ACT News

ACT provides good craic for Irish language students this summer

It's an official language of the European Union and a mandatory subject in Irish schools but the number of Irish language speakers across the world is decreasing. 

However between January 23 and 26 eager students from across Australia will come to take part in Scoil Teanga 2016, the first Irish language summer school to be held in Canberra. 

CILA chairwoman Kaaren Sephton.
CILA chairwoman Kaaren Sephton. Photo: Rohan Thomson

The intensive program was made possible when CILA, an ACT region non-profit organisation that promotes the learning of Irish language in Australia, received an Irish Embassy grant towards covering the running costs. 

CILA chairwoman Kaaren Sephton said unfortunately the decision to host the program in the ACT was not the result of a surge in soon-to-be speakers.

Kaaren Sephton, Frank Geurts, Mark Molloy, Mark Peirce and Samantha Chester, organisers of the first ACT Irish language ...
Kaaren Sephton, Frank Geurts, Mark Molloy, Mark Peirce and Samantha Chester, organisers of the first ACT Irish language summer school, get together at the Irish Club in Weston.  Photo: Rohan Thomson

"There are Victorian and NSW Irish language associations that run summer and winter workshops respectively," she said. "The Victorian branch was not able to run their summer program so in lieu of that we are hosting it here in the ACT instead."

Along with five levels of classes, students will take part in Irish cultural activities; enjoy music, dance and craic (Irish for good times) while at the YMCA Bush Capital Lodge in O'Connor.

Fourteen-year-old Devante Malham and his mother Renee are of Irish decent and took up classes in mid-2015. 

"I felt a responsibility to bring the language back into our family," Mrs Malham said. "My hope is to become fluent so in years to come I can teach Irish to my grandchildren." 

Devante, soon to start year 8 at St Edmunds College, Canberra, enjoys French at school but wished Irish was available to do as something more than a hobby. 

"I'm the only person my age I know that's learning Irish," he said. 

The pair supports their learning by incorporating Irish phrases when speaking at home and sticking post-it notes with translations on things about the house. 

The main theme for the summer school and 2016 curriculum is to teach for the Teastas Eorpach na Gaelige [TEG] exam – an internationally recognised qualification. 

Many of the enrolled students take part in evening language lessons throughout the year – at the Canberra Irish Club in Weston for ACT students.

Ms Sephton said students paid no fees to participate in the regular sessions and while there was a hope to expand and offer learning to school-aged students, a lack of funding and teaching resources had so far prevented them from doing so.

Find out more at: cila.org.au