Northern Ireland

West Belfast Irish language teacher tells how lockdown brought more students from around the globe

Gearóid Ó Lochlainn said the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic 'opened doors for me'
Gearóid Ó Lochlainn said the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic 'opened doors for me' Gearóid Ó Lochlainn said the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic 'opened doors for me'

An Irish teacher from west Belfast has told how the lockdown has brought him more students from around the globe wanting to learn the language.

Gearóid Ó Lochlainn said while the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic "closed doors for a lot of people, it opened doors for me".

Mr Ó Lochlainn was speaking as he revealed details of the first in a trilogy of books he has written to help people learn Irish and believes it is an essential resource for children going through the medium of Irish in schools.

Tóg Go Bog É Ag Foghlaim provides the basics of Irish, from saying your name, to explaining where you are from and day-to-day activities.

He said writing the book spiralled from the success of his online classes over the Covid-19 pandemic.

"When Covid hit, as a self-employed person, I had to try to figure out a way of teaching outside the classroom," he said.

"If I didn't work, I didn't get paid.

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"So I started to teach my classes online, through Zoom, and it really just took off.

"While Covid closed doors for a lot of people, it opened doors for me - I now have students from all over the world, America, Canada and places across Europe."

He said it was during his online classes that the idea for his first book was born.

"It's a really simple idea, it's the basics of Irish and it came about from the encouragement I had from people I was teaching," he said.

"Some students said they were looking for something just with the basics as all the books out there were focussed on grammar.

 Mr Ó Lochlainn's book has already proved to be a hit
Mr Ó Lochlainn's book has already proved to be a hit Mr Ó Lochlainn's book has already proved to be a hit

"So I started to put it together, from the basics of your name, where you were born and raised, describing your appearance and personality, the weather and day-to-day activities.

"It's tailored to everyone, from young children to adults and to senior citizens.

"It's all self-funded and I got an illustrator, Aoife Devlin, to illustrate the book for me."

The book has already proved a hit, with plans by Mr Ó Lochlainn to write another two.

"I've already sold 300 to 400 copies to America and Canada alone as well as here and in the south," he said.

"It's a trilogy so the second book will take it up a level, then the third book will be an intermediate level.

"People like how simple it is and hopefully it helps."

Tóg Go Bog É Ag Foghlaim is available in a number of book shops across Ireland including An Ceathrú Póilí, Books Papers Scissors, the Culturalánn and Crumlin Road Gaol in Belfast as well as Foyle Books in Derry, Glenveagh National Park in Donegal and An Siopa Leabhar, Dublin.