Newsletter #39: July 2017

Postgraduate Diploma in Translation: interview with a former student

Are you thinking about doing the Postgraduate Diploma in Translation this autumn? Or maybe you're still in two minds? You'll find plenty of information about the Diploma on, but sometimes it’s better to get a student’s perspective on a course.

In order to do just that, Nuachtlitir Ghaelchultúir recently spoke to Gordon McCoy, who undertook the Postgraduate Diploma in Translation in 2015–2016, to find out about his experience of the course and how he has benefited from it.

Tell us about your educational background.
I didn’t have a qualification in Irish when I went to Queen’s University to do a degree in the Celtic language and in Anthropology so I was given an extra year to catch up in terms of Irish. After completing the degree, I stayed on at the university to do a doctorate. CELTA, a certificate in teaching English to adults, was the biggest course I had done since then, until I did this course. Like many others of my age (I’m 54 now), I say that I’m tired of courses but I register for them anyway!

Were you raised through Irish? What experience of Irish did you have before you started the Postgraduate Diploma in Translation?
I’m from a Northern Protestant background and I didn’t know Irish was a living language until I was 19 and I saw Clannad singing on Top of the Tops. That was a turning point because I’m infatuated with the language ever since. Before then, I thought Irish was like Latin – a dead language but studied as a school subject in the South. I spent a lot of time learning it in the Gaeltacht and I worked with two native speakers in the Irish organisation Iontabhas ULTACH for a long time, which helped me a lot in improving my ability to speak the language. But I was very worried about my proficiency in the written language – I had done a grammar course in the university but I was wrestling with bardic poetry and with Old Irish at the same time. I was under pressure and too focused on exams to gain a deep understanding of anything. And I couldn’t understand my scrawly notes!

Why did you decide to do the Postgraduate Diploma in Translation? How did you hear about the course?
Gaelchultúr has a good reputation, north and south. I did one of the company’s courses in 2009 and we delved into what I consider to be the language’s three major mysteries: the copula, the genitive of the genitive, and the difference between ‘ag’, ‘á’ agus ‘a’. I couldn’t find another course of that kind subsequently and I kept an eye on Gaelchultúr’s website. I did the Intensive Preparatory Course in Written Irish, which I really needed. One thing in particular impressed me: when I made a mistake in my homework, I got a few sentences, or even an paragraph, explaining the error I had made. So when I completed that course successfully, I decided to do the Postgraduate Diploma. Even though I live in Belfast and Gaelchultúr is based in Dublin, I only had to go there once a month and that wasn’t too much trouble.

What did you learn during the course?
There are a lot of aspects to the language that you can’t learn at home by yourself and I learned a great deal. I learned a few ‘dialects’ of Irish – the Official Standard, legal Irish, and the relationship between them and the spoken language. In terms of grammar, many nuanced questions were discussed, for example, when we say something like ‘Labhraíonn Gearmánaigh Gearmáinis’ (Germans speak German), we’re saying that they speak another language some of the time! I learned a lot about language contexts – translation theory, the problem of anglicisms. And I developed many computer skills – some relating only to Irish and many others that are completely transferable.

Did the course help you to progress in your career? Are you using the skills you learned now?
Yes indeed. I used the skills straight away because I have to write and teach Irish in my work. I’m working with Turas, the Irish language centre in the East Belfast Mission, and when a few other teachers heard I was doing the course, they started asking me about various aspects of Irish. I was asked to teach a GCSE class and I agreed to do it because I’m more confident about my level of Irish now.

Would you like to do further study in Irish?
I would indeed. Whoever said, ‘If you don’t use it, you lose it’ was certainly right. Some of the things I learned are etched into my brain now, but I’ve forgotten other things. I have to go back over my notes very often to organise them so that the information will be easy to find and to understand. Learning Irish is a lifelong quest. I registered for an evening class up here that was being taught by a translator, and that improved my knowledge of the language greatly. I don’t think I’ll have time again to attend a comprehensive course because of work circumstances but I’d love to attend short accuracy and grammar courses in the future.

Click on the above image to see the Postgraduate Diploma in Translation brochure for 2017–2018.