Teaching in Ireland

One of the most prominent differences between this program in Donegal and the one I completed in Carrraroe last summer is the amount of teachers on this program. At least half of the people in the program seem to be teachers. I’ve come to learn that this is because in the Republic of Ireland it is required for teachers to have Irish as it is mandatory for all students to be taught the language. After talking with a few of these teachers, I began to get a better sense of the requirements to be a teacher, being a teacher in Ireland, and feelings toward the Irish language.

A display teaching shapes in my classroom. My classroom is regularly used for teaching young kids.

One of the people I talked to is already a teacher in Northern Ireland, but as Irish is not a requirement there, she needs to pass her certifications before she can teach there. In addition to receiving a certificate, it is also mandatory for teachers to complete 3 weeks in the Gaeltacht, which explained why there were so many teachers there. Additionally, you don’t need to have this requirement completed when you get the job, rather it needs to be done after you have been teaching for three years.

The sign for entering the Gaeltacht

I don’t know a lot about getting teaching jobs in America, but I did learn a bit about what it is like for teachers getting a job in Ireland. When you are in the South, if you have been subbing for 3 years or have not had a permanent post, you are put on a panel where you are entitled to get a permanent post. Apparently there are not a lot of jobs in the North and the pay is better in the South, so people want to come to the South to teach.  In fact, my housemate who is a principal was saying that there is a shortage of teachers in the South, due to this Irish requirement. While this is posing problem, I still think it is good that kids have to take Irish classes and teachers have to know the language. However, the teachers were also saying that kids don’t enjoy learning Irish and how it was so poorly taught when they were in school that they don’t have a lot of Irish now even after taking 12 years of it. One lady said that the schools were trying to change the way it is taught and implement new methods of teaching, but without fluent teachers, this will be hard to do.

Signs of the months/seasons in my classroom

There are also a lot of people in my program who are teachers, but have taught in different countries and needed to get their certificate in Irish so that they are able to teach in Ireland. Many of these teachers had previously taught in England, although there was somebody who has taught in Spain as well. It was very cool to see the flexibility EU citizens have in being able to work and live in different countries.


Overall, it was very interesting to learn about teaching in Ireland from the perspective of the teachers. It seems logistically different to find a job in Ireland than it is in America, as well as having the added aspect of having to achieve a certificate in Irish in order to teach.

First Week in Gleann Fhinne

After a delayed bus, another bus, and then a taxi ride I finally made it to Gleann Fhinne from Dublin. Gleann Fhinne is a rural part of Donegal, 30 minutes from Donegal Town. The only things within walking distance from the house are the school, a pub, and a mountain to climb. The scenery here is very beautiful and every time I make the walk to the school, I am in awe of my surroundings. The host family I am staying with is amazing and have really helped me with conversational Irish so far.

My stop in Donegal Town before my bus to Ballybofey

One of the things I noticed within the first class is the different phrases and pronunciations of Donegal Irish from the Irish I am used to hearing. The most prominent difference is the way of asking how are you and where are you from. Instead of Conas atá tú for how are you, Cad é mar atá tú is used. Similarly, Carb as duit is used instead of my familiar Cé as thú. This posed a problem at first as these are some of the first things people ask you and I did not know how to respond. However, after figuring out these new ways of phrasing questions, I can easily respond to them now.

The view on my way to school

One of the most prominent pronunciation differences is the –a/emh ending. I am used to pronouncing this as a v, however here it is pronounced as an ooo sound. This ending is present in two of the most used verbs, raibh (past tense of to be) and déanamh (verbal noun of to do/make). It took me a while to catch on to this change but when my teacher pointed it out in class, a lot of sentences started making more sense. Another small but prominent change is the use of the word fosta instead of freisin (also). One of the girls in my house said this the night I first got here and I didn’t recognize it. After hearing it used a lot, I finally asked what it was and felt silly for not having asked sooner when I realized that it was such a simple but commonly used word. Another major change is that the n in some words is pronounced as an r. For instance, in gnáth and cnón, the are pronounced as if they were spelled gráth and crón which is admittedly easier to say.


Since being here, I have learned to ask what words mean or about pronunciations because these simple questions improve my comprehension by a lot. It is also fascinating to hear how different the Donegal version of Irish is than what I am used to. I was told that it was different, but actually being here I finally understand what everybody meant.