Learning Gaeilge is a conscious activity that is usually applied inside a classroom while acquiring Gaeilge is a subconscious process that thrives on active participation and extended exposure. Language immersion is language acquisition in its purest form. By committing wholeheartedly to a 3-week immersion course, language acquisition follows automatically. Central to a balanced approach is having a language learning programme (classwork) that complements language acquisition (outside of classwork). This means that communication / conversation / everyday dialogue & chit chat/ pronunciation are all key elements in the learning program. We regard it as our role/ duty to do all we can to ensure that our students acquire Gaeilge where the language is internalised without deliberate memorization.

Acquiring Gaeilge is dependent on three key factors:

1. Attitude:

Motivation + Regular Practice = Success

You need to foster a real passion for Gaeilge and to make acquiring Gaeilge your single defining purpose while in the Gaeltacht.

Ask yourself the following questions.

Why do I want to learn Gaeilge?
Is it so important to me to learn my own language?

“OK, I want to learn Gaeilge and I’m therefore going to do as much as I can in Gaeilge, with Gaeilge, for Gaeilge.”

Your brain naturally rejects the foreign sounds / constructions / syntax of a new language until you prove to it that it is something you really need, something that you will be using on a regular basis. If you give yourself an option of using Gaeilge or not, chances are that you will choose English. Your brain will choose to use what is simplest and requires less thought. Like acquiring any new skill learning Gaeilge requires strong will & motivation. You must consciously lock yourself outside your comfort zone and not allow yourself to step back inside for a while. Once you have decided on Gaeilge it is crucial to commit.

2. Learning Partners:

If there is one “secret” to acquiring/learning Gaeilge its this.

“Hours and hours of informal chit chat with people who are willing to speak / converse with you.”

Your co-students are your language partners and will supply the most important element of all –social engagement. As you are all allotting a three-week period of your lives to acquiring Gaeilge, you really need to go for it 100%.  Let there be no illusions, the greatest return on investment is to speak and communicate with fellow learners in real life.

The best possible outcome for you as a language learner, is for people to speak back to you. Reaching this milestone makes it much easier to stay motivated and keep practising.

You will have hundreds of interactions with your fellow learners each day, the clear majority being brief, simple exchanges. These personal, casual exchanges offer the most valuable opportunities for language acquisition and should be prized above all other orders.

Your brain naturally rejects the foreign sounds / constructions / syntax of a new language until you prove to it that it is something you really need, something that you will be using on a regular basis. If you give yourself an option of using Gaeilge or not, chances are that you will choose English. Your brain will choose to use what is simplest and requires less thought. Like acquiring any new skill learning Gaeilge requires strong will & motivation. You must consciously lock yourself outside your comfort zone and not allow yourself to step back inside for a while. Once you have decided on Gaeilge it is crucial to commit.

“We’re able to pronounce anything, it’s just we’re not used to doing it yet”

3. Attentiveness:

So, now that you’ve made the pledge, how do you proceed? We recommend the 360° maximalist approach. This requires you to immerse yourself as fully in the language as you possible can.

Value Fluency Over Accuracy:

Emphasise communication and functional fluency above all else. The most common 1,000 words account for 80% of all spoken communication.

It’s vital to conduct 100% of simple, brief, informal, casual and personal exchanges as Gaeilge. And don’t worry, you won’t annoy anybody by speaking the language “poorly”. On the contrary, you will find that that the staff respond very positively to those who enthuse and encourage others. “Ce’ chaoi a ndéarfá “X” (How do I say “X”?) is the most important sentence you can learn. Learn it early and use it often.

Think as Gaeilge:

This is crucial as one of the greatest obstacles to acquiring Gaeilge is the habit of actively translating from English to Gaeilge instead of thinking automatically as Gaeilge. The moment you cut out English completely is the moment you begin to think as Gaeilge. You can do this from the very first day. Once you can speak & listen without thinking about it, you’re really hitting a high level.

Make loads of mistakes:

The most common barrier to conversing as Gaeilge is the fear of making mistakes.

No matter how much you learn, you will never acquire Gaeilge without putting yourself out there, initiating conversations, talking to people you do not know, speaking regardless of bungling and mispronouncing words. The more you do this the more your confidence will grow.

You therefore need to make many, many mistakes. Making up to 200 mistakes a day shows that you are truly using and practicing the language

Listening & Pronunciation:

Improving pronunciation isn’t just about sounding good, it changes the way you listen to the language and it helps you learn faster. Getting your ears tuned to the sounds and rhythms of Gaeilge leads to accelerated learning.