have opportunities to put the skills you acquired on the course into practice in your personal life or professional life?
Yes. I work mainly through Irish. Writing and speaking in Irish every day is an integral part of my working life. As well as the things I mentioned already, I write a vast number of emails in Irish every day and I have the opportunity to put the skills I acquired on the course into practice as I write them. In my personal life, I’m raising my daughter through Irish; so I try to use correct Irish when speaking with her too and the additional information I picked up on the course helps me in my endeavours.
Would you recommend the Intensive Preparatory Course in Written Irish to others? What advice would you give to others who are unsure about the course?
I’d recommend it to anyone who reads the course description and thinks, “Maybe I should do this course!” The course caters for a variety of people who have a reasonably good standard of Irish but who would like to improve it. It’s a very comprehensive course, but it’s very achievable at the same time, even for people with busy jobs! You’ll definitely learn a lot and you’ll be better informed and more confident in yourself after the course.
Have you any New Year’s resolutions relating to Irish?
I’m not one for making New Year’s resolutions, but I’ll be making every effort to put what I learned on the course into practice, especially in my written Irish. While it’s difficult to find the time, I’d also like to read more Irish-language books this year. It’s a while since I’ve read one, aside from children's books I read all too often to my two-year-old daughter! If I get to read one book for grown-ups this year, I’ll be happy!
For more information about the Intensive Preparatory Course in Irish or to register online, please go to www.gaelchultur.com. Those interested in the course can also call (01) 484 5220 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.