Our Shared Language – Ár dTeanga Chomhroinnte

On Wednesday 31st January, Gearóid MacEoin from Conradh na Gaeilge visited the Primary 7 class to deliver a programme, highlighting Irish as a shared language.  The programme, which receives funding under the Central Good Relations Fund 2017/18, is part of a Language and Cultural Awareness scheme which fits in with the Executive’s strategic framework for improving good relations.

Conradh na Gaeilge were founded with a particular emphasis on encouraging the speaking of Irish, and on providing modern literature in the language.  Gearóid shared some of the campaigns that are run by Conradh na Gaeilge, including Comhra 17, Gaeilge 24, Seachtain na Gaeilge, Raidió Rí-Rá and the annually released Irish music album, Ceol.

During the presentation, the children were surprised to learn some interesting facts about their native language:

– Conradh na Gaeilge has many branches around the world, including Pittsburgh, Berlin and Paris.

– Irish is considered to have been spoken as far back as 2000-2500 years.  Irish is a Celtic language and is closely connected to other languages, including; Scottish Gaelic, Manx, Welsh, Breton and Cornish.

– The earliest form of written Irish script was called Ogham, carved into stones and read from bottom to top. Surviving examples of these Ogham stones are mainly personal names on gravestones.

– St. Patrick, although our Patron Saint, would not have been a native Irish speaker and would probably have learned it during his time in captivity in Ireland. When Patrick returned, he would have done so with Latin speaking missionaries, whose Roman alphabet then replaced Ogham with the letters we use today.

– Some letters in the English alphabet didn’t exist in the traditional Irish alphabet, but whose sounds were made by other combinations of consonants and vowels.

– TG4, the Irish television station, offers a variety of children’s programmes; Garfield, Fraggle Rock, The Muppets, Dora and Alvin and the Chipmunks. Popular books have also been translated into Irish including Harry Potter and Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

Famous people and Irish

The boys and girls enjoyed finding out about famous people who are known to speak Irish and even listened to Ed Sheehan singing an Irish language version of his hit ‘Thinking Out Loud’ .

Brendan Gleeson spoke in his native tongue and then transformed into Mad Eye Moody for his role in Harry Potter.

In 2011, Barack Obama shared his ‘cúpla focal’ when he spoke to crowds outside Dublin’s College Green, saying, “Tá áthas orm a bheith in Éirinn” (I’m happy to be in Ireland).  Barack Obama talked about coming back to Ireland to find his missing apostrophe. Gearóid explained that the reason for this was because the first typewriters had no way of adding a fada, so an apostrophe was used instead, and this became the apostrophe in surnames like O’Callaghan and O’Reilly.

International Space Station astronaut, Commander Chris Hadfield, sent excitement through Ireland when, in 2013, he tweeted about the beauty of Ireland from space, ‘Tá Éire fíor-álainn’ and then thanked the Irish people for their interest in his tweets, writing ‘Go raibh maith agaibh’.

Addressing dignitaries at the State Banquet in Dublin Castle 2011, Her Majesty the Queen began her speech with “A Uachtaráin agus a chairde”.

Gaeltacht areas

Gearóid highlighted areas of Ireland in which Irish is the first language and is used on a daily basis. Children from many different counties attend these Gaeltacht areas, learning Irish through language classes, song, dance and by living with an Irish speaking family for a few weeks during the summer.

Place names

The children learned that many of our place names come from the Irish language and were written in an English equivalent so English speakers could say and understand them. These place names often had meanings related to their location and geographical features.  For example;

mullach-summit    bán-white =                 Mullaghbawn – the white summit

cill- church              sliabh-mountain =     Killeavy – the church at the foot of the mountain

cam-crooked          lough-lake =                Camlough – crooked lake

The boys and girls used their new knowledge to decode some place names like Donaghmore and Drumintee, realising that our place names connect us all on our island.

Following on from today’s presentation, the children of Primary 7 will take part in six Irish language taster sessions, as part of a pilot scheme.


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