College promotes online learning as Gaeilge

TG Lurgan is aiming to boost interest in the Irish language with a new music video app, Colette Sheridan reports

AN Irish language music video app has recently been launched by Coláiste Lurgan, an independent Irish language summer school based in the Connemara Gaeltacht. TG Lurgan is available for free downloading on Android and iOS and can be accessed in the App Store or Play Store. It enables users to enjoy and share music videos as Gaeilge.

It was developed on a voluntary basis by Coláiste Lurgan, providing a wide selection of contemporary Irish language music videos alongside tutorial videos for learning Irish. The next version of TG Lurgan will include a facility whereby members can upload their own productions as Gaeilge, allowing people to enjoy and learn from them.

In 2012, Coláiste Lurgan launched Abair Leat! — the world’s first social networking site dedicated to the Irish language. It’s all part of Coláiste Lurgan’s aim of popularising the use of Irish and broadening its base. As the manager of Coláiste Lurgan, Micheál Ó Fóighil, explains, the app — cited as the Irish language equivalent of MTV and Vevo — allows users to create their own playlists, making people’s favourites even more accessible.

“While the songs themselves provide first class entertainment, they are also an excellent vehicle for language learning. Song and verse have always been a very powerful memory aid, putting essential words and phrases not just on the tip of your tongue, but also into your long-term memory.

“Learners relate to Irish language versions of songs they enjoy listening to as entertainment rather than work. Learning the lyrics helps learners to expand their vocabulary and to speak simple essential phrases in a quick non-tedious way. Any exposure to the Irish language outside of the class situation is a huge plus. Quite a lot of people have learned the lyrics as Gaeilge. It’s quite an effective language learning exercise.”

TG Lurgan recently passed the one million plays milestone since uploading its first video on the Vimeo platform two years ago. Among the most popular productions so far are ‘BEO Lurgan’, an Irish cover version of ‘Some Nights’ by American indie pop band, Fun, with over 80,000 views. Other hits include ‘An Chóisir Rac’ — an Irish version of ‘Party Rock’ by LMFAO with 45,000 views and ‘Lady Ga(eilge)’, a medley of Lady Gaga songs clocking up 40,000 views. TG Lurgan also features many original compositions, such as ‘Damhsa Amhráin’, ‘Céili ar an Trá’, ‘An Buachaill Ceart’, ‘Can Os Ard’, ‘Seans Deirneach’ and ‘An Bráisléid’ to mention just a few.

Ó Fóighil says the songs are used in some Irish language classes, “not just in Ireland, but all over the world. Quite a number of them are Irish versions of contemporary popular music.” The Irish language students record the songs during their sojourn at Coláiste Lurgan during the summer.

“We put up the songs in a kind of karaoke version. There are now over 400 videos altogether. While making them, we improvise a lot.”

The Irish language “is never going to go out of fashion, as long as we have a country. But Gaeilge has been very poorly presented by the Department of Education. It’s such a pity it’s not presented by the department in a more appealing way that can actually resonate with people. I suppose the Department of Education would be the biggest obstacle to the progression and learning of Gaeilge.”

Both young and older people are “positively disposed” towards learning Irish. “After spending 14 years in a classroom learning Gaeilge, there’s something wrong with the way it’s presented if people aren’t curious about it afterwards. This has been said over and over again. But nothing has really changed in the way the language is taught. It’s not a question of resources. Money is being spent but there’s damn all to show for it.”

If Ó Fóighil worked in the Department of Education he would make Irish “much more appealing with an emphasis on spoken Gaeilge. No one expects (school leavers) to speak the language. That’s a huge flaw. Not only are they unable to speak it, but when they try to, they have no confidence. They can see no relevance in it... It’s not that more money is required. It’s just that the language needs to be taught in a way that people can connect with.”

Only for TG4, the Irish language “would be in huge trouble. Setting up TG4 was the most positive thing done for the language. The station makes the language relevant. Only for it, we wouldn’t be talking about Gaeilge at the moment. TG4 is a really significant player in presenting the language in a modern way.”

And TG Lurgan aims to make it hip, cool and, most of all, accessible.


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