Earlier this week, the Irish Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht presented 15 US and four Canadian students with awards to study Irish in the Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking region).

Working in collaboration with the Ireland-United States [Fulbright] Commission for Educational Exchange and the Ireland Canada University Foundation (ICUF), the awards allow recipients to attend courses in Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge (a school of National University of Ireland, Galway), in An Cheathrú Rua in the Connemara Gaeltacht.

Awards were also presented to four Irish Language Instructors selected by the ICUF to travel to various locations around Canada to teach Irish during the upcoming academic year 2015-2016.

The Gaeltacht Summer Awards are the result of an ongoing collaboration between the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, the Ireland-United States [Fulbright] Commission for Educational Exchange, and ICUF to allow further opportunities to those with an interest in the language in North America to travel to Ireland and further their studies.

The Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs, Joe McHugh T.D. congratulated the recipients, stating that the exchange continued to “highlight the huge interest in the Irish language and Irish culture in the U.S, Canada and many other countries and they afford us the opportunity to celebrate the rich tapestry of Gaeltacht traditions that we mutually cherish.”

This year's Summer Gaeltacht Awardees featured on @TG4TV Nuacht at 4:46! @DeptAHG @ICUF_Awards http://t.co/PEOR2ncV4x pic.twitter.com/hySRDdYFeA

— Fulbright Ireland (@Fulbright_Eire) August 5, 2015

So far, 67 recipients of the Gaeltacht Summer Awards have traveled to the Galway Gaeltacht to pursue their interest in Irish, “providing short immersive experiences for U.S. citizens in Ireland’s rich language and culture,” said U.S. Ambassador Kevin O’Malley.

“The Awards are instrumental in supporting Irish language learners and teachers in the U.S, and offer an exceptional immersion experience that includes not only Irish language learning, but excursions, traditional Irish music and storytelling in some of Ireland’s most picturesque locations,” continued Dr Dara FitzGerald, the new Executive Director of the Ireland – United States [Fulbright] Commission for Educational Exchange.

Check out @seanomainnin pics of 2015 US Summer Gaeltacht Awards Ceremony @nuigalway yesterday https://t.co/UqRR1Bnqre pic.twitter.com/thlzOh4jp7

— Fulbright Ireland (@Fulbright_Eire) August 5, 2015

Last week, IrishCentral featured some of those who traveled to An Ceathrú Rua this summer to learn Irish and discovered their reasons for traveling so far to study Ireland’s national language as well as the reasons why they were interested in the language in the first place. 48 students spent four weeks learning the language mainly as part of the Fulbright program or through the ICUF, although other nationalities were also in attendance.

Their reasons included an interest in Irish poetry and an interest in sean-nós traditional Irish singing.

Do you think that it’s possible to learn Irish without traveling to Ireland? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

If the number of Irish speakers in the Gaeltacht continues to drop, Irish will no long exist in 10 to 15 years.The Limerick Leader