Name: Mairead Willis
Location of Study: Donegal, Ireland
Program of Study: Oideas Gael Irish Language Courses
Sponsors: Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures and the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies
A brief personal bio:
Hello! My name is Mairead Willis, and I am a sophomore from Portland, Oregon. During my first semester at Notre Dame, I took an Irish literature seminar and an Irish language class more or less on a whim, and since then learning about Irish language and culture has been one of the most important parts of my time at Notre Dame. I am a Neuroscience major with an Irish Language and Literature minor, and after graduation I plan to either go to graduate school in the sciences or in Irish language.
Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:
This SLA award will help me improve my conversational skills in Irish so that I can pursue study and career opportunities that involve the language. During my time studying Irish at Notre Dame, I’ve come to realize that I have an academic interest in the language which I cannot fulfill without improving my ability to speak and think in Irish. For example, learning more of the words and phrases used by native Irish speakers will help me in my attempts to translate from English to Irish, an area of study in which I’ve recently taken an interest, and to study Irish literature in Irish.
In addition, my excitement about Irish language and literature at Notre Dame has led me to seriously consider either looking for an Irish language internship for a summer while I am at Notre Dame or completing further study of the language after graduation. In order to pursue either of these opportunities, I need to improve my language skills considerably so that I can communicate in Irish with native speakers. The immersion opportunity that SLA provides means that I can improve this summer to the point where I’ll be ready for those opportunities.
What I hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience:
I have a lot of hopes for my time in Donegal. First and foremost, I want to improve my speaking and listening skills so that I am able to communicate with native speakers in Irish. The program I am enrolled in at Oideas Gael includes activities all day and at night, and I chose it primarily because I know that it has an emphasis on speaking. In addition, language courses at Oideas Gael take place week by week, and I am hopeful that after a few weeks in the level that I am initially placed into, I will be able to advance to a new class. Finally, when I study abroad at University College Dublin in the fall, I will be taking a course in modern Irish literature or poetry taught in the Irish language. I hope that after my time in Donegal I will be able to understand all of the texts that I am assigned in class.
My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:
- At the end of the summer, I will be able to communicate with native Irish speakers in Irish with enough fluency to conduct all of my daily business in Irish and to collaborate on projects through Irish.
- At the end of the summer, I will be able to listen to and understand Irish language radio and television programming in order to stay up to date on current affairs involving the Irish language or Irish speaking community.
- At the end of the summer, I will be able to read, understand, and discuss modern Irish literature and poetry.
My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:
My biggest hope as I prepare for this summer is that I will be able to take advantage of this immersion experience and to spend my entire month in Donegal focused only on the Irish language. The opportunity to be immersed in the Irish language is rare, and I want to take full advantage of it so that when I leave Donegal this summer I am ready to pursue further opportunities in the language. While I am home in May, I plan to read Irish language children’s books and watch Irish language television programs so that I can keep up my current level of proficiency in the language. In addition, I plan to label everyday objects in my house and to learn how to ask basic questions so that I am able to communicate completely in Irish from the moment I reach Donegal.