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  5. It's a blas - BBC documentary


It's a blas - BBC documentary

in this documentary see how a bbc journalist/radio broadcaster from North Belfast defies the odds and learns enough Irish in 10 months to co-host a bbc radio Ulster programme Blas, through Irish.


August 23, 2015


[deactivated user]

    That was thoroughly enjoyable - well worth an hour of my afternoon.

    As a non-native student of the language, it was a relief to see a native student struggle with so many of the same things that I've wrestled with over these past ten months. I don't feel like such a hopeless eejit!

    Thanks for sharing that.


    The guy, Daithi Murray, teaching him Irish teaches Irish in my old school.


    To play the contrarian for a bit, he didn't seem at all fluent to me and all the lines he spoke during the actual broadcast were prepared beforehand, most of them on paper.

    The journalism also wasn't exactly hard-hitting and most of the tough questions either didn't get asked or got sidestepped.


    It was a documentary in English for English speakers. It wasn't about how to learn Irish, it was about one persons decision to learn Irish, and some of what he learned about the context of the Irish language today, and particularly the Irish Language in Northern Ireland, and how some of the political pre-conceptions that apply to the language, particularly in NI, are being cast aside. The interview with the person from East Belfast who told of his surprise at finding that his grandparents and older aunts and uncles were listed in the 1911 census as Irish speakers was telling.

    While he read from notes during the final broadcast, he was actually reading them, not just sounding them out, as he did in the initial broadcast. I'm sure that he didn't get every word that the other guests were saying, but he had made a good deal of progress, and for anyone living and working in an essentially totally english speaking environment, I thought he did quite well. To go from a standing start to even attempt to participate in such a show takes some guts!

    With regard to his attachment to twitter, I wonder what he would make of DuoLingo? Though it's clear that his Belfast pronunciation is very far from anything he'd get from here (all criticisms of the DuoLingo speaker aside). It's also obvious that the speakers used for "Ulster" pronunciations on teanglann.ie are not from Belfast!


    I don't contest what you're saying, in particular the guts it took on the part of the presenter, I'm completely with you there. But I think the blurb is overstating his progress by a big margin, and I wonder why.

    It seems to overstate the effectiveness of the immersion process, which has come under fire lately precisely because the immersion program and the way Irish is taught, and the effects thereof, don't seem to be bringing what we're hoping for.

    It also seems to imply that Irish is a very easy language to learn. That may or may not be the case (ask me again after half a year or so) but the message as I read it was ‘wow, he learnt Irish in ten months’ and I must say I'm more than a bit disappointed.

    As for reading, rather than sounding it out, that isn't actually that hard. It's one of the first skills you get and when I started on Portuguese I made quicker progress. And now I'm starting on Irish and I must say I find it harder to read and I progress more slowly.


    It's a BBC Northern Ireland documentary - the one thing it isn't saying is "Wow", it's not in their lexicon! They are always fairly careful about threading a path through the middle ground, so that they don't get anyone's nose out of joint. They present each point of view but don't "pick a winner". They present generally positive points of view about Irish from both communities, the only negative notes come from Dublin :-)

    I got the impression that his time in the Gaeltacht was very early in his learning process and there wan't much made of it's effectiveness at all. For better or worse, there just aren't enough true Gaeltachtaí left for immersion to work for learners of Irish in the same way as it does for learners of French or Spanish or English - almost every learner of the language is going to be interacting a lot more with other learners than with native speakers - and they will never be forced to speak Irish to someone who can't speak English, and they often would if they were learning French or Spanish or Italian. In this documentary, I got the impression that for the second half of his year, he sought out other speakers of the language, but interviewed them in English for the program - I hope he was able to practice some Irish with them too!


    To be fair, I wouldn’t expect a week-long immersion early in his learning to be particularly effective. He might have benefited more by delaying the immersion for six months, and taking the local lessons during that time.

    I found the Church of Ireland archdeacon from East Belfast to be quite interesting. He was also interviewed in the documentary Amharc Aneas (in Irish with English subtitles on the TG4 Player); his father worked at the Harland and Wolff shipyards during the period of the Amharc Éireann newsreels (late 1950s to early 1960s).


    Sounds interesting.

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