Learning Irish in the USA is a Dream Come True

As a ridiculously proud Irish-American, I have longed to learn the language of my forefathers ever since I became aware that Irish was its own language. Learning Irish is a dream that goes back over forty years from when I was a young boy in high school. Having the opportunity to learn it formally in the USA is a dream come true.

Steven Whittle
Steven at Newgrange, Boyne Valley, Ireland

I had made attempts previously, but these were done in fits and starts. I took my mother to Ireland for her birthday (March 17th) and while in Dublin I bought as many Irish language texts as I could find. Though I was an experienced learner of languages, I found the orthography to be most challenging. “How in the world can anyone pronounce such words?” Ah, there was so much to learn.

Dublin, Ireland

Eventually I made an effort to find a local teacher of Irish. I investigated the Catholic University of America in Washington DC and was delighted to discover that they actually had language classes there. I contacted the instructor and he was willing to allow me to audit the course, but the class times conflicted with my work schedule.

Not to be dissuaded, I attended a local Celtic festival to try my luck there. This proved to be fruitful and I met a person who taught Irish and Scottish Gaelic. My journey of learning Irish had begun! I was grateful for his help in how to pronounce the words with the odd spellings and the rules of grammar that produced such spellings. What had been an unpronounceable gibberish of letters was beginning to make sense! This arrangement did not last long, though, as I had to leave the country for work.

Eventually I found myself in the UK, just a ninety-minute boat ride from Ireland! I so wanted to enrol in an immersion class in a Gaeltacht, but work and personal concerns made it difficult. I had to put off my goal yet again.

I relocated to the Washington DC area in 2014. While searching for Irish language resources/classes on-line I was stunned to learn that there was an Irish language course not a ten-minute drive from where I was living. I put myself on the email list and I received regular mailings about Let’s Learn Irish. One mailing offered a scholarship for a seven-week course, so I applied and got it! I jumped at the opportunity.

Washington DC, USA

It was a wonderful experience. The instructor was patient and generous with his explanations. I had so much fun learning Irish that I wanted to spend eight hours a day studying it formally in class. (If I ever find myself in a position to be in an Irish class that long, I would do it in a heartbeat.) The good people at Let’s Learn Irish made the whole learning experience something special – a real dream come true! 

Join the online Irish community for cúrsaícomhrá & ceardlanna, and follow along on social media @LetsLearnIrish – beidh fáilte romhat!

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