A few days ago I pointed to the criticisms made of Ireland by many experts in the field of international tourism due to the country’s failure to build upon our huge potential for overseas tourism and education based upon the Irish language and culture. If more evidence of that surge in interest relating to the Irish language in the United States and Canada was needed in can be found in this article from the New York Daily News:
“Madeleine Ní Ghallchobhair found her niche: using her Irish roots to enhance Bronx culture.
The lass from a small coastal town called Belmullet is teaching her native language at three Bronx colleges for a year on a Fulbright scholarship: Manhattan College, the College of Mount St. Vincent and Lehman College.
“Here, I’ve got a much wider variety of students: Hispanic, African-American, people who don’t have Irish-American roots but are interested anyway,” the bubbly 23-year-old said in an interview at her Lehman College office.
“I gave a speech to one of the classes here and asked, ‘What do you know about Ireland?’” she recalled, laughing.
“Out of 40 people in the class, they said, ‘(The Irish) like to drink, and (the country is) green.’ Strengthening the link between Ireland and America is really important. A lot of people don’t even know…the real Ireland, with our language and dance.”
The daughter of a veterinary inspector and a farmer, Ghallchobhair studied at University College in Dublin, and then received her master’s degree in writing and communications in 2010. But the oldest of five children said she always knew she wanted to teach.
And after visiting San Francisco with friends one summer, she fell in love with the United States and was thrilled when she landed the NYC fellowship.
“It’s all about meeting as many people as possible, and strengthening the Irish community in America,” she said.
“I just feel like there’s a possibility that I can attract more people if I do secondary teaching,” she said. “I didn’t realize how passionately I feel about (Irish culture and language) until I got here.””
So when is Fáilte Ireland going to become Fáilte Éireann?
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Wish there was an effective way of learning Irish other than full immersion in a Gaeltacht region or going to a college to take courses in it. For a lot of people, myself included, neither are practical options. Rosetta Stone offers a course in it, but previous experience with the product in a different language (Russian) shows that it mostly teaches sentence structure and some commonly used phrases. Not actual fluency.
Oh well, maybe some day. I imagine it would be in Ireland’s interest to make it easier to learn Irish. Some sort of online program would be great. Can’t think of a much better use of your tax revenue than extending the reach of your culture and language, particularly for your diaspora.
Hi James, Get in touch with Daltaí na Gaeilge – they organize classes all up and down the East coast of the US and in some other areas too. They have a great website.
In the article above, Madeleine’s surname is given as Ghallchobhair – it’s actually Ní Ghallchobhair – the Ní is part of her surname, not her middle name.
Thanks for the Comment, Lillis. The link to Daltaí na Gaeilge is here. By all accounts they are an excellent organisation with a great reputation for professionalism and friendliness.