Basic Grammar to Supplement the Communicative Approach
The communicative approach means learning the language needed to speak and write. The learner becomes a performer immediately. Use of the language is the objective and the priority.
From the beginning the students should be active. They should hear good Irish, imitate it, repeat it, use it, and then adapt it to express their own message. As they progress and in order to adapt the Irish they learn they need to know basic grammar. If they were totally immersed in spoken Irish every day they could derive the rules for themselves over a long period.
Unfortunately time is scarce and some lessons devoted to grammar and structure serve to speed up the learning and make it easier. The beauty of these online courses is that lessons are accompaniied by numerous exercises which engage the students and reward them with instant marking. The Studybase courses in grammar bear the communicative objective in mind and the students learn by doing.
We offer two excellent interactive courses in Irish grammar for the learner. One, drawn from Nuachúrsa Gaeilge na mBráithre Críostaí, revised and updated, is suitable for those who have already learnt some Irish by the direct method or from the communicative language teaching approach. and who would now benefit from some explanation and practice in using verbs and their tenses, nouns and adjectives, or reported speech.
The other is Úrchúrsa Gaeilge by Dr Dónall P. Ó Baoill and Éamonn Ó Tuathail.
These books were chosen for their clarity in presenting the lessons in simple Irish wiith a minimum of grammar terms, for their numerous examples of the living language illustrating each point, and for the numerous exercises which follow each and evry point.
The exercises have been converted to quizzes annd cloze tests using MOODLE. The pupil can answer the questions and then check if the answers are correct. If not they can try again, and again. Finally, the completed quiz can be submitted for iinclusiion in the pupil's record of work done and achievemments. Thus these lessons provide the teacher with an automatically generated continuous assessment report.
A student who devotes time and effort to these lessons and exercises is certain to gain a very sure grasp of Irish grammar to supplement the spoken and written Irish learnt from other sources or taught by different methods.
Teachers wishing to give a thorough understanding of some aspect of Irish to their pupils will find plenty to engage them in these lessons and exercises.
Nuachúrsa is suitable for younger students and less experienced learners. - Index
Úrchúrsa is suitable for more advanced learners. - Index
Obviously the aim is to teach the living language so that it may be spoken in the classroom and outside it in everyday situations.
Don't go overboard
Even though functional grammar is the basis of these lessons the teacher must not dwell too much on "the grammar" itself. The sooner the grammar points learnt are applied by the students in conversational Irish the better. The pitfall of talking too much about Irish and not actually talking Irish is to be avoided.
Aquiring an understanding of a language involves listening and reading. Using it involves speaking and writing. The more opportunities the learner has to hear, read, speak and write the language the better. Hence such activities as "Ceist agus Freagra" sessions, writing short compositions of all kinds, letters, essays, conversations, and the frequent retelling of "Scéal Sheáin / Shíle" in different tenses should be a major part of the Irish lesson.. Most importantly, each pupil must be encouraged to compose and continuously add to an autobiography entitled "Mo Scéal Féin".
Learning a language means making your own of it. It means selecting from numourous variables and expressing yourself in appropriate vocabulary and phrases. It also means being aware of the huge heritage of living Irish that is available to you in the Gaeltacht and in the literature.
Learn by heart
The more proverbs, songs, poems, jokes, and stories you know in Irish the better. They provide patterns of sentence structure upon which the students can build their own life story in good traditional Irish
Learning Irish is not in the same class as preparing for a holiday with a "Learn French in 3 Weeks" booklet in order to amaze the locals. For one thing some students will go on to become teachers of the language themselves. They will need to be able to speak and write accurately. A good knowledge of basic grammar will help them speak and write with confidence.
What of prose and poetry?
Prose and poetry can be dealt with communicatively also. Students can prepare their own questions and get others to answer. Before long such points as thoughts, mood, and theme, structure, rhythm, rhyme, structure, and imagery can be introduced. If students allude to something themselves and find theat othhers agree with them they feel good about themselves and about the subject. If the teacher poses a question, answers it without asking for a response from the students, and urges them to learn it for the exam, such teaching may reassure students worried about exam results but is unlikely to improve their command of oral Irish.
Prose and poetry provide appealing issues and topics on which to base coversation. They expand vocabulary and idiom. Best of all they provide pleasure, enlightenment and enjoyment and provoke thought..