Old and New Irish at UConn


So what awaits all those researchers and speakers of the Irish language at the University of Connecticut? In the village of Storr and the town of Mansfield, halfway between New York and Boston, nothing is half measured about UConn’s dedication to the Irish language.

The University of Connecticut is one of the few places in the United States that offers students the opportunity to study Irish in all its forms: Old Irish, Modern Irish, and Modern Irish today. today.

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“UConn is home to an international collaborative online project aimed at making Modern Irish accessible for free and around the world,” says Professor Brendan Kane, Professor of History and Professor of Literature, Cultures and Languages, who teaches Modern Irish. .

For those looking to connect with the Irish language and other speakers, the University of Connecticut is the perfect place. And while Covid may have had an impact on the advertising of courses, it hasn’t dampened the spirits of those UConnHuskies teaching and learning the language.

Muireann Nic Corcráin, from Wexford, is this year the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) at UConn, where she teaches courses at beginner and intermediate levels, including a community class.

“The first round of Irish lessons I took had about 25 people; for the next session, more than 43 people signed up,” she enthuses.

As a keen sportswoman who grew up and played in her local Wexford GAA community, she brought some of that GAA grá to local club Glastonbury, CT, and the UConn Gaelic football team, founded in 2017. Many of these players also take his Irish lessons at university and in the community.

SPORTING LIFE: UConn’s GAA team – many of them also take Irish courses in college

“Some people are still a little hesitant to pick up the language again after not using it for a while, or even to start their language learning journey because they’ve heard how difficult the language is to master. “, explains Nic Corcráin.

However, they quickly overcome this fear of the language, once they hear its beautiful sounds, appreciate its grammatical structure and begin to learn its history: all in an open and welcoming environment.

“Once they are introduced to the language and start to learn about the history behind the language, how it survived colonization and the Great Famine, there is a lot of respect for those who are here for sharing the language and it starts to generate some interest,” says Nic Corcráin.

“Being able to draw parallels between Irish and Algonquian in terms of the culture and history behind the language has been a real eye-opener for me and I’m excited to see where this partnership goes in the future to support both languages. .”

“I also started giving voluntary conversation lessons at the Irish club, so when the students come down and meet in the bar, the language has started to flourish and be used more widely by all members of the club” , she says.

And rumor has it that a pionta amháin facilitates the flow of prepositional pronouns and perhaps even the dreaded modh coiníollach, so that the community lesson takes place in a relaxed and social setting, but with all the rigor the language deserves.

The college has also revived the Cumann Gaelach with the help of Nic Corcráin, and students are thriving with all these opportunities to be immersed in the culture and language of Ireland.


And, since it takes a village, they are very “lucky to have great support from the Irish American Home Society in Glastonbury, who offer dance lessons, Irish dancing, music sessions and more than us we can promote to our students who want to delve deeper into Irish culture,” explains Nic Corcráin.

There are opportunities for UConn students to travel to Ireland in the summer and attend the Gaeltachtaí; undergraduate and graduate students can learn Irish; and there is even more room for growth.

“I think there is certainly room to develop the Irish language program here, there is certainly an interest in Irish history and culture in general and it would make more sense to try to build an interdepartmental minor in Irish studies at the very beginning. at least,” says Nic Corcráin.

As Nic Corcráin shares the Irish language with Connecticut, she has had the wonderful opportunity to immerse herself in the history and connection with other minority and indigenous languages.

“I have been incredibly fortunate to be able to connect with the UConn Native American Cultural Program here at UConn and run workshops on minority languages ​​including Irish and Algonquian which is the language of the tribal nation Mashantucket Pequot,” she said.

ÉISTIGÍ: Muireannn Nic Corcráin teaches a course at UConn

ÉISTIGÍ: Muireannn Nic Corcráin teaches a course at UConn

“Being able to draw parallels between Irish and Algonquian in terms of the culture and history behind the language has been a real eye-opener for me and I’m excited to see where this partnership goes in the future to support both languages. .”

This Wexford spirit never falters. Nic Corcráin has always been an ambassador and campaigner for the Irish language, never shy from standing up for what she believes in, even as an undergraduate student at Trinity College Dublin.

“I have been involved in Irish language activism since my first year at university, where I could see the opportunity to fight for my language rights and try to make a difference,” says -she.

“Taking on the role of Irish Language Officer for the Students’ Union in my final year of graduation, I successfully lobbied for student ID cards to include the síneadh fada, while they protested that their system could not accommodate it. The following year, when I started my master’s, I got my new student card with the fada on it, no questions asked.


She brought that fervor and warrior spirit from Wexford across the sea to Connecticut, and the circle continues. She teaches. They learn. No more talking. Relate. The Irish language travels even more. Blooms a little more. Its opportunity is the opportunity of language.

“For me, it was the opportunity of a lifetime to travel to America, meet new people, and spread the grá I have for my language, my history, and my culture,” says Nic Corcráin.

“The Irish language, for me, is an integral part of my identity, and having the chance to share it with people is a privilege and an honour,” she says.

Nic Corcráin is a proud Loch Garman Gaeilgeoir, bringing her knowledge and knowledge of Gaeilge and GAA to those in Glastonbury, UConn, Connecticut and beyond. As her academic year at UConn draws to a close, the Irish language continues to flourish and thrive, and the connection to Connecticut continues.


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