Practice makes perfect with any language and it’s now easier than ever to set up your own Irish language conversation circle thanks to the initiative “Is Leor Beirt.”
Is Leor Beirt (“Two people are enough”) is a conversation network run by Irish-language organization Conradh na Gaeilge, which has just seen its 100th group in Ireland sign up.
Last month, the network launched its new support pack for groups that wish to give people the opportunity to improve their Irish language skills and practice by socializing through the language.
President of Conradh na Gaeilge, Cóilín Ó Cearbhaill, said of the the initiative, “Conversation groups like the ones today in Belfast, Dublin, Galway and Ennis run all over the island every single day and this support pack will be a help to them all. It’s not only practical, it’s fun too with the interesting topic ideas, the unusual reference books and the educational beer mats!”
The support pack was developed to provide practical support to groups, providing a handbook with a wide range of ideas for conversation starters, coasters with some useful Irish phrases and several reference books such as “Essential Irish” or “Kiss My… Póg Mo Thóin” by Garry Bannister.
Speaking at the launch of the support pack, Brenda Ní Ghairbhí from Conradh na Gaeilge said, “We’re thrilled to have passed the 100 mark with the amount of conversation groups registered with Is Leor Beirt. Of course, we’d love more groups to register and it’s very easy to set up an Is Leor Beirt group – all you need is a small group to meet regularly somewhere like a local café or in the canteen at work, in the park at lunch time or even for a walk in the evening.”
If you are interested in finding a conversation group that is already up and running, there is a map of those available at www.peig.ie. There are currently no groups set up as part of “Is Leor Beirt” in North America so this is the perfect opportunity to be the frontrunners.
For more information on the network or for a support pack you can contact Is Leor Beirt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We compiled our own tips for starting up your own conversation group to help you along.
1. Bring writing material.
Whether it’s to take note of new words you hear or to show other attendees how another word is written, although this is a conversation group, it is handy to keep writing material on hand. Words are easily remembered if you see them written down and you’re more likely to remember them for next week if you can write out new phrases, along with your own tips on pronunciation, and go over them again in your own time.
2. Bring a dictionary or download a dictionary app.
Especially if you’re in a conversation circle compromising complete beginners, the chances are high that you’re going to come across more than a few unfamiliar Irish words. Instead of just letting them go, and instead of breaking the flow of conversation, take note of the English words that the group had to use and after five to ten minutes look up the Irish translations together as a group.
3. Pick a topic the week beforehand to allow for some preparation.
Although it is nice to discuss the big stories of the week, or whatever interesting topic comes immediately to mind, sometimes people will feel more comfortable if they have an opportunity to prepare some vocabulary and phrases that they will be able to use. Allot a certain amount of time to topics that are thought up on the spot and other time to topics that were decided before the group met up.
4. Pick an informal setting.
Despite the provision of coasters not every group has to meet in a bar, but certainly an informal setting such as a café, somebody’s apartment or anywhere where you can chat over a cup of tea/coffee and some snacks would help. If there’s a lull in the conversation then at least there’s something to do with your mouth while you think of the next topic of conversation.
5. Bring the group outside
Play a sport, taking up a hobby together or simply going for a walk, regardless of your choice you'll be able to speak Irish as you go. Taking a conversation group outside eliminates the formal classroom element and allows you to mix with all the other people in group instead of sitting beside the same person for the whole session. This might make taking notes and using dictionaries more difficult, but the added element of fun will mean that you look forward to going back week after week to socialize.
Have you ever taken part in a conversation circle? Do you have another other tips? Leave your thought in the comments section below.