DISCLAIMER: This is not an attack on the Irish language. Is brea linn Gaeilge, is teanga álainn í.
However, there’s no denying that the way in which our national language is taught around the country is, to be brutally honest, a joke.
You think educators would have realised that if you put a child through 13-14 years of learning a language and they still struggle to hold a conversation in it, there’s a serious problem.
This comes down to the way students learn it in schools around the country. Especially in the Leaving Cert, some of the things students are meant to encounter leaves them wishing for the sweet relief of Foundation level.
These memories aren’t all an attack on the current system of teaching Irish, but are nonetheless terrifying and will send a chill down the spine of anyone who was forced through learning this in school.
You have been warned.
We’re starting off with the big one; the sheer amount of shite students are forced to memorise and regurgitate over a two year course.
5 poems, 5 short stories and a play for just one paper?! That can be challenging enough for some students in English, never mind a completely different language.
We could rant for hours on how this least optimum way of learning and appreciating a language possible, or we could just focus on the fact that most of them were pitiful no matter what language they were in.
A poem about a lion in a zoo? Or a short story about a man who just randomly gets shot when walking home from the pub? It’s nonsense!
When you live in a world where more students would be able to read off a few lines of An Spailpín Fánach before being able to ask where the pub is As Gaeilge, there’s a serious flaw.
An Modh Coinníollach
Three words from any language have never been so dreaded by a group of students.
For those who may have forgotten, or never known to begin with, the Modh Coinníollach is the conditional form of a verb i.e ‘I would’ (for example, ‘I would’ prefer if I never had even known of the existence of An Modh Coinníollach).
Mechanically, there should be no infamous fear of this but somehow it seems only the most capable of daltaí could come to grips with it.
Why? Hard to say for certain. Maybe it can be attributed to the flawed teaching system, or maybe the fearsome reputation of the three words creates a sort of mental block for students.
Luckily, you could still achieve a fairly decent mark with little to no use of this. Go h-iontach!
Catherine from Cáca Milis
If there’s one thing we can get behind about Leaving Cert Irish, it’s Cáca Milis. One of the greatest Irish films of all time, we’d argue.
However, it might contain the most cruel, psychopathic character to ever been shown in an Irish classroom; Catherine.
Spoiler Alert: to put it bluntly, Catherine pretty much kills Pól (played by Brendan Glesson, top lad) for eating cake and talking too much.
Yes, he might have been a bit annoying but if we just got rid of every person that annoyed us in life, the cast of Geordie Shore would have died out years ago.
A truly terrifying woman, we wouldn’t blame you for sleeping with the light one if you watched this late at night.
The Donegal Accent On The Listening Exam
“Léigh anois go cúramach, ar do scrúdpháipéar, na treoracha agus na ceisteanna a ghabhann le Cuid A.”
We could always get the jist of that, and the listening exam might start off okay but once we got acquainted with our friends from Ulster, it all went downhill.
We don’t want to attack Donegal here, you gave us Michael Murphy and Shay Given after all but who here could really understand the Donegal Irish accent?
It could have been Mandarin that Fionn was speaking, and we’d have been none the wiser. Once we heard it, the pens go down. You’re dropping marks here.
20 Sraith Pictiurs
20. Students had to painstakingly memorise 20 of these abominations.
Introducing the Oral section of the Irish Leaving Cert and allocating 40% of the overall mark to it was a step in the right direction, rewarding students for actually understanding and being able to speak the language.
However, one step forward was followed by one step back when students found out they had to learn 20 of these pointless stories.
To make matters worse, you would only be asked to speak about one of these, chosen randomly. The other 19, forget about them.
We often think about what we could do with time we’ve wasted or squandered in life, so imagine what you could accomplish with the hours you spent memorising Sraith Pictiurs you’d never even be marked on…
If you wanted to write a story or essay in Leaving Cert Irish and do well, you had to stick a seanfhocal or two in there.
It wasn’t question or debated, merely accepted. To be honest, a few of them actually made sense and were a nicer part of the course.
Níl aon tintean mar do thintean féin; standard. Is fearr Gaeilge briste ná Bearla cliste; excellent. After that though, it got tricky.
Again, it serves as an example of having to learn a large number of phrases off by heart with the hope, not a guarantee, that an opportunity would come up in the exam so you could show the work you had done.
Some people didn’t do this, such as an old classmate of this writer who decided to simply make one up.
The fictitious seanfhocal in question roughly read “Ag deireadh an lae, tá an lá criochnaithe”, which roughly translates to “At the end of the day, the day ends”.
So yeah, maybe just learn three and hope for the best.
Starting Something New Just Before The Exam
We can’t say this problem is exclusive to Irish, but the problem always seemed to rear its head in this class in particular.
Given the already discussed ridiculous amount of content you had to learn to stand a chance at getting top marks, teachers were often left racing the finishing line to go through everything.
That inevitably meant that when you just wanted to do a bit of a revision in the last few weeks, you were stuck doing that last poem or story that probably wouldn’t even come up. That’s just the game you had to play.
In this writer’s case, we only had two or three weeks to do An Triaíl; the play. Three weeks to read, examine and revise a whole play in a different language.
Needless to say, I’ve never been totally fond of Irish theatre since. Load of nonsense.
Trying Something On The Day And Failing Miserably
Let’s jump to the day itself. You’ve done a bit of work, and you have a rough idea of what to expect but you can’t be certain.
The essay titles come up and your life starts to flash before your eyes as nothing you expected to come up appears.
Panicked with one eye on the clock, you rush into an essay regarding the economic climate for young people. Sure how hard can it be.
You start writing, and then realise that this requires a lot of big words which are difficult enough to spell in English, never mind as Gaeilge.
An hour and a half later, you’ve all but given up. There’s always people like this who try to jump into uncharted territory and regret it immediately after, but that’s just how the exam works.
Gaeilge; your a beautiful language to speak but a bitch to learn.