Both my children are currently attending a naíonra in Newbridge, an all Irish playschool. Aidan started there last September and Sarah started in January of this year. I wrote about Aidan starting his Irish journey last year and our reasons behind choosing this route. You can have a read of the post here if you fancy it.
From the age of three children in naíonra are totally immersed in the Irish language. The teachers don’t speak English to the children and this method of learning is well proven at this stage. If you don’t believe me just have a read of this. However, I had my doubts. I knew they’d picked up bits and pieces but never in a month of Sunday’s did I think they would be as good at speaking Irish as they are now. Learning through Irish has been amazing for them both.
Aidan’s granddad Tom is a native speaker, yet the four-year-old actually corrected him when he visited last Sunday. Granddad used the wrong word for strawberry you see. “Don’t be silly granddad, the word is sú talún,” I could hear Aidan tell him in his bedroom. It gave me a right laugh I must admit!
Before Aidan started in naíonra he showed quite an interest in learning Irish. He could count to ten and had a cúpla focal. Sarah, on the other hand, was having none of it at home. She used to throw a tantrum if you spoke to her in Irish and point blank refused to engage in it.
For that reason I wasn’t convinced she’d pick it up as quickly or as willingly as Aidan. Well, boy I was so wrong. She’s flying it! She asks me every morning what is in her bosca lóin (lunchbox) and now only drinks bainne agus uisce. She tells me she loves playing ‘amach ar an rothar’ in the yard with ‘her chailíní’ in school. She informed me last week that the pháistí have to share na rothair and that the teachers use an amadóir (timer) to determine when it’s someone else’s turn to have a go!
For weeks on end she was harping on about ‘winkly suas’ and for the life of us myself and Daddy Chambers couldn’t figure out what she was saying. I ended up asking her teacher the other day and it turns out what Sarah was saying was ‘muinchillí suas’, which means sleeves up. It’s what her teacher tells her to do when she is washing her hands in school!
On a daily basis we get treated to the dul abhaile song, a tune they must all sing when it’s time to go home. Aidan’s stuffed rabbit toy is now know as Frank the coinín (rabbit in Irish, obviously!) and I get tar anseo (come here) hollered at me a thousand times a day!
When Aidan doesn’t forget his manners it’s now gabh mo leithscéal instead of excuse me and le do thoil instead of please. Oh and he loves to te amach (go outside) and play.
I never once doubted the intelligence of my children but it still amazes me how easily they have taken to a new language. Their understanding of it is even better. At the weekend grandad Tom asked Aidan any amount of questions as gaelige and he answered each and everyone correctly in English. Even I didn’t know what grandad was saying to him!
In saying that I have noticed that my own Irish has seriously improved because I am using it a lot at home. As he is learning through Irish, Aidan will often ask me the Irish work for something or other and I really have to think to remember it or go and look it up for him online. So it turns out the kids learning through Irish is also great for Daddy Chambers and I too!