Gaeilgeoir san Úll Mór

– A Conversation with Caoimhe Nic Giollarnáith

Episode #18

On this episode of “The Language Question” I have a wonderful conversation with Caoimhe Nic Giollarnáith, an Irish language educator and enthusiast living in New York City. Caoimhe shares her personal journey with the Irish Language, from her early years in Kildare influenced by her father’s passion for the language, to her academic pursuits and experiences teaching Irish in America. We explore the evolving perception and cultural significance of the Irish language in modern times, both in Ireland and abroad, and discuss the promising future of Irish driven by new speakers and technological advancements. This episode offers unique insights into the heart of the Irish language and its vibrant presence across continents.

Podcast Notes

Early Influences

Our conversation began with a dive into Caoimhe’s early life in Leixlip, Co. Kildare. She speaks about how her father’s passion for Irish led to the founding of a local Irish language primary school, shaping her initial encounters with the language. Despite her fluency, Caoimhe reflects on her initial hesitation to use Irish outside the academic environment, a sentiment that evolved significantly over time.

Academic Pursuits and Irish

Caoimhe’s academic journey is intriguing. Initially eyeing a career in psychology, her excellent performance in Irish during her Leaving Cert prompted a shift in her academic focus. She shares anecdotes from her time at the University of Galway and how influential mentors steered her towards embracing her linguistic prowess.

Teaching Irish in America

A significant part of our discussion revolves around Caoimhe’s experiences teaching Irish in the United States. She elaborates on the differences between teaching Irish in Ireland and the U.S., focusing on the enthusiasm and diverse backgrounds of her American students. Her insights on the challenges and joys of teaching a language steeped in heritage to people of varied ethnicities and age groups are particularly fascinating.

Irish Language in Modern Culture

Caoimhe and I delve into the representation and perception of the Irish language in contemporary culture. We discuss the impact of modern media, like films and social platforms, in altering perceptions and renewing interest in the language, especially among the younger generations.

Two of those films specifically mentioned were Yu Ming Is Anim Dom and Ruby.

Future of the Irish Language

Finally, Caoimhe shares her optimistic outlook on the future of the Irish language. She emphasises the role of ‘new speakers’ and technology in revitalising and spreading Gaeilge beyond the traditional Gaeltacht areas. Her perspective as an educator and a passionate advocate of the language shines a hopeful light on the future of Irish, both in Ireland and abroad.

More on Caoimhe Nic Giollarnáith

Caoimhe Nic Giollarnáith

Originally from County Kildare and now a vibrant part of New York City’s Irish community, Caoimhe Nic Giollarnáith embodies a deep-rooted passion for the Irish language and culture. Growing up Caoimhe had a strong interest in the world of Irish folklore and mythology, with her own father regularly sharing tales in Irish of the féar gortach and bean sí.

Caoimhe’s academic journey is as impressive as her cultural heritage. She attended Irish language medium schools and later graduated from the University of Galway with both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Modern Irish. During her time at university, she further delved into Irish Folklore under the guidance of Dr. Lillis Ó Laoire.

With over a decade of experience in teaching, Caoimhe has shaped the minds of many as an Adjunct Professor. Her expertise led her to acquire the Certificate in teaching Irish to adults from Maynooth University. Presently, she serves on the faculty of Irish language and Literature at Lehman College of the City University of New York, imparting her knowledge to undergraduate students. She extends her teaching prowess to the Irish Arts Centre and the New York Irish Centre in Manhattan and Queens, offering classes to adults. Caoimhe’s diverse teaching portfolio includes personalised classes for the families of Irish diplomats at the United Nations and Irish Consulate in New York, as well as previous roles at Fordham University, Manhattan College, and Rosetta Stone.

Her contributions to the Irish language and culture extend beyond the classroom. In February 2020, she was honoured with a Top 40 Under 40 award by The Irish Echo. Caoimhe frequently graces Irish language radio shows on BBC, RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta, and appeared in the IFTA award-nominated documentary series “GAA USA” on TG4.

Learn more about Ciara here:

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.