Text size

Total immersion in Irish… this is all VERY confusing

April 17, 2012

AFTER arriving in September for the start of a new school year, I was faced with more than the regular problems facing the average student. I also had a language barrier to deal with in this new school.

I left Bridgetown after three years in the school where I sat my Junior Cert and began attending Meanscoil Gharman in Brownswood, Enniscorthy, which is an all-irish speaking secondary school.

The main motivation for leaving was because I wanted to study transition year. I originally intended going to the CBS in Wexford town but applied too late to get into transition year there – but I have been accepted into fifth year. So for this year I have been immersed in the native tongue that unfortunately was completely foreign to me.

Going into this school I knew it was going to be difficult, but felt in the long run it would be worth it. On the first day, my lack of Irish was humorous to the other students because our teacher explained what we would be doing for the year and asked what we were excited about this year and I misunderstood the question and replied with ‘rugby’ thinking the question was ‘what is your favourite thing to do?’. After that day I knew there were going to be a lot of moments like that.

Doing French through Irish is probably more difficult than any other class. Doing one language I’m not fluent in through another language that I am not fluent in was puzzling to say the least. It ensured that a new-found appreciation for English was established.

I had to go back to Bridgetown to get my Junior Cert results from the school and when I was meeting everybody from my old school it was nearly weird to hear them speaking English in school instead of Irish. Some of the teachers were wondering where I had gone, and when I told them about the school they didn’t know about the all-irish speaking school in the locality.

On the trip for our Gaisce walk, we went to Wicklow, and there was a river nearby so we went down for a quick swim. So I went down with my teacher and couple mates from my class and we got in. It was freezing. The teacher said something about not jumping in, in Irish of course which I didn’t understand. Being completely oblivious to the fact that she had issued a stern warning I jumped in and cut my chest into ribbons. Pain through the medium of Irish is pretty much like pain through English. I guess pain, like love, is a universal language. When I emerged like an extra from the water like a bloodied extra from Saving Private Ryan the teacher asked me why I had done did it. Which required this retort: ‘B’fhéidir you haven’t noticed ach ní thuigim Gaeilge!’

It became pretty apparent to both her and I that my speaking Irish while suffering from both hypothermia and blood loss was even more difficult than being taught French through the medium of Irish

Looking back I can reflect honestly that moving school was the right course of action even if I didn’t see the benefits of it straight away nor understand the benefits of it straight away. Six months in school and now I am able to at converse to people in Irish and understand what teachers are saying. I believe that coming here from first year would have been an easier experience and watching the first years blabbering on around me testifies to this point.

My Irish has improved and I’m much more confident using it now and I’m also proud of having more than a cúpla focal. While there can be no denying that the total immersion was a shock to begin with, tuigim anois go raibh sé an tslí cheart.