With funding from the Irish Government’s Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, ICUF has been supporting the development of the Irish language in Canada for over a decade. This has been done through the work of our Teagscóirí Gaeilge, our Irish Language Scholars who are awarded each year to teach Irish in our eight partner universities across Canada.
As the world entered lockdown under Covid-19, we observed a lot of great initiatives happening online to support people in these challenging times. We decided pretty quickly that it would be worthwhile offering free Irish classes online to Canadians.
Shortly after St. Patrick’s day, we posted a few tweets, and sent an email out to the ICUF mailing list, offering Irish classes. We expected maybe forty or fifty people might express interest in the offer, however, over four hundred people replied.
Six of our Irish Language Instructors stepped up to the challenge, and within a couple of weeks, online classes were being delivered to people from all across Canada, with leaners joining classes from as far west as Victoria, British Columbia, and as far east as St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Classes were offered to over four hundred, with two hundred and fifty of these making it all the way through the bi-weekly classes, given over a five week period.
Some learners were Irish who had emigrated to Canada from across the decades, others were descendants of emigrants. Others still were drawn to the classes out of interest in Ireland and Irish culture.
Learners were broken up into smaller groups of 10-15, organised on the basis of their location. lCUF’s ultimate aims that after lockdown these learners will come to Irish classes and cultural events in their local communities in Canada, and perhaps even visit Ireland in future. Interestingly, over 80% of those who took a survey after the classes indicated they would be more likely to visit Ireland in future, following these classes.
We’d like to thank all of those who took part in our classes, and those whose fill in the survey afterwards – clearly it was a very worthwhile experience!
The five weeks of classes concluded with “An Chóisir Mhór” a big online party on Zoom, launched by H.E. Jim Kelly, Irish Ambassador to Canada, with Liam Ó Maonlaí as special guest. More info on the Cóisir Mór here.
survey questionnaire – enjoyment of learning experience?
We had great feedback from the learners – here are some examples of messages we received:
A wonderful initiative to help those who are financially struggling at this time – provides an informative and fun atmosphere with human interaction a a time when many people need it.
It’s been a brilliant initiative and extremely well out together from start to finish. The desire to spend more time in Ireland and continue to discover the Irish language is all thanks to this beautiful idea during a time where we need more of those.
The classes were a brilliant booster of morale in these difficult times
Michael Webb, Montreal
It was an excellent structured class; increased my interest in having an extended visit to Irish speaking areas
What a wonderful experience. Three of us from our family participated, and my 8.5 year old son is the best at Irish among us! Thanks for making this special thing available at this difficult time. It really made my son feel connected to Ireland, which is something that we’d lost since the death of my wonderful aunt 10 years back. Now he can’t wait to visit, and says he wants to live in Ireland some day! Thanks for this!
survey questionnaire – expected retention of learning?