Thursday 22 February 2018

An awfully big Gaeltacht adventure...

Surfing, circus skills and archery are all on the cards in an action-packed way to learn Irish for the summer.

Children surfing with Uisce
Children surfing with Uisce

Gráinne Cunningham

Memories of summer courses in the Gaeltacht regions scattered around the country vary dramatically. Some recall halcyon days of wandering to class down grassy lanes... others the misery of enforced Irish.

Some remember the freedom of a parent-free world and the feverish energy of the ceilís with their promise of young love and first kisses. Others the bad food and cramped sleeping conditions.

Whatever your own image is, summer courses in the Gaeltacht are as popular as ever, with upwards of 23,000 children attending one of the two to three-week language enhancement courses every year.

Starting at about €600 for a three-week course, you can ship your young charge off to the wilds of Connemara, for instance, where he/she will be educated, entertained, fed, watered and bedded (in the mildest sense) while also improving their native tongue.

There are exam-focused courses, especially for students facing into the Junior or Leaving Cert years, and some colleges offer Irish SOS courses for those really struggling with the language.

Many of the colleges also provide sporting and cultural activities, which may help convince young teenagers to spend a couple of weeks improving their Irish, far from home.

One such college is Uisce which focuses on combining the Irish language with water sports such as sailing and windsurfing in the heart of Mayo's Gaeltacht. So mornings are spent in the classroom and afternoons are spent on the sea, with all the nautical training delivered in Irish.

For landlubbers, they also have an indoor climbing wall and an archery room, or your child could spend the summer improving their circus skills.

Antaine ó Cuinn, Uisce spokesman, said the courses grew out of a desire to teach children Irish "in a fun way".

However, adding in the water sports does increase the price tag too, with Uisce courses priced at about €960 for two weeks all inclusive.

Visit for information on dozens of other Irish colleges in the four provinces of Ireland. For obvious reasons, the June three-week courses running at the moment book up faster than those in July and August as working parents find a place to occupy secondary school children for the first part of their summer break.

Expect to pay from as little as €600 for two weeks to €800 for three. This fee covers their accommodation under the watchful eye of the 'bean an tí' or occasionally in dorms.

According to Jimi ó Finneadha, spokesman from the Department of the Gaeltacht, the standard has improved a lot in the past 10 years.

"After three weeks, they are often chatting away to their parents in Irish," he said.

They are words that are surely music to the ears of any parent who feels they are sitting the state exams by proxy this time round!

Irish Independent

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