Seachtain na Gaeilge: 4 ways to celebrate the Irish language

Seachtain na Gaeilge, the annual international festival celebrating the Irish language, is in full swing this year. Although the name translates to “Irish language week”, the festival generally runs a bit longer than its namesake, from the 1st March right up to St Patrick’s Day on the 17th March. This is often a cause for some confusion, but there’s a simple explanation: when the organisers decided to extend the event to longer than a week due to increased popularity, they simply opted to keep the original name due to it already garnering international acclaim under ‘Seachtain na Gaeilge’.

Since 1902, Seachtain na Gaeilge has been an integral part of keeping the Irish language recognised and celebrated both in Ireland and internationally. The event welcomes anyone with an interest in the Irish language, no matter what your level of Irish is. With a lack of in-person events going on this year, those looking to celebrate may be unsure where to start, so we’ve compiled a list of 4 ways to celebrate the Irish language this Seachtain na Gaeilge.

Check out some Irish-language music acts

Irish-language music has gone from strength to strength over the past few years. The traditional Irish classics are a sweeping, melancholic window into Irish history and culture, with the likes of ‘Óró sé do bheatha bhaile’ and ‘Mo ghile mear’, but in recent years the Irish music scene has also seen an increased presence of more modern artists incorporating Gaeilge into their music.

From those using just cúpla focal in their songs like Denise Chaila’s hit ‘Anseo’, to artists who release all or most of their songs as Gaeilge like Belfast hip-hop trio Kneecap or West Cork heavy metal band Corr Mhóna, there’s a huge range of modern music to choose from the next time you’re scrolling through Spotify.

And while you’re scrolling through Spotify, why not check out a few Irish-language based podcasts? ‘Motherfoclóir’, hosted by Darach O’Séaghdha, is one such podcast that has gained immense popularity for its focus on the Irish language and its connection to a wide range of topics from feminism to mythology. Although the podcast is in English, it’s great for a wider understanding of Irish and the ties to Irish culture.

Take some online Irish classes

Whether you’re a total beginner or almost fluent, thanks to the internet there’s a plethora of online resources to get your Irish skills up to standard. Duolingo, the free language-learning smartphone app, is the go-to app for all things language, and Irish is actually the fastest growing language on Duolingo at the moment, with over one million people using it to learn the language on a weekly basis. 

There’s also plenty of online courses available, many of them free, like DCU’s free language course ‘Irish 101’, which was led by Prof Mairéad Nic Giolla Mhichíl from DCU’s Irish language school, and draws on expertise from Irish language specialists, technologists and researchers across the university. With 54,000 learners already enrolled on the course (and counting), it offers 4 hours of intensive language learning a week for 4 weeks with a mix of culture and grammar. 

You can also check out All About Irish, another great resource for online learning, which also offers online courses for those with all levels of Irish, offering classes on Zoom weekly for a fee of €80 for a 4-week course. If you’re looking for something with a little less commitment, their blog also offers a selection of short, mini-lessons for free, with a range of common phrases or interesting tidbits for those days when you don’t necessarily feel like committing to a full hour of learning.

Attend some online events hosted by Seachtain na Gaeilge

The organisers at Seachtain na Gaeilge certainly haven’t let the pandemic slow down their usual onslaught of events for the festival, and with everything gone virtual this year, there’s a huge selection of events – for all ages and all levels of Irish – to choose from. You can check out the full list on the PEIG website (the Irish language information hub) for events for those in Ireland, as well as those abroad also wishing to celebrate. 

The events spanning over the next two weeks are wide-ranged, from fun for all the family like storytelling with Niall de Búrca hosted by Final County Libraries, or Irish language conversation circles over Zoom, as well as an evening of music and craic with sean-nós and traditional Irish music with Antaine Ó Faracháin and Nollaig MacCárthaigh, it’ll be hard to find an event that won’t appeal to you. Seachtain na Gaeilge are persevering despite the pandemic, and these online events are not to be missed.

Use social media to your advantage

Social media is something that a lot of us use every day, so why not try to make it somewhat of a learning experience? Over the past few years, the usage of Irish has exploded on social media channels, allowing people all over the world of different levels of Irish to connect and expand their language knowledge.

Facebook and Twitter both offer the option of switching your language settings to Irish for the full immersive experience, and popular Facebook groups like Gaeilge Amháin – boasting over 14,000 members – offer the chance to interact and connect with other Irish speakers. The Irish For on Twitter is also a gem to have on your timeline, regularly sharing often humorous “smithereens” of the Irish language and unusual words and phrases. 

Irish-language YouTubers, although hard to come by, are also a great way to utilise the language and actually enjoy doing so, with the likes Ciara Ní É on YouTube, who makes topical and interesting videos about Irish, with her ‘What The Focal’ series from 2019 still a great watch, focusing on things like placenames in Ireland and their origins.

There’s a huge range of resources out there to make your Seachtain na Gaeilge experience this year as immersive as possible, despite the restrictions. The Irish language is infinitely valuable when recognising the history and heritage of our nation, and commemorating this really is as simple as listening to a bit of heavy metal as Gaeilge or following a few Irish accounts on Twitter!

Rachel McLoughlin
Rachel McLoughlin

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