Member Profile: Lisa Maloney

Lisa at Running Reindeer Ranch, Alaska

Lisa Maloney might very well be described as a dedicated student of Irish, thanks to her habit of attending online classes that began at 6am local (Alaska) time. As Lisa admits: “I suppose getting up that early did take some dedication, given that large amounts of caffeine don’t agree with me; it certainly cost me some sleep! But that was and is a price I’m happy to pay because, as you might imagine, live Irish classes don’t grow on trees in Alaska.”

Lisa’s interest in learning Irish was a natural, if unexpected, outgrowth of her interest in traditional Irish music and dance. Over the years, Lisa found herself enthralled by the culture, and the community. She began with a bodhrán, then a penny whistle, then somebody put a fiddle in her hand…next it was a bosca ceoil (button accordion), playing for the dancers. Lisa credits a few friends with sharing some Irish words and phrases with her along the way: “Sometimes the ‘cúpla focal’ was all they had – but the point is that they shared it, and as soon as I showed even a blink of interest, they encouraged me to use what they’d shared.”

There were other factors that helped kickstart Lisa’s language journey too, such as the example of Alaska Native people in her locality, who dedicate immense energy to preserving their indigenous languages, as well as a chance encounter with Irish-speaking set dancers in Corca Dhuibhne. These experiences all played a small part in leading Lisa towards learning Irish…

Visiting Falls Creek, Alaska.

Taking those first steps was not simple: “I will say that, although I made a few abortive attempts at learning with Rosetta Stone, Duolingo, and Mango Languages, the language didn’t really start taking hold in me until I found Let’s Learn Irish’s online classes. That’s not a surprise, because I went through a similar cycle when learning Spanish: First trying a self-guided approach, then recognizing that I really require adult supervision to learn a language well. The sense of community helps, too – knowing that I’m one small part of a bigger whole, all moving in the same direction for our own, unique reasons.” Lisa sees herself continuing on her Irish language journey for many years to come. As she puts it: “I see every language as a window into another world, and I suppose my life experiences until now have been the stepping-stool that lifted me up to this particular window. Overall I love what I can see through this window, and hope to stay for as long as I’m welcome.”

“Tús maith, leath na hoibre”, mar a deirtear!

Cé Thusa?

Ainm/Name: Lisa Maloney

Áit/Location: Anchorage, Alaska, USA.

B1 Intermediate

Ról sa Chomhphobal/Role in the Community:

Slí Beatha/Occupation:

Fad ag foghlaim Gaeilge/Time learning Irish:
Trí bliana

Caithimh Aimseartha/Hobbies:
Almost any kind of dancing, bosca ceoil agus fidil, reading, hiking, anything else outdoorsy.

Cad is Fearr Leat?

Ceol/Music: Listening: Anything with good rhythm to it, especially Irish traditional music

“The Maple’s Lament” by Laurie Lewis

Bia/Food: Escargot

Hot mulled cider

I love old kung fu flicks, and any action/adventure with decent stunt work and filmography — none of this “quick cuts to hide the fact nobody’s doing the stunts” nonsense.

Clár Teilifíse/TV Show:
Jockey Eile, American Ninja Warrior, Battlestar Galactica (the reboot)

The Newest Olympian

Anything by Patricia Briggs. I’d like to read Manchán Magan’s books, and hope to get to them soon.

Yes, all of them, although I am owned by two cats.

Laoch/Hero: My great-aunt Ethel Marden, who lived a life of great intellect, adventure and exploration during an era in which women did not do such things — and then encouraged me to follow my own guiding star.

Áit in Éirinn/Place in Ireland: I play C#/D button accordion. ‘Nuf said!

Frása Gaeilge/Irish phrase:
I’ll let you know if I ever choose one! I don’t have one in my other languages, either…

Miotaseolaíocht/Irish Mythology:
I appreciate that there’s still physical space for mythology in Ireland today — or at least that’s how it looks to me as a visitor.


“There are only two things to worry about, either you are healthy or you are sick. If you are healthy, then there is nothing to worry about. But if you are sick there are only two things to worry about, either you will get well or you will die. If you get well, then there is nothing to worry about. But if you die there are only two things to worry about, either you will go to heaven or to hell. If you go to heaven, then there is nothing to worry about. And if you to go hell, you’ll too busy shaking hands with your friends to worry!”

Mana saoil/Life motto: If it scares me and won’t cause permanent damage, I should probably do it.

Comhairle d’fhoghlaimeoirí nua/Advice for new learners of Irish:
Jump right in! And look around you for others who are interested in joining, or maybe already learning…. you might not be as alone as you think. I started out certain that I was the only Irish learner in Alaska, but I’m slowly coming to realize there’s a good handful of us here. Also, find ways to connect the Irish with your everyday life and interests if you can — that makes it easier to learn, and retain, any language.

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