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Learning Irish in Madrid with Pop-Up Gaeilge

Learning Irish in Madrid is easy to do. You just need great people. Check. A great bar. Check. And a willingness to start a sentence, stutter, and continue anyway. Check… more or less.

Big shout out to Donnacha as Aonach (iberocelt17 on Twitter) for inviting us and making us feel so welcome.

Learning Irish in Madrid – Head to the Bar

My face is stretching, searching for the clue of the word. I’m a child. If I was in the forest, as incapable in bushcraft as I am in Gaeilge, my own native tongue, I’d be left for dead by now. I look left. I look right. Thankfully, all the people are sound out, and they tell me the word I’m missing. Some of the tribe have come back for me. I’m not alone!

We went to a pop-up Gaeilge event in Madrid, hosted by the wonderful Donnacha. I say we because I went with El Arpa’s Meri, and she’d kill me if I didn’t. It seems two paragraphs in, I have already used the words kill and dead, which is unsurprising, really. When you can’t really speak, everything feels primal. This event was the first time I’ve properly spoken Irish in 14 years. As a proud Irishman, that is scandalous. I already mentioned to the group I got an A in the Leaving Cert, our version of the SATs or A-Levels. It’s been a long time since then. But we’re huddled in a corner, everyone is finding the way. Google Translator might be whipped out, while on a field back home, two clans battle it out in the All-Ireland. I never watched it in Ireland, but I keep an eye on it now.

Learning Irish in Madrid

Teachers to a man, almost. Except for the IT guy. Spanish wives, naturally. From Tipperary to Belfast, we’re awakening the fountain of language buried deep inside, like the echoes of a past life. The lad who’s good with the computers said it’d come back to me, which Donnacha seconded. They were right as the rain we’re famous for. I remembered that radharc was the Irish for view. It was the title of a documentary series on TG4, the Irish language station back home. A fragment from my childhood matures; I’ve given a gift to myself.

I don’t think I’ve listened so hard in my life. But it’s a joy. I don’t know these people, but I think they are probably their authentic selves when they speak Irish. They’re smiling anyway, and that’s natural. Real smiles always are. And when you barely speak a language, you talk about the things you like. If you have to go to all the effort of opening your mouth, you just discard the crap.

Appreciating the View & Learning Irish in Madrid

Conversation drifts from the summer holidays to drink driving; it’s been so long since I’ve been properly home, I wonder if the back roads of Kerry allow for a sneaky one or two, before an inebriated roll home and the Gardaí none the wiser. I whip out my translator, and I’m all the wiser. Except for when I slip into Spanish, which reminds me of when I tried to speak French and slipped into Irish. I conquered the broken Spanish at language exchanges in my first Madrid moments. Now, I struggle with Irish. I’ve regressed, but I guess that means coming back.

One of the lads has been here for 38 years, and he took trains, planes and automobiles to get here. I’m impressed by the dedication. Apparently, there is another group of Irish speakers, ones linked to the GAA club in Madrid. There’s more of us out there. Operating on a higher level, sure, but they’ve brought home with them. I revel in the fact nobody is here because their boss said they’d be out of a job if they didn’t speak Irish. You get that in the English-Spanish language exchanges all the time. And you get ones who only want you for your English, not your ideas. You don’t get that with a minority language. Gaeilge is like Cheers – everyone knows your name. They just mightn’t be able to ask you what it is.

I’ll be back, to the sound lads of the pop-up Gaeilge event. Thanks for having us. And I’ll be seeing you, the Irish language, to recover what is lost. I like the radharc of where we’re going. Slí amach was another phrase dropped into my lap. The way out. The way out of the last 14 years.

And remember…

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Thanks for reading about learning Irish in Madrid!

Learning Irish in Madrid

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