‘Erasmus na Gaeilge’ to bring 175 students to Gaeltacht areas
Third level students to get opportunity to study for three months in Gaeltacht areas
Acadamh na Gaeilge, OÉG students, from left: Erin Mac an tSaoir, Dublin; Eoin de Bhailís, An Cheathrú Rua, Co Galway and Ciara Ní Mhéalóid, Camus Uachtar, Co Galway at the announcement by Minister of State for the Irish Language Seán Kyne TD of a €250,000 student Gaeltacht fund. With the Minister are Séamas Ó Concheanainn, Acadamh na Gaeilge, OÉG Carna and Dr Dorothy Ní Uigín, Áras na Gaeilge, OÉG Galway. Photograph: Seán Ó Mainnín
A scheme similar to the European Erasmus exchange programme has been announced which will see up to 175 third level students spend a semester studying Irish while living in the heart of the Gaeltacht.
The new language immersion scheme was announced at Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge in Carna, Co Galway, by Minister of State for the Irish language, the Gaeltacht and the Islands, Seán Kyne.
Likening the scheme to the Erasmus programme which has facilitated thousands of Irish students to study abroad since it was first introduced in 1987, Minister Kyne said: “For many years students learning languages have had the opportunity to spend time immersed in a target language while studying abroad on Erasmus. A fund will now be available for the first time which will help students to spend an entire semester in the Gaeltacht”.
The scheme, which is valued at €250,000, will see students from participating universities and institutes of education travel to the Gaeltacht each year to spend three months living with families while attending an approved third level course for the duration of the semester.
A subsidy worth €17 per day will be provided by the State which will enable third level institutions to offer a semester in the Gaeltacht to their students.
This compares to a subsidy of €10 currently paid for post-primary students that attend summer colleges in Gaeltacht areas.
While details surrounding accommodation have yet to be finalised, it is understood that up to four students at a time will stay with individual host families, depending on availability.
The subsidy will be payable to host families who are qualified under the department’s Irish Language Learner’s Scheme and will amount to €1,428 per student.
Under the Irish Language Learner’s Scheme, grants are paid to qualifying Gaeltacht families who provide suitable accommodation for Irish language learners in their homes where the language is spoken naturally as the everyday language.
To avail of the new scheme, students will have to apply through their own third level institution. They must be enrolled on a course that has Irish as a core subject or must be studying a subject that would require a high level of proficiency.
Séamas Ó Concheanainn of Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge in Carna, who helped devise the programme, said it will be of great benefit both to students and to local Gaeltacht communities.
“It will improve students’ linguistic ability and their understanding of Irish as a living language. These students will go on to work in different professions - in the civil service, in the public and private sectors and as a result of this programme they will have a deeper and broader understanding of the language in a contemporary setting.”
“They will be practiced in speaking the language on a daily basis in a natural setting and will be able to bring that experience with them into working, social and educational contexts throughout the country.”
Mr Ó Concheanainn said the course will appeal to students as the “vast majority” are not from the Gaeltacht and it will expose them to Irish in a natural, practical setting.
“They are from counties that have no Gaeltacht areas but they have expressed an interest in Irish and this is an opportunity for them to greatly improve their Irish and use it as a language that has a role in Irish society as a living language.”
It is also expected that the programme will pay a social and economic dividend.
“At a time when these communities are at a low ebb - between September and December - hundreds of students will arrive into areas where there is little growth,” Mr Ó Concheanainn said.
“Students will engage in projects involving local committees, local organisations and businesses as they implement projects that involve the use and promotion of Irish in different aspects of community life,” he said.
Projects could include events organisation, working with local businesses to develop marketing material and website development. After the semester ends students will spend time gaining work experience with Gaeltacht companies that use the language in their daily business.
“Co-operation with the local community is very important as it offers the students the opportunity to gain experience with the language in different contexts other than classes and lectures,” Mr Ó Concheanainn said.
“It might take a few years for individual universities to amend the syllabus to allow for the programme but this opportunity, which is ground-breaking, is a significant development for language students who get to improve their Irish in a natural setting and for the universitites who have an opportunity to deliver a high level of linguistic competency to their students.”
About 100 students studying the BA in Irish, the BComm with Irish and the BA in Communications at NUI Galway are due to start thecourse in September and the numbers are expected to increase for subsequent semesters.