Name: Caelin Miltko
Location of Study: Carraroe, Galway, Ireland
Program of Study: Acadamh na hOllscolaiochta Gaelige – An Ceathrú Rua
A brief personal bio:
I am a rising sophomore from Missoula, Montana who currently lives in Walsh Hall. I plan to major in English with a supplementary major in Irish Language and Literature. At Notre Dame, I write and work for the “Scene” section of The Observer and work as part of Walsh Hall government. By the time I go to the Gaeltacht, I will have completed 2 semesters of Irish as well as worked for 8 weeks at the National Folklore Collection in Dublin.
Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:
My primary reason for applying to the SLA Grant was to improve my Irish language skills. Taking Irish has been one of my favorite experiences at Notre Dame so far and I hope to hone my skills by immersing myself in the language. In addition to this, this opportunity falls in line with my current academic interests. Right now, I am interested in the plight of indigenous languages like Irish and, in the states, Native American languages like Blackfeet or Salish. Living in Montana I’ve been able to witness first hand some of the efforts for the language revival of the Salish language and find it fascinating to see the parallels in my Irish classes. These similarities are something I would like to investigate further and so, in addition to improving my language skills, the opportunity to live in the Gaeltacht and participate more fully in the Irish language will hopefully expand my knowledge in this area.
What I hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience:
I hope to become more confident in my use of the Irish language. Right now, I’m fairly nervous in my pronunciation and am slow to respond. I hope that immersing myself in a speaking situation will help me to be confident in what I am saying. I am also excited because at this point, I have had an Irish professor from Munster and one from Connemara. Since I am heading to Donegal, I will have access to another dialect of the language I haven’t experienced too much before this. I know that this will make some of it more difficult for me to understand but I am excited to broaden my knowledge of the language.
My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:
1. By the end of summer, I will be able to confidently respond to questions in Irish.
2. By the end of summer, I will be able to communicate primarily with my classmates in Irish.
3. By the end of summer, I will be able to recognize similarities and difference in the approach to language in Ireland and on the reservations in my home state.
My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:
My SLA Grant experience will come right off the heels of an 8-week internship opportunity I have in Dublin at the National Folklore Collection. During that time, I hope to have come in contact with some of the oral tradition from Donegal specifically. Some of this will have hopefully been in the Irish language. Arriving in Donegal, I look forward to interacting with native speakers regularly and to taking classes that will expand my knowledge of the technical sides of the language. I hope to balance my Irish language classes with time spent in the towns of Gleann Cholm Cille and Gleann Fhinne.
Reflective Journal Entry 1:
The past week has been one of the most incredible of my summer so far. Even though I was in Dublin for much of the summer, I managed to forget much of the Irish we had learned in school. Coming to Gleann Cholm Cille, however, I quickly regained what I had lost and then some. The focus here on speaking has really helped me to become more comfortable with my pronunciation (though the dialectical issues are proving more difficult than ever—though, considering I’ve had three professors/teachers and they’ve all spoken a different dialect, this ought not be surprising).
I’ve loved being able to immerse myself in the language via the cultural events as well as the daily classes. Working on singing or listening to poetry proves to be an incredible way to get a feel for the sound of the language. In addition, practicing tongue twisters in class has actually helped me remember some of the more confusing irregular verb conjugations.
I think the best thing for my Irish has been (attempting) to converse with people in level three and level four. They all have extensive vocabularies and are very willing to help me when my grammar, pronunciation, or wording is off. On Tuesday, when we took a trip during the lunch break to Killybegs, we drove through the Irish countryside, singing Irish songs and attempting to keep track of the level four’s conversation. Anytime I understood the general idea of the conversation, I felt a small bit of pride.
It was an exciting week in Gleann Cholm Cille. Last week, the new minister for the Gaeltacht was announced and it turned out he wasn’t fluent. Based on the media reports, it sounds as if he hadn’t any Irish at all. As such, he was sent up to Oideas Gael for the week to learn Irish. Now he was in level three and, based on this, I believe his Irish is actually fairly decent, even if he isn’t quite fluent. Having such a high profile figure at the school for the week was a bit strange but also a bit exciting.
For the next week, I move up to Gleann Fhinne. Other students have told me that it is more immersive there so I hope the next two weeks will be even better for my Irish. While I was sad to see the people I met this last week leave, I am excited to meet new people and to advance even more in Irish. I think it will be quite difficult but I’ve promised myself to speak as Gaeilge as much as possible and avoid the temptation to slip into English when speaking to my fellow classmates.
Reflective Journal Entry 2:
My second week in Donegal has certainly been an adventure. Gleann Fhinne is much smaller than even Gleann Cholm Cille, which isn’t really saying much. The town I am in (An Coímin) is basically a school and a pub, which serves various houses in the surrounding areas. Everyone in Gleann Fhinne stays in a “bed and breakfast” type situation, where the bean an tí makes you three meals a day (there’s no stores or anything until you get to Ballybofey—13 km away).
My time in Gleann Fhinne has been incredibly good for my Irish. Living with a family that speak Irish as their first language is incredibly helpful for immersing myself in the language. Additionally, I know that everyone here is on the language course so it makes it easy to speak Irish outside of class.
One of the highlights of the week was going into to Ardara for a set dance on Monday night. I’m not a particularly good dancer but we were with people who knew what they were doing (they even had the right shoes!). For the last set of dances, I danced with a group who was clearly very experienced. While I was a bit confused, they helped me through the whole thing and at the end, I got a lot of compliments on my dancing (well, I was able to follow instructions at least!).
I’m learning more and more everyday and I’ve found that now when I think, I think some things in Irish (only if I have the words, of course). It’s easy to be submerged in the language in Gleann Fhinne and it’s been amazing for my experiences with the languages.
Reflective Journal Entry 3:
My third week in the Gaeltacht was amazing and I can’t believe I only have a week left. This week, another Notre Dame student joined us here at Oideas Gael so that there are now four of us. Between her and another girl from Australia, I have heard some of the best live traditional music I’ve heard in Ireland. In addition to this pair, we had two sessions involving everyone on the course and people on the course. It was an incredible experience to hear all of these musicians playing together.
This week, my class focused on putting together clauses in more complicated sentences. I had a lot of time to work on my listening skills and I learned a lot of small connecting words.
Outside of class, I really enjoyed the poetry night this week. It was primarily poetry written by other people on the course and it was incredible to hear what people could write with the limited Irish they had. I have to say that I think I will miss the small village of Gleann Fhinne during my next week in Gleann Cholm Cille and I can’t believe I only have a week left in Ireland.
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Reflection on my language learning and intercultural gains:
Reflection on my summer language abroad experience overall:
How I plan to use my language and intercultural competences in the future: