Meet Brandi Goddard

Brandi Goddard - Ireland Summer program

Dia daiobh! Is mise Brandi. An samhradh seo, chuaigh me go hÉirinn agus rinne mé staidéar Gaeilge.

Hi Everyone! My name is Brandi. This summer I went to Ireland and studied the Irish language.

This past summer I was very fortunate to be able to spend three months in Ireland. My time there included a four-week Irish language immersion program in the Connemara Gaeltacht, an Irish-speaking area on Ireland's west coast. The course, offered by Ollscoil ba hÉireann, Galliamh (National University of Ireland, Galway), took place on their satellite campus in An Ceathrú Rua (Carraroe), a small peninsular village on the Atlantic coast less than an hour from Galway City.

Irish - as it's called by the locals, often called Gaelic in Canada - is a beautiful and poetic but endangered language, and one which has a fascinating socio-political history linked with colonisation, cultural revival, and language activism. Ireland is well-known for its English-language contributions to literature, but there is an older, centuries-long tradition of Irish-language mythology and folklore, music, oral tradition, and literature. Despite having a relatively small speaking population, Irish is a thriving modern language, perhaps epitomised best by the fact that an Irish-language rap group, Kneecap, exists!

The language program was very intensive and we were in the classroom eight hours a day, Monday through Friday. Bhí sé an-deacair! It was very difficult, but also very rewarding to have learned as much as I did in a short time. I would highly recommend an immersion program for anyone looking to acquire fluency in another language. For me, the most challenging aspect was the assessments, which included two oral examinations based on individual conversations with the instructor, and one aural comprehension test. The emphasis of the course was on conversational Irish, but I found the instructor more than willing to explain written and grammatical questions as well.

An Ceathrú Rua means 'the Red Quarter', so named because of the exquisite red rocky landscape that surrounds the small village. There are several world-class beaches nearby, including Coral Beach, which instead of sand, is made up of innumerable pieces of tiny coral. Irish is the daily spoken language in this community, and it was great to hear it spoken naturally at the teach tábhairne (pub), na siopaí (the shops), and especially at home. One of the best parts, for me, was the home stay. Language students are required to stay with a local Irish-speaking family, the Bean agus Fear an Tí (Woman and Man of the House). The family I stayed with were incredibly welcoming, helpful, and always willing to answer questions from school that day. Also in the house with me were students from the United States, Germany, and Montreal.

The course programme included several cultural events and day trips. Each evening there were guest lectures on Irish authors, language history, screenwriting and more, as well as sean-nós singing and dancing, walking tours, or traditional music. As a group we visited Pádraig Mac Piarais's Cottage, Kylemore Abbey, the Aran Islands, An Spiddal and Galway City. On the final night of the program, we had an Oíche Mhór, or Big Night. This included a catered meal and night of entertainment, followed by a trip to a nearby rural pub located in an authentic old thatched cottage with live traditional music. This was certainly one of the highlights for me, and it was sad to say goodbye to my fellow students, our hosts, and the incredible Connemara landscape.

My participation in this language course was made possible through a scholarship awarded by the Department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies and funded through the Ireland Canada University Foundation. I would highly recommend participation in this program, as well as in the Irish Language courses offered through MLCS at the U of A. Shout out to Barra Ó Scannláin, the U of A's resident Gaeilgeoir and Irish culture enthusiast, who teaches Introduction to the Irish Language on campus. It was his classes that gave me the basic knowledge and confidence to undertake an intensive language immersion program.

Go raibh míle maith agat - a thousand thank yous - to MLCS and Barra, University of Alberta International, the Ireland Canada University Foundation, and the National University of Ireland, Galway for making this amazing summer language trip possible.

Slán go fóill, bye for now!