Opening Doors

I blogged a line or two last year about the ‘Opening Doors’ program being run in Baile an Chaistil and in Íle.

Today’s Irish News reports that the ten week course is starting up again this new School year in both places. The course is designed for parents with little or no Gaelic and aims to encourage them to use the language in the home as far as possible, it is also hoped that this will give more people the confidence to embrace the benefits of a bilingual education.

The link between Ballycastle and Islay has been developing for a number of years now and this kind of work is a result of that combined effort. It has also reported that the use of Gaelic in Islay, the nearest Gaeltacht to Ballycastle has increased as a result of streams of confident Gaelic speakers visiting the Island.

What will be interesting is whether the linguistic bond between the two places will redevelope? Will the dialects spoken by the kids in the Gaelic medium school in Ballycastle and the Gaelic medium stream in Islay once again become fully mutually intelligeable, as they once were?

Groups of parents on the Hebridean Island of Islay and in the north Antrim town of Ballycastle for the second year running have just started the 10-week programme for parents who wish to raise their children with a knowledge of Gaelic language and culture. Programme author and developer Réamaí Mathers says that Gaelic Medium Schools are now commonplace throughout Ireland, in Scotland and on the Isle of Man. “While this sector seems to be in perpetual growth and academic results from the schools are impressive, large numbers of parents, who may otherwise be interested in giving their children access to Gaelic culture, still shy away because they hit the language barrier!” he says.

“The language barrier we are talking about is that parents who don’t have Gaelic sometimes feel that they may have a diminished role and they may not be-able to fully interact with their newly bilingual son or daughter.

“We all know that parents have a massively important role and are the first and most important teachers of their children. You could say that what our parents give us acts as our reference point for the rest of our lives. The educational support role for non-Gaelic speaking parents is as important in Gaelic-Medium Schools as in any other school. For example, a love of books and reading in English will allow the child to also flourish in Gaelic, after-all literacy skills are transferable across languages.”

The Opening Doors Programme deals with the importance of place and heritage in education, it invites parents to become part in an experiential learning process with their children. The ‘Opening Doors Programme’ recognises the fact that most parents do not speak Gaelic and instead of focusing only on just on language deals with the parental role as an educator, friend and mentor in their child’s journey towards bilingualism. By providing the parent with information on Gaelic culture and language, stories, discussion topics and a few basic words, the programme sets the scene for Mums and Dads to really become fellow travellers on the child’s road to becoming a well educated and active speaker of Gaelic and English.

It is in this way that the perceived language barrier can be transformed to a pathway to a deeper, more interactive and enjoyable relationship between parent and child…Something we as parents all aspire to.

The course began last night at Gaelscoil an Chaistil’s Family Centre, Ballycastle. and if you are interested in the course, you can get more information by phoning 028 2076 8883 and those in Islay will be starting back the following week at Ionad Chaluim Chille, Íle, Isle of Islay 01496 810818.

Freelance journalist, working mostly in Irish.

Have my own independent news website – antuairisceoir.com – which is in constant need of material.

I am the former editor of the newspaper Gaelscéal, www.gaelsceal.ie