‘I never thought Irish would get me to America’ – Louth woman teaching the cúpla focal stateside says there’s ‘huge interest’ in the culture
Photography: Andres Poveda
Emer Maguire from Ardee, Co. Louth is teaching Irish at Elms College in Chicopee, Massachusetts.
By Seoirse Mulgrew
Read the full article in The Irish Independent.
A young woman teaching Irish in the US believes the language is experiencing a revival.
Emer Maguire, from Ardee, Co Louth, is teaching Irish at Elms College in Chicopee, Massachusetts, through the Fulbright Programme.
The 25-year-old travelled to the US last August on a career break to teach until June. She is a qualified primary school teacher but is currently teaching college students.
She acts as an ambassador for Ireland while there and organises events such as pop-up Gaeltachts and céilí nights to promote the language and Irish culture.
Ms Maguire will be organising a number of events to mark Seachtain na Gaeilge.
Irish is offered as an option for students at Elms College who are required to study a foreign language. Some of Ms Maguire’s undergraduate students have no connection to Ireland but have chosen to learn the language to try something different.
“My main job is to teach Irish and to be an ambassador for Ireland. I teach freshman students, who are beginners, all about the language and I try to tie in a bit of culture with that too,” she told the Irish Independent.
“I teach another group of adults who have been learning Irish for a number of years so they’re quite good and then I teach another introductory class to adults who are all past pupils of Elms College.
“The students I teach through the Irish Centre would all have parents, grandparents or great grandparents they could trace back to Ireland. They’re learning the language as a link to their family because they really love Ireland.
“A few of them are actually planning their holidays now to Ireland in the summertime, which is lovely.”
The Fulbright Commission awards grants every year for Irish citizens to study, research, or teach in the US and for Americans to do the same in Ireland.
Ms Maguire is also the chairperson of a branch of Conradh na Gaeilge in Drogheda – Craobh na Bóinne.
She said there is huge interest in learning about Irish culture in the US.
“I never thought Irish would get me to America, I suppose so often people think it’s pointless. There are 10 of us from Ireland all teaching in America this year, all in different states,” she said.
“For a small country, that’s brilliant. It’s a great thing for Ireland, it’s a great opportunity because you get to see America in a different way. There is such a demand and an interest in Irish here.”
Ms Maguire believes the language is experiencing a revival as more people are using it in their daily lives.
“I think for people in their 20s and 30s, it’s becoming more of a normal thing to see Irish being promoted and to hear it,” she said.
“People often ask me that here, ‘what is Irish like at home, do people speak it or not’, but I think it’s huge.
“Social media has really helped that. Even on Instagram and things like that, it’s not uncommon now to hear someone talking Irish.
“I love being able to share that with my college students here, to give them online accounts they can look at and see Irish as a cool language.
“It’s no longer seen as like an old man sort of language.
"I think its [image] is quite young. Especially the people who have learned Irish, they’re stepping back in and keeping it going.”
The Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistantship (FLTA) Awards are non-degree grants for Irish citizens, or E.U. citizens resident in ROI for 5+ years, to teach Irish and enrol on courses at a college in the U.S. over a ten-month period. The FLTA Awards are sponsored by the The Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media and the National Lottery.
Learn more about the Irish FLTA Awards.