An t-Oideachasóir ~ The Educationalist

A Conversation with Éamonn Ó Dónaill

Episode #5

In this episode of The Language Question podcast, Éamonn Ó Dónaill, author and educationalist, talks about the obstacles facing the Irish language. We discuss the challenges of both teaching and learning the language, as well as the current state of the language in Ireland.  As well as giving us his unique take on the language, Éamonn highlights something that he says he finds distressing, the crisis in the Gaeltacht and the lack of any real debate on that subject outside of Irish language communities. 

Podcast Notes

Growing up in the Gaeltacht

Starting with his experience growing up in Gaoth Dobhair in Donegal, where Irish was a vibrant community language in the 60s and 70s, Éamonn highlights the decline in native speaker numbers today

Challenges of Teaching and Learning Irish Language

As we moved further into our conversation, we discussed the challenges of teaching and learning the Irish language. With a lack of focus on everyday usage and natural interaction in language education, we suggest a communicative approach to teaching, where the focus is on meaning and enabling people to communicate, and grammar is taught in the context of the topic being discussed.

Teaching Career and Gaelchultúr

Éamonn also talks about his teaching career, which started at Maynooth in 1981. With a love for both Irish and teaching, he later founded Gaelchultúr in 2005, which helps people, particularly those working in the public service, improve their Irish language skills,

The State of the Irish Language

We discuss the state of the Irish language and the education system’s impact on learners. Éamonn shares his beliefs on why younger learners are not getting as much input due to a greater focus on speaking rather than grammar. Additionally, he also highlighted the struggles of appreciating and learning the richness of the Irish language, including dialects and communication difficulties.

Irish Language Revival Efforts

As we near the end of the podcast, we touch on the challenges facing the Irish language revival efforts. We talk about how the focus should have been on providing Irish language jobs and creating permanent exhibitions and centers where people have the opportunity to learn the language. We note the irony that there are now opportunities arising in the language, but they tend to be outside the Gaeltacht areas where Irish is spoken.

This episode and Éamonn’s perspective on the language and where it is headed is extremely interesting and well worth a listen.  Be sure to catch the full episode on your platform of choice, and download the transcript below.

More on Éamonn Ó Dónaill

Éamonn Ó Dónaill

Éamonn Ó Dónaill is an author and educationalist from the Donegal Gaeltacht of Gaoth Dobhair. He has worked as a director of the Department of Modern Irish Language Center in UCD and was a founder and director of education at Gaelchultúr. He is currently the chair of the postgraduate degree in translation at Gaelchultúr. Éamonn has developed Irish language learning series such as ‘Turas Teanga’ with RTE and ‘Now You’re Talking’ with RTE and BBC. He has authored many Irish language learning resources, including Gaeilge gan Stró! and Gramadach gan Stró!.

You can purchase from a selection of his books here.

And, you can connect with Éamonn on social 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.