Without a doubt, one of the most challenging parts of learning Irish is understanding Irish speakers in person, on TV, or on radio. This can be especially hard for those who live outside of Ireland. However, there is a method of study which can gradually help students over time that one can use with the language journals mentioned in my first blog (Learning Irish: the First Steps). But to begin using this technique one must always remember that it works best if you try and use it every day or often as you can.
The foundation for this practice is to have a basic groundwork in Irish, even a small one will work. If you only know a couple of verbs, adjectives, or nouns, this is sufficient. To begin this process, you can listen to Irish radio at www.rte.ie or watch Irish Gaelic television at www.tg4.ie, however, I would suggest watching TG4 (mostly children’s shows) first since it is a little bit easier to interpret. During this time, it is suggested to focus on only one grammatical concept and try to only listen for that. If you have trouble recognizing the verb Bí (to be) in the following forms, for example, try and ONLY listen for these conjugations to improve your eye for detail. It will also point you to other areas that need to be addressed:
Tá mé Bhí mé Beidh mé
I am I was I will be
Tá tú Bhí tú Beidh tú
You are You were You will be
Tá sé/sí Bhí sé/sí Beidh sé sí
He/she is He/she was He/she will be
Once you have recognized the verb being used in several forms try and isolate the usages you have trouble with the most. So for example, if you’re skilled at the present tense and weak at listening for the future tense, focus only on the future tense. Now, once you do this and get a foothold on identifying this tense you can move onto your next weak subject. Later on you can listen for larger grammatical concepts, such as partial or complete sentences.
The second step is to record how well you think you did on a scale from 1-10. For this you could use another journal or some other way of recording and keeping your evaluations for the future. Carefully organize categories and subcategories and score them. This way you can see how you have improved overtime, and you can earn a sense of achievement as well. After all, when we take responsibility for our education, whether it is for a degree or just a language on the side we can drastically improve our understanding of Irish speakers in person, on TV, or on radio.