A View from the Heart Of The Gaeltacht

A Conversation with Póilín Nic Géidigh

Episode #2

Our guest in this episode is Póilín Nic Géidigh from the Donegal Gaeltacht. Póilín is a regular presenter on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta and the proprietor of the online design business maraduit.com. Throughout this episode, I found Póilín’s passion for and sense of duty towards the language inspiring and the palpable emotion in her voice when speaking about these things that are so important to her was really moving. In particular, you will hear Póilín speak about the distinction between the future of the language and the future of the Gaeltacht.

Podcast Notes

Growing up as a native Irish speaker

Having grown up as a native Irish speaker in an Irish speaking house, it wasn’t until leaving the Gaeltacht community for college when Póilín fully understood the importance of the language. Speaking Irish is one thing; however, Donegal Irish is another thing altogether and Póilín encountered difficulties in college as her dialect of Irish was considered different from others and was sometimes ridiculed. Póilín emphasizes the importance of all Irish dialects being valid and not inferior to the standardised Irish taught in schools. She also speaks about the challenges of learning a new vocabulary to pass the standardised tests and the difficulty of relating to literature that was not in her native dialect.

The challenges of teaching Irish

Following on from the above, Póilín also discusses the challenges with teaching Irish language in a national curriculum when there are different dialects spoken around the country. She suggests that a more localized approach would be better. The conversation covers how some people have negative attitudes towards learning Irish due to bad experiences with teachers in the past. However, Póilín believes that people should not dismiss the language and should try to learn it despite these challenges. She shares a personal experience of speaking Irish while out in a restaurant and the comments of a patron at a nearby table and suggests that people may be leaning into excuses a bit too much.

Speaking Irish in a social setting

Póilín discusses her experience of speaking Irish with friends and classmates in college. She has friends who she speaks both Irish and English with, but in a college setting, they would generally speak English. Despite many of them having Irish, they spoke English with the rest of their class who, she somments, were paranoid that they were speaking about them in Irish. Póilín notes that it can be difficult to change your default language when interacting with someone for the first time, and she has noticed that friends who she interacted with primarily in English are uncomfortable speaking Irish. She believes that politeness can be a barrier to speaking minority languages and that people need to be more assertive in using them.

Preserving the Irish Language

Throughout our conversation, the challenges of preserving the Irish language and its dialects keeps cropping up. We discuss the difficulties of technical vocabulary in the language and the need for each dialect to have its own method of teaching and learning. Póilín suggests that there needs to be a focus on understanding the differences in dialects and for people to have more access to immersion programs. She also talks about the importance of media formats, such as TikTok where Póilín is building quite the presence, in promoting the language and creating a sense of community among Irish speakers. Because of this, Póilín expresses optimism about the changes taking place and her personal efforts in promoting the language.

 

From here we dive deeper into the systematic problems with teaching and learning Irish in this country and the future of the Gaeltachts. Póilín also shares her opinion on what can be done to support the language and how we could further promote the Irish language in schools and encourage children to use it in various career options. It is a truly fascinating and insightful conversation and to hear it in full, listen above or browse the transcript below.

More on Póilín Nic Géidigh

Póilín Nic Géidigh Headshot

Póilín Nic Géidigh is a native of the Donegal Gaeltacht. She has a degree in graphic design from the Technical University of Dublin and a Master’s in Media from the University of Galway.

Póilín is a regular presenter on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta and is the producer and social media manager for national magazine radio show Bladhaire.

She is also the proprietor of the online design business maraduit.com and is an active member of the Irish language community online where she operates under the handle @poilination.

You can follow Póilín on all the usual platforms below:

Free Irish Learning Resources Guide

Whether you are just starting out or have already begun your language learning journey, I have compiled a collection of resources that should help you along the way.