Newsletter #40: September 2017

The Irish language in Dublin City Council: Part 1

The Certificate in Professional Irish is five years in existence this autumn. Over 600 people having received the qualification to date and demand for the course has been growing steadily in recent times. This autumn alone, more than 250 employees will undertake the Certificate in different organisations around the country, many of which will be offering the course for the second or third time in a row.

Nuachtlitir Ghaelchultúir spoke to staff members in Dublin City Council, an organisation that has run the Certificate in Professional Irish six times to date, to find out what impact the course has had on staff members and on the organisation as a whole.

Anne Marie Kelly, Divisional Librarian

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background in relation to Irish.

I’ve always had an interest in the language. I got a degree in Irish and Geography from UCD in 1991 and therefore had a good foundation in the language. I’ve been working as a divisional librarian with the City Council for a number of years and so I would deal with the Irish language through the programmes and events we organise in conjunction with the Mansion House; events for Seachtain na Gaeilge, for example.

What prompted you to do the TGG?
Since doing my degree, I suppose I haven’t had many opportunities to speak Irish – that’s the main reason I decided to do the course. Because I’m involved in the organisation of Irish language events I felt that I needed to become more fluent and decided to do one of the TGG courses. As more than twenty years had passed since I’d done my degree I decided to begin with Level 4 – to get used to speaking the language after so long and to get me thinking through Irish. I completed Level 4 and moved on to Level 5 shortly after that.

Do you think you made much progress from level to level?
The vocabulary and the material in general were more challenging at Level 5. There was also a greater emphasis on the richness of the language and on idioms; that was very inspiring for me and I felt that I made progress in that regard. The themes were really interesting and prompted lively discussion amongst us. The time slipped by very quickly in classes!

How were you able to apply the skills you acquired from the course in your workplace?
During the 1916 commemorations last year I organised an event through Irish entitled “Mo Scéal Féin”. I invited various conversation circles who meet in libraries across Dublin to come to Pearse Street Library and tell stories of the links their relatives had with 1916. It was a great success and I was really glad I did it. Had I not done the TGG, I don’t think I would have had the confidence to organise an event like that. But having done the course I felt that my Irish was much richer and I think that the course gave me the confidence to take that step.

Would you recommend the TGG to others?
I certainly would. I found the courses very inspiring, very well organised and the teachers were absolutely wonderful. I’ve done a lot of language courses over the years but I think these were the best ones I’ve ever done – I can’t say any more than that.

Do you intend to do further Irish courses in the future?
I’d like to do Level 6 of the TGG at some stage in the future but I might to a grammatical accuracy course beforehand. I have a great interest in grammar and I’d like to gain a better understanding of certain aspects of it – the genitive case, for example! I feel I’d have even more confidence as an Irish speaker if I did that.

That said, I think about what Éamonn Ó Dónaill, Gaelchultúr’s Director of Education, said when the certificates were being presented: “Even if you only have a small amount of Irish, speak it, and don’t be afraid of making mistakes.” That really made a big impression on me and I seize every opportunity I can get now to speak the language with colleagues. I feel that’s very important; if you don’t practise it on a regular basis it can slip away from you. I still feel I could be more fluent but with more practice, I’ll get there.

John Ryan – Senior Executive Officer

Tell us about yourself and your background in relation to Irish.
Well, I’ve always had an interest in the language. I did higher level Irish for the Leaving Cert and got honours – but that’s going back to 1977! I’m a member of club Áras Chrónáin; I was once a director there and still play music there. Now and then I would speak a bit of Irish with the other members. As part of my job here in Dublin City Council I deal with the Irish Language Development Unit. There are a lot of people on my floor here who have a genuine interest in the language; we’re always speaking a bit of Irish to each other.

Why did you decide to do the TGG?
Though I’ve always had a good understanding of the language, I’ve never felt completely fluent; I’d speak a bit of Irish to other staff members occasionally and it’s always been a bit of a fun. There are about seven or eight people on my floor who’ve done the TGG over the past while and who are hugely interested. I saw what they got out of it and I thought “I have to do that”. So I signed up for Level 4.

What did you think of the course overall?
I thought the various themes were hugely relevant to daily life. Certainly, some of the material was challenging – in particular the work-related language – but on the whole I feel like I have a wider vocabulary now. Lots of words came back to me during the course and I learned a lot of new words as well.

Above all, however, I think the course really increased my confidence. A few weeks after I finished the course, I struck up conversation with someone in Áras Chrónáin, a very fluent speaker. I felt comfortable doing it whereas before I would have been a bit dubious. I thought the teacher, Seán, was excellent. He made everyone feel at ease and there was always great fun in the classes.

Do you like the blended learning approach (learning online and in the classroom)?
I really enjoyed the online part of the course on and found it very beneficial for preparing ahead of the class. I got way more out of the classroom sessions as a result. I noticed once or twice when I hadn’t managed to prepare ahead that I didn’t get quite as much out of the session as I could have. It’s well worth looking at the material beforehand.

Do you intend to do further Irish courses in the future?
Yes, but I’ll give it a year or so before I do the next level. It was a challenging course, which is a good thing in my opinion; if a course isn’t challenging it’s not worth doing! In the interim I’ll take every opportunity I can to practise it. I’m lucky in that I have so many colleagues who speak Irish. One of my colleagues even refuses to speak to me in English; I have no choice but to speak Irish! We also have a conversation circle here in the Council which I’ve been to a few times. The Irish Language Development Unit are doing great work to promote the language.

Would you recommend the TGG to others?
One hundred per cent. It’s great to see people now taking courses – people I would never have imagined as having an interest in Irish. I think people in general would love to be able to use the Irish they learned in school and to build on that.

On the whole, the interest in Irish is phenomenal and the demand for courses [in Dublin City Council] is huge. There’s actually a waiting list for the courses – that says it all. There’s a lot going on with regards to Irish and there’s a positive attitude towards the language, but that said we’re always thinking of ways we can improve.

A funny thing happened this morning on my way in from the car park. Out of nowhere I heard someone say “Dia duit, a Sheáin”. I was a little taken aback I must admit! When I looked around it turned out to be a guy who was on the course with me. The TGG has certainly raised the profile of the language.

The Certificate in Professional Irish will begin again in Gaelchultúr in Dublin on 26 September 2017, but in-house courses can be run in any organisation around the country at any time. If you would like to get more information about the Certificate in Professional Irish, about the different course delivery options available or if you would like to schedule a free assessment for yourself or for other members of staff in your organisation (regardless of where you are in the country), please visit, call Michelle Seoighe, Gaelchultúr’s Business Development Manager, on (01) 484 5225 or send an email to