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.

Fáilte go Gleann Cholm Cille!

Dia daoibh! I have arrived in the beautiful town of Gleann Cholm Cille in County Donegal, a four hours’ drive from Dublin. I felt pretty jet-lagged over the past few days, but I’ve now recovered and am thoroughly enjoying the culture and the natural beauty of the town.

I already know my way around pretty well; there’s just one main road with a few pubs, a one-room grocery store, a post office, and a café. Further down the road you can see some houses, a fire station, a launderette (a.k.a. a laundromat) and Oideas Gael, the Irish school where I’m studying. I’m staying with an absolutely lovely family at a Bed & Breakfast accommodation. My hosts are both from Dublin but moved to Donegal for the natural beauty and peace. It’s easy to understand their motivation for moving — the landscape around here is breathtaking! I’ve included some pictures of the mountains, rivers, and beaches, but it is impossible to fully capture the scale of the surrounding countryside in photographs.

    An Stáisiún Tine – the Fire Station!
Bhí mé ag snámh ag an dtrá! (I went swimming at the beach!)
This sign is right in the middle of the town!

I was placed into an intermediate-level class yesterday at Oideas Gael, and we had two hours of classes. There seems to be a wide range of language abilities within my class, which has been nice because I feel slightly more advanced than some of the students but also thoroughly challenged by many of my other peers. There is an intense focus on spoken Irish in my classes. We occasionally write or read, but for the most part we spend the whole day speaking and trying to use as little English as possible. I was a little nervous about the intensity of spoken conversation at first; I am definitely more comfortable reading Irish than speaking it. But this focus is one of the reasons why I wanted to come to the Gaeltacht, and I have already been growing more comfortable speaking the language even if I make a lot of mistakes. The speaking activities have also been very educational, and it’s been wonderful learning about both ancient and modern Irish culture through the country’s traditional language. Today, for example, my classmates and I learned about the Celtic calendar year, role-played as employers/employees to practice job-related vocabulary, and planned menus for various occasions to brush up on food vocabulary.

The emphasis on speaking also helped to “break the ice” and allowed everyone to meet each other fairly quickly. Meeting my fellow classmates has been perhaps the most enjoyable part of the trip so far. Everyone has an interesting story about their reasons for studying Irish. Students come from all over the world; I have met people from various parts of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, the United States, Germany, Canada, and Sweden. I have felt an instant connection with almost everyone I have met, because we all share a love for languages and are excited to improve our Irish together.

The sign outside Oideas Gael.
Na chaoirigh. These sheep wouldn’t take the hint…
Aillte agus an fharraige – Cliffs and the sea


St. Columba’s Pilgrimage

Dia duit from Gleann Cholm Cille, Ireland! These past two weeks have gone by so quickly already, but I have been more immersed in the Irish language than I’ve ever been before. One of the aspects of the Oideas Gael program that I love is that language immersion comes in many forms, not just in the classroom setting. Each night, there is some sort of activity during which we are able to practice our Irish–poetry, dance, song, and even walking. One activity that I participated in was the annual pilgrimage to honor St. Columba, for whom the town is named after (it is said that he lived here for a few years).

The pilgrimage started at midnight on the feast day of St. Columba, and my housemate and I were one of 13 people participating. Over the course of four hours, we followed a local man through the dark wilderness surrounding the town in order to find 15 turas, or standing stones, around which we prayed and performed certain actions. The experience was unlike any other. There I was, walking through the bogs and forest and climbing up the side of the mountain with almost complete strangers and yet I felt I had a connection with them. What made it even more amazing was that the prayers were said in Irish, and everyone around me knew them. It meant so much to me to be a part of such an intimate, spiritual, historical, and deeply Irish experience within the first week of coming to the country. It proved to me that this immersion program is not just about the contact with the language that I will get in the classroom setting–it is not solely about grammar and perfecting my sentences. It’s also about the history of the language, the way it’s still used today (even though so few people can speak it). It’s about the way it connects strangers, and the way it can communicate so much more than meaning. Even after just two weeks here, I have already felt the way Gaeilge can impart the deepest love, friendship, and joy.

Here are a few pictures of a beach near the town, a sheep posing on the trail up to one of the turas, and a turas that I took a picture of during the day