An Bhfuil Gaeilge Agat ?: Fulbright scholar helps bring Irish language and culture to UConn
While Connecticut could be separated from Ireland by 3,000 miles, a growing number of Huskies may answer “yes” to the question, An bhfuil Gaeilge agat? (“Do you speak Irish?”), Courtesy of a visiting scholar from Emerald Isle.
Muireann Nic Corcráin is spending the academic year at UConn as a Fulbright Fellow teaching the Irish language. Along the way, she also wants to help promote Irish culture to the university community.
The Irish language, commonly referred to as Gaelic in the United States and elsewhere, is the official national language of Ireland, although much English is spoken there.
“You see it on road signs and you grow up with it,” says Nic Corcráin, whose full name is pronounced “mur-en nick cur-crawn”.
“There are years of history of trying to rebuild the language and rebuild the positive connotations towards the language.” she says. “There are places in Ireland where it is the first language for many and the language of the community. It’s about trying to make people understand that it’s not just a school subject, but a living language that you can use and engage with.
English has become the dominant language of Ireland during centuries of colonization by neighboring Britain, but Nic Corcráin finds Irish a nice alternative.
“If you’re studying French, German, or Spanish, the structure is subject-verb-object, but in Irish we put the verb first, so it’s verb-subject-object,” explains Nic Corcráin. “This is how grammar works and some people are a little confused. I think it’s a beautiful language which is very musical and really melodic. When you talk to someone who grew up speaking them in a native region, it’s so nice to hear.
Nic Corcráin grew up in Wexford, in the south-east of Ireland, and received his undergraduate degree in History and Modern Irish from Trinity College, Dublin. She is also completing a master’s degree at Trinity.
At UConn, she teaches beginner and intermediate students in Irish in the Department of Literatures, Cultures and Languages.
“There is also a cultural ambassador during my stay here,” says Nic Corcráin. “I also want to increase the presence of Irish language and culture on campus. “
A wide variety of UConn students are interested in the Irish language, explains Nic Corcráin.
“It’s actually a pretty nice mix, and there are people who just want to learn another language other than German or Spanish,” says Nic Corcráin. “It’s quite intriguing to a lot of people because of the phenology associated with it. There are also a lot of people with Irish roots and connections at UConn who are interested. It’s nice to have a mix of people who have a feel for the language and others who don’t.
Nic Corcráin is enjoying his time in the United States and is already looking forward to bringing some parts of his experience back to Ireland next year.
As part of the Fulbright program, she is expected to take two courses at UConn and is enrolled in a Deaf Community Sociolinguistics course and a Native American history course.
“I just love life here, even though driving across the road still freaks me out a bit,” says Nic Corcráin. “The structure of the courses that I follow is really fantastic, because the students are involved in it from day one. There is no division and the students lead the conversation. This is something that I really want to bring her with me.
Nic Corcráin wants to do more research on his return to Ireland and, in the years to come, make the Irish language accessible to all who wish to engage in it.
While in Connecticut, she tried to advance Irish culture and sport and became active with the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) in Glastonbury. GAA focuses on the promotion of the Irish native games, which include hurling and Gaelic football.
“GAA is one of those things that is very hard to walk away from if you grow up in this community. I’ve been in the middle of this since I was three or four years old, ”explains Nic Corcráin.
The UConn Gaelic football team was founded in 2017 and its advisor is Rory McGloin, associate professor in the Department of Communication.
“We have tried to cultivate the sport on campus and have established a strong relationship with the Hartford GAA with the aim of giving our UConn students an authentic Irish sporting experience,” said McGloin. “Sport is a great way to share culture – everyone is welcome to come and play. We treasure our partnership with the Irish Language Program which brings in students from Ireland like Muireann to teach UConn students and they have been such a welcome addition to our GAA club here at UConn.