There is an Irish proverb that says “Beatha teanga í a labhairt” which means the life of a language is to speak it. Our Fulbright Irish Language teaching assistant, Réaltín McElhinney, has taken this approach not only for her ICC class but also for her advocacy of conversation circles. This approach encourages students to take an active role in their own Irish language journey.
Réaltín inspires her students to use what they have learned during their conversations. “Don’t be afraid to make mistakes,” she said during a recent Zoom call. Encouraging teachers, who promote this active learning, produce students whose confidence grows in their own ability to communicate.
In addition to her class, Réaltín has opened up a conversation circle with others from her native Donegal. Her students and other ICC and Conradh na Gaeilge members have an hour opportunity each week to listen and speak with others from this group. Language acquisition is a social activity after all. What better way is there to learn and practice the language with others who are on the same journey? Our invitation to participate in the group is one of the many benefits the ICC and Elms College receive from the Fulbright Program.
How will Réaltín continue this positive momentum? She is already thinking about activities for the annual Irish Language Immersion Day that the ICC offers to the community each May. In addition, students may see table quizzes in Irish and other activities that encourage speaking. Her goal is always to get more people speaking.
Those of us involved in Irish Language activities appreciate Réaltín’s active leadership, encouragement, and opportunities to improve our Irish. “As an obair a fhaightear an fhoghlaim” is a proverb that means “Learning is gotten through work.” Fortunately, Réaltín’s approach does not make it seem like work. Let’s keep talking.
– written by Irish language instructor Gerald Costello