Radio documentary follows foreigners learning Irish

Foreign nationals disparaged for studying language

Simon Ó Gallchobhair, producer

Simon Ó Gallchobhair, producer


Foreign nationals will tell of the way in which their interest in Irish was disparaged in a radio documentary, Foreign Teanga, to be broadcast on Newstalk this weekend. Produced by Simon Ó Gallchobhair, the hour-long documentary follows a beginners’ Irish course at Conradh na Gaeilge’s Dublin headquarters and notes how local reaction to their efforts was often negative.

An American student from the United States, Maggie, said that people laughed at her when they found out she was learning Irish: “It wasn’t the best reaction I could have asked for, not the most inspiring.” Kerry, also from the United States, had a similar experience: “People in the office looked at me like I was insane. They asked me why on earth would you take an Irish class.”

Oxana from Latvia noted that the “Irish are proud of their language but I have the impression that people are sad that their knowledge level is not high” while David from Wales found it maddening that he was “learning Irish to promote the language but I don’t know whether I have ever heard.... someone speaking Irish by choice on the streets of Dublin and I find that very confusing”.

Producer, Simon Ó Gallchobhair, said that he felt that it required “the perspective of outsiders to reveal just how idiosyncratic Irish life is”. He followed people from diverse backgrounds – the USA, Denmark, Wales, Latvia and England – who were enthusiastic about Irish and were free of any prejudice towards the language – in contrast to many of their Irish friends and colleagues.

His aim was to chart their progress, recording them, for example, ordering coffee in Irish for the first time, and listening to them share their opinions about the language and Ireland.

Foreign Teanga will be broadcast on Newstalk 106-108FM on Sunday July 6th at 18:00-19:00 and at the earlier time of 7-8am on Saturday 5th, July.