An email to my sister about my last Irish class

My class last night was really strange, but good. It was probably the smallest turn-out yet. Just the hardcore. It seemed everyone had an leabhar. Smug and Mrs Smug were missing and that made a definite impact on the group. Padraig was not there, so it was both classes (my class being three of us) and the remains of the other class all under Bernie’s tutelage. I think her teaching method leaves something to be desired. It is Beginners, after all! She fires off questions at you that you have never heard before and she expects that you will be able to piece it together from the words she said. But she says it so fast that you can’t hear all the words! She fired something, I don’t even know what because I only heard “túsa” in it and knew I had never heard the phrase before, at me. I had no idea what she was talking about and had to offer up “Ní thuigim”. 🙁 Turns out she was asking me something dumb like “Are you me?” Cé túsa mé? or something like that. Then she pulled similar stuff with others. The other two from my class were looking at me like “WTF is she talking about??!?!?!?!” I think she is setting the bar a bit high for a beginner’s course. The TEG syllabus clearly states that learners at this level will learn phrases by memorization and will be easily confused when offered things that they have not encountered before. Maybe she is not used to teaching beginners?

But, it was good enough. We muddled through her crazy lesson on “Are you me?” and moved on to more detailed descriptions of what we do for a living “Tá mé ag obair mar _______.” She had a hard time accepting the fact that, yes, when I say “network” I mean the wires and such. And Irish does not have a word for “geek”, so we had to work on my official title, “Professional-Technical Consulting Engineer”. I don’t have what we came up with for that, but you can probably imagine that it is similarly vague and about míle letters long! My nerdy friend, the math teacher husband, asked Mike Newell about words like “nerd” and “geek” during the break. We all had a pretty good laugh while digging through dictionaries and listening to Mike describe people he knew growing up. But they weren’t “geeks” or “nerds” but rather “brainy” or “awkward”. In the end, we decided that there are no geeks or nerds in Ireland. 😉

Des Bishop was discussed by the students a BUNCH this week. When I arrived, there was a group outside the building discussing his journey. My nerdy friend above brought him up later in the evening, too.

After break, Mike gave a lesson on grammar which quickly devolved into a lesson on séimhiú agus urú. Honestly, I felt that this lesson should have been given at the start of the classes, not in the second half of the last class. Even though the survivors all had the book and we were even given copies of the pages at the beginning of the book on Day 1, there was never a lesson on the importance of studying the table presented there, so it was, obviously, skipped by everyone and it seemed like new material for them. I remarked on this in the eval questionnaire we were asked to fill out before leaving. The wife of my nerdy math teacher friend did not seem impressed with the class (I stole a look at the ratings section of those around me). She gave straight 2s on a 1 to 5 scale…and then wrote so much in the comments section that she had to flip the page over! But, she is a math teacher, as well, so she may have had a LOT to say about the class structure and teaching methods. I was far more forgiving. My Irish is improved as a result of attending the classes, so it is hard to find too much fault with them. I also noted that as long as 10 weeks seems, the over-all length of the class needs to be greatly extended.

Oh! During the Mike Newell part of the evening, one of the women asked him to explain how to properly form sentences as Gaeilge. As an example, she tossed out “The beautiful horse ran fast” and asked how that would be formed in Irish. Mike asked us (and “us” here involved the Advanced people, too) what was “run” in Irish. I bleated “rith”, so he gave us the third person past tense of rith. Then he asked for beautiful. I bleated out “álainn”. Then he asked for horse. I bleated out “capall”. At this point, the Belfast woman sitting next to me was saying something like “WTF?”, jokingly under her breath so that only I could hear. Then Mike asked for “fast”. I said I was unclear on how to pronounce it (thanks, RS!), so I spelled out “T-A-P-A”, which Mike took and made into the past tense. The Belfast woman then, not quietly, said “How the hell do you know all of that?!?!?!?!” HAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHA So, yeah, I don’t know how to answer nonsensical questions like “Are you me?”, but I do have a decent amount of Irish! HAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAA! In the end it worked out to something like “Ran the horse beautiful fast.” But, again, this is pretty much just VSO stuff which was presented in the intro of the book, but none of it was really emphasized during the class sessions.

So, they are meeting next week to discuss the future and to review the eval sheets to see what works and what doesn’t. I thought of it after the fact, but, if I ever get an email out of these folks, I am going to suggest that they teach with the goal of the students taking the TEG exam in mind. Thinking back on it, it didn’t really seem like there was any kind of goal in the lesson plans. We just went through the book for 10 weeks…and barely made it through Unit 4…of something like 15! I think that pushing for the TEG is a great idea. It also will open up the folks that have had zero exposure to Irish before to see that there are definite benchmarks along the way and that they aren’t just sailing off randomly into an unknown infinite space. Also, if this Cumann Nua can start pumping out enough students with an interest in sitting the TEG, they might have an argument for having a testing center set up in Boston. That is mostly just a political game, though. It would be good for New England students, however. It would also be a way of increasing the visibility of Cumann na Gaeilge within the Irish community. I know that there is a Conradh na Gaeilge of New England, but, honestly, have you ever heard of any of their events?

So, that is my story. Yes, I plan on taking further classes in the future, but for right now, I am glad to have my Wednesday nights back.

Slán tamall.

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1 Response to An email to my sister about my last Irish class

  1. Liz Hannan Kading says:

    This brought back a lot of memories! Now that I’m studying Adult Learning at UConn, I have a few thoughts about their teaching methods. We would not approve of that Ce tusa me business!

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