The Fulbright Commission from Ireland is hosting two workshops in America for Irish language teachers from various colleges and Irish organizations in this country. I had the opportunity to attend the first one which was held this past weekend in Manhattan at Glucksman Ireland House from noon on Friday to noon Sunday and it was excellent. The workshop was attended by 30 instructors mostly from the TriState area with some from Texas and Pennsylvania. A second workshop is being held this weekend May4-7th in Chicago. The enthusiastic group enjoyed the company of Irish speakers with plenty of time for conversation during the workshops, lunch and dinner. Fintan O'Toole, Assistant Editor & Columnist at The Irish Times, gave an interesting and enjoyable presentation on Friday evening entitled "What's Irish about Irish Culture".
Colleen Dube, Stiúrthóir (Executive Director) of the Fulbright Commission explained at the start of the weekend that the Irish Government is continuing to reach out to the Irish Diaspora both here and around the world. Research performed last year indicated that Irish language classes were being taught at 50 colleges and at 30 Irish cultural organizations around the States. The support of Irish culture and heritage here in America has been a source of amazement in Ireland and has had a strong impact on the attitudes in Ireland towards the Irish language. The government wants to encourage and strengthen these bonds by supporting the teaching of Irish in this country. With funding from the Irish Government’s Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and National Lottery, the Commission is providing the tuition, venue and materials for these workshops.
The specific content and format of the workshop was developed by Ailín Ní Chonchúir after previous consultation with the participants concerning needs. Originally from the Corca Dhuibhne Gaeltacht in Kerry, Ailín Ní Chonchúir has been involved in the teaching and learning of Irish for many years. She worked as Irish Officer in University College, Dublin (1998-2001) where she also designed Irish syllabi and taught the language. She is currently Director of the Teastas i Múineadh na Gaeilge d’Aosaigh (Certificate in the Teaching of Irish to Adults) at the National University of Ireland Maynooth and project manager and principal syllabus designer of An Mheitheal um Theagasc na Gaeilge ar an Tríú Leibhéal (Working Group for the Teaching of Irish at Third Level), an inter-university project leading to the development of new syllabi for the teaching of undergraduate Irish. In addition to these activities, she produces Irish-language syllabi and learning resources for a number of state bodies and institutions throughout Ireland.
The workshop provided excellent networking opportunities in addition to discussions with the executive director, Colleen Dube, concerning the Commission's plan on expanding the role of Fulbright Scholars at the colleges and at local Irish Cultural organizations such as the Greater Danbury Irish Cultural Center.