Fourteenth Annual Language Day is a Big Success

This year’s Lá na Gaeilge on May 3, 2014 was marked by increased attendance, wonderful faculty, numerous workshops, and remarkably talented presenters. Students ranged from having no Irish to being fully fluent. The theme for the day was Labhair í agus marfidh sí (Speak it and it will last). With that in mind, everyone was encouraged to use whatever Irish they had and to enjoy the benefits of learning and speaking the language.

Participants came from Boston, Worcester, the metro-Springfield area, Utica, NY and Fairfield County, CT.  Four different classes were offered to accommodate the experience of the students. Instructors Kathleen Gilhooly, Mary McShane, Rath DeHoust, and Síobhra Aiken did fantastic jobs in presenting material, encouraging the students to use what they learned, and challenging them to see and appreciate some of the unique characteristics of the language.

There were several workshops throughout the day to supplement the classes. Many students look forward to the varied nature of the day, and Erin Mulvaugh’s popular Irish set dance class was one of the reasons. In addition, Jonathan Kennedy and Amanda Bernhard, recent masters graduates of the UC Galway Irish Language program, and Rath DeHoust facilitated two Irish conversation workshops. The final workshop offering was Irish film. Friendly English subtitles were mercifully available.

The highlight of the day was the presentation delivered by Breandán Ó Caollaí, the Consul General of Ireland in Boston. The ICC was very appreciative that he would take the time to visit with us on a Saturday to discuss the state of the Irish language in Ireland. He spoke about the Language Act, the government’s strategy to strengthen the language, and various statistics regarding the percentage of people who understand the language and use it outside of school or in the Gaeltachts. Breandán read the Nuala Ní Dhomnaill poem on the “Question of Language” to serve as a reminder of how fragile the life of a language can be. He concluded by asking several members of the audience why they were taking the time to learn the language. Many of the answers focused on the opportunity to learn about one’s heritage and culture. “Enjoy the benefits of learning and speaking a language that has been spoken for 2,500 years,” said Ó Caollaí.

Hearing native Irish speakers converse is a treat. Two familiar friends to the Irish Cultural Center, Mike Carney and Muiris Ó Bric, spoke of their native West Kerry roots and the importance of language in their lives. Both men delivered interesting and humorous stories and gave the audience the opportunity to hear what typical conversations in West Kerry would sound like. Both men are great friends and continue their conversations in Irish weekly by phone. This segment ended with Síobhra Aiken’s class reciting a poem, “For Mike Ceárna, Blasketman” written by the Irish poet Louis de Paor.

The day ended with a seisiúin – an opportunity to play an instrument, sing a song, or recite a poem. Fiddles, uillean pipes, and guitars created a wonderful atmosphere for the group. There were traditional songs sung by the group and fine individual efforts by Tom Moriarty, Rath DeHoust and Katie Fournier. The day concluded with the Irish National Anthem and a desire by many to keep the language alive for another 2,500 years.

– By Chip Costello

Irish Language Day 2014