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Irish Cultural Centre Profile of the Week: Mike Newell, ICC Member, Academy Instructor and President of Cumann na Gaeilge i mBoston

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As a native Irish speaker born in Rosmuc, Conamara, County Galway, Mike Newell appreciates the variety of ways the Irish Cultural Centre creates a relaxed ambiance for the learning and speaking of Irish. For the past ten years, Mike has been active in various programs and events at the ICC. He notes that "there’s been a steady increase in the interest people have in learning Irish." In recent times, especially, it seems that Irish Americans and those of Irish descent are looking to learn the language to gain a closer sense of their ancestry and heritage. Mike believes that "the Irish language is an important, defining aspect of being Irish." With this in mind, Mike became involved both in the Cumann na Gaeilge I mBoston (Irish Language Society of Boston) and with the Irish Cultural Centre Academy as an Instructor for the Irish Language classes.

The comfortable facilities at the ICC allow for just the right combination of book learning and social interaction for the many teens and adults who become students of the 10 week courses at the Beginner and Intermediate levels. For Mike, "learning Irish is really a two-part process comprised primarily of class work reinforced with ample opportunity to converse with fluent or native speakers." The ICC works with Mike and other language instructors and members to provide both inviting classrooms and welcoming function space.

Students soak up the vocabulary, grammar and literature in class and then practice speaking and hearing the language from each other, their instructors and other native speakers at special events throughout the months. In July, students gathered for a festive BBQ under the ICC tent. On Friday evenings in the ICC Pub, instructors socialized with small groups of students to enjoy a Grúpaí cónhrá, or conversational time for "keeping up the Irish. Beginning in October as the ICC schedule of monthly Sunday masses resumes, students will be able to meet at designated tables and catch up with each other in Irish. Music and sing-sing sessions are always incorporated into the ICC language programs.

Mike is curious to see how students progress as they move through their terms at the ICC.
Usually about ten to twelve students are in a class. Last term there were enough students to fill two classes. This year, he expects three classes at the ICC. Helping students overcome anxiety and stereotypes of classroom learning is a strength of the ICC Academy instructors. Mike describes that he and his fellow instructors, Bernadette Ridge and Maureen Concannon, are always looking for ways to nurture the wonderful, easy spirit of learning at the ICC. Specifically, they focus on improving teaching methods, modernizing resources and adding social events to motivate the students, add cultural interests and fun. As one student of an ICC Language Immersion Day expressed, "the relaxed energy of the instructors at the ICC and ease with which they readily delved into simple explanations of complicated grammar motivated everyone to follow the fun of learning with a bit of rigor and laughter."

To meet Mike and other ICC Academy Instructors be sure to come by the ICC Academy Open House on Friday, September 14, 2012 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. For more information please visit www.irishculture.org or call 781-821-8291.

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