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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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The Hawk Rap: A Q&A with Sorcha Ní Ghallachóir

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Sorcha Ní Ghallachóir is a Fulbright Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) teaching Irish at St. Joe’s and Villanova University this year. A native Irish speaker from Donegal, Ireland, Ghallachóir graduated from Trinity College Dublin with an undergraduate degree in Early and Modern Irish and a postgraduate diploma in Education. 

Before becoming a FLTA, Ghallachóir taught Irish at St. Michael’s College in Dublin. She is also a fan of Gaelic football and an active member of the only Irish-speaking Gaelic football club in Dublin, the Na Gaeil Óga.

The Hawk: Did you want to be a teacher growing up?

Ghallachóir: I never had that intention. I always wanted to go to university, which was a life goal of mine. When I attended Trinity College, and while I was studying there, I applied for a job as a teaching language assistant for the linguistics department and I got that job teaching Irish to their foreign students. That’s where I got the test of teaching. That experience was just so invaluable.

I didn’t apply to do a post grad or graduate studies in teaching. I decided that I would teach full time for a year first to see how I would get on. I had my battles with it in the beginning. After the first initial few months, I think it was after Christmas, that was when I fell in love with the profession. And that’s what I decided to pursue. 

The Hawk: What made you want to teach Irish specifically?

Ghallachóir: I had such an interest in the Irish language that it was just always something that I wanted to do without even looking at teaching. I wanted to study it more in depth. I had a natural flair and attraction to it. So that’s what sparked me to go on. But I will say that it’s probably the bedtime stories and the mythology and the great imagination that really influenced me. We didn’t get the usual [stories], whatever everyone else was getting. I definitely had a strong influence from my father because of those and they were passed on to him and so on and so forth. 

The Hawk: Having grown up as a native Irish speaker and knowing that Irish is an endangered language according to UNESCO data, how does that affect how you teach it?

Ghallachóir: It makes me more passionate about my teaching and to inspire people to learn the language. I don’t like to think that it’s endangered. And I like to think that it’s resurfacing … In terms of it being endangered, that’s my job then to promote it and to encourage people to love the language and to embrace it. As they say, it’s an identity as well. When the language goes, your identity goes, because what makes your passport different from any other English speaking country? I believe the language will survive and will become stronger, and we just need to fix a few things in the education system.

The Hawk: What is your favorite part of teaching Irish?

Ghallachóir: I love grammar. But that can be complicated and can vary as a learner and, as I say to [my students], doesn’t happen overnight. But I love the way that I have the knowledge of the background of the history and the backdrop of the timeline of the Irish language. I did study Early Irish, Middle Irish and Classical Irish, so if I don’t have the answer to something, I have the tools to go and look that up. I just love that I can give a bit of a background and then insight to where something originates from for any question in the class. I love being asked questions. And if I don’t have the answers, I have the tools to look it up and we can come back to it.

The Hawk: What would you say is the most difficult part of teaching a new language,

especially to college students? 

Ghallachóir: The most difficult part is probably getting over the pronunciation. But my students have really surprised me … In English, you will have the subject noun come first, then the verb, and in Irish, you have the verb and then the subject. So, when I am planning my classes, linguistic elements have to come into that because they’re complete beginners. Some of the linguistic terminology, you may have to delve a bit into that just to make sure that everyone is on the same page, but from what I can see, they’re fairly up to scratch even on their linguistical terms.

The Hawk: Your bio on the Fulbright website says you are a big fan of Gaelic football. We have a Gaelic football team here at St. Joe’s. Are you planning on seeing any of the games?

Ghallachóir: I’m hoping to go along to one of the training sessions. One of my students is signed up to the team and absolutely I would. That’s something that I’m very passionate about. Part of my culture, growing up in the Gaeltacht, Gaelic football is its main sport, and I’ve been fortunate to be part of the only Irish-speaking [football] club in Dublin. 

The Hawk: And you were a founding member and player for the Ladies League of the Na Gaeil Óga? 

Ghallachóir: Yes. The ladies team with the Gaeil Óga … it’s something that I’m definitely proud to have been involved in. It’s definitely a club that is very close to my heart. I love watching it grow and it’s all through Irish. I’ve met really, really good friends and met good people through it. I owe a lot to the Gaelic football and the Gaeil Óga because it has given me the opportunity to live my life through the medium of Irish.

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