DCU create online Irish learning tool

Bridget Fitzhenry

Prof Mairéad Nic Giolla Mhichíl from DCU’s Irish language school Credit: Irish Times

DCU has launched a new online platform for learning Irish.

Irish 101 offers users an “introduction to Ireland’s culture by learning the basics of the Irish language”.

Users can learn about literature, dance and storytelling, while studying the fundamentals of the language, including the alphabet and pronunciation.

The massive open online course, or MOOC, is free and is running in conjunction with FutureLearn, a digital education platform. It is part of the Fáilte ar Líne project, which is funded by the Irish government as part of its 20-year strategy for the Irish language.

Dr Mairéad Nic Giolla Mhichíl, Associate Professor and Senior Research Fellow with the National Institute of Digital Learning in DCU, developed the idea with the late Dr Peadar Ó Flatharta.

“We’re very lucky that we’re working with the National Institute of Digital Learning and Fiontar agus Scoil na Gaeilge, so we have the disciplinary expertise and we have the digital learning expertise” Nic Giolla Mhichíl said.

She said it was important to include cultural elements in the course because “you can learn about the rules and structure of a language, but you can’t divorce language from culture and context.”

The site caters to “absolute beginners”, so they have taken user feedback about the difficulty of the course into account.

“If you’re in Nepal and never had an opportunity to hear about Irish or Irish culture, you have no idea, so slowing down “Mairéad is ainm dom” is really important to do.”

Its target audience is the Irish diaspora who want to engage with the language.

“One of the interesting things that I found on the platform was where people introduced themselves to each other and have a “ciorcal comhrá” or meet up with people in their area to practise Irish”, said Nic Giolla Mhichíl.

She said the response has been “absolutely phenomenal” and there are already thousands of users in 125 countries, including in the Middle East and Asia, since its launch on January 29th.

They now aim to get over 10,000 users and further develop the platform for different levels of capability, so participants can complete different aspects which DCU will recognise for a degree.

Bridget Fitzhenry