A new online Irish language social network, Abair Leat!, is to be launched (actually relaunched) in 2012 and is currently going through its beta testing. According to Silicon Republic:

“The world’s first social network exclusively dedicated to the Irish language – Abair Leat! – is to launch in the new year. Its creators are busy testing it and are looking for anyone with an interest in the Irish language or interested in learning Irish to become beta testers.

Those interested are asked to log onto Abair Leat! and create an account with Abair Leat! – to be one of the first people to use the new social network outside the company.

The genesis of Abair Leat! came about when staff of Irish college Coláiste Lurgan in Galway wished to work with new developments in IT to enable students to prepare for a cúrsa Gaeilge on their home PCs.

The Abair Leat! project was then undertaken by web designers Block 5 Design to develop a series of online Irish games. Since then, Abair Leat! has gone from strength to strength with a new partnership emerging in 2011 with world-renowned US-based online business Fantasy Interactive (FI) to create a unique social media site for the Irish language.

One of the world’s leading interactive agencies and operating out of New York, Fantasy Interactive specialises in interactive design, mobile and application development and social media for some of the biggest brands in the world, such as Google, Red Bull, CNN and Fox.”

This is not the first time Abair Leat! has made headline news. It was originally unveiled in 2010 as an online education resource for Irish schools:

“Comedian Des Bishop and the Minister for Education and Science, Batt O’Keeffe TD, have launched an interactive website to improve teaching and learning of spoken Irish in secondary schools.

Abair Leat! is a virtual online language laboratory in which students can improve their Irish by interacting over the internet with native Irish speakers.

Students can use the www.abairleat.com website to listen to speakers from the Gaeltacht, record their own material in Irish and undertake self-correcting exercises.

Teachers can assess students’ work on the website and give spoken feedback online or written feedback by email.

The pilot phase of Abair Leat!, which will be rolled out in 14 post-primary schools initially, is aimed at supporting the oral syllabus in first year of post-primary school.

Launching the online platform in Coláiste Choilm, Ballincollig, Co. Cork, today, Minister O’Keeffe said: ‘Abair Leat!’s mix of audio-visual material, vocabulary and grammar lessons, and self-correcting exercises makes it an innovative, flexible and modern online tool to improve learning and teaching in Irish.

“The website encourages independent learning by allowing students to practise their oral Irish at home and in the classroom and it gives teachers the opportunity to assess them online.  The proportion of marks for oral Irish in the Leaving Certificate examination will increase from 25% to 40% from 2012 so it is timely to examine new ways to improve students’ oral competency by leveraging the power of the internet.”

Des Bishop, whose award-winning documentary ‘In The Name Of The Fada’ was based on his year learning Irish in the Connemara Gaeltacht, said he wants to continue to work with Minister O’Keeffe to get more young people speaking Irish.

“Abair Leat! is an important step in our ongoing efforts to make the learning and teaching of Irish more enjoyable and interactive by focusing on the primacy of the spoken word,” said Mr Bishop.

Des Bishop will now embark on a tour of a number of the pilot schools demonstrating Abair Leat! to students and teachers.”

From what I’ve been told the success of the original program, and the high level of user activity, has led directly to this new venture. Those interested in joining up should go to Abair Leat! or contact the administrators via email at Info@abairleat.com. I should point out that Abair Leat! is not in fact the first Irish language social network having been proceeded by the Kickstart-powered An Líonra which, like MySpace and Bebo, soon faded into insignificance before the all-powerful Facebook (and let’s not mention Plenty of Fish!).

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