By Mark Lynch
A new project to help people learn Irish abroad has been launched in NUI Galway. Gaeltacht.net provides a social network for Irish learners that are living overseas to help them make contact with fellow learners and develop their language skills and was launched in the James Hardiman Library on October 7th.
Members on the site can build a profile and message each other. The site also includes a feature allowing for instant messaging and video chats. The slogan of Gaeltacht.net is ‘Connect, Create, Communicate’. Members are given the opportunity to meet on the online social network, develop their language skills through creative language tasks and help each other to improve. The project will run for four weeks.
There are three courses available at Gaeltacht.net: Tasc An Lae, Dúshlán na Seachtaine and Misean na Míosa. Short, simple tasks are provided for A1 and A2 (Beginner and Elementary) learners every day during the course. Each day focuses on one language skill – Monday is listening, Tuesday is reading, on Wednesday and Saturday a structured conversation session is available. On Thursday there is a written task, Friday is left open for participant suggestions, and Sunday is used as a day to revise, reflect and offer feedback to the research team.
In the course Dúshlán na Seachtaine, there will be a task provided every Monday for learners at B1 (Intermediate) level to complete during the course. Finally, the Misean na Míosa is for those with a high level of Irish who want one Irish language challenge each month.
Ronan Connolly, a PhD student with NUI Galway’s School of Education, said: “The success of this community depends on participants being active, helping each other and fostering collaboration. The biggest challenge with a project like this is encouraging those with a good level of Irish to participate or register as a “Language Helper” and encourage the learners, the majority of whom are located in the USA. We are looking forward to many participants and helpers getting involved in this trial.”
He added, “This research project aims to provide support to learners overseas based on good educational practise. Everyone is welcome to register and take part, and all feedback is appreciated.”
For those who missed the launch, you can follow the project on Twitter by using the #Gaeltachtnet, while Ronan Connolly also wanted to make students aware they haven’t missed the boat. “Students who are interested are very welcome to register – the Gaeltacht.net research project runs until Nov 3rd and we still need more volunteer ‘Cúntóirí Teanga’ to interact online with the overseas learners!”