“Muck, bow, kuneen, shunnuk. OK?” says Number One, jabbing at his placemat. “Now can I have some cake?” he asks. I’ve introduced Irish (Gaelic) by buying new placemats.
At school I wasn’t much fussed about Irish but my secondary school teacher was. She was very encouoraging and I ended up doing surprisingly well in my Irish Leaving Cert exam. Unfortunately I didn’t keep the language up and with moving to Germany, exposure to the language was gone.
While I was expecting Number One, I intended to have him spreaking Irish as well as his cousins going to school in Ireland would. He’s 8 now and has barely a word of it. Life got in the way and learning a dying language dropped down the list of priorities.
Recently, on holiday in Ireland, I spotted a set of placemats with animal drawings and their names as gaeilge (in Gaelic) . On the spur of the moment I bought them. There and then I decided to have a serious try at getting the children to learn Irish.
And also, the cuteness. Just look!
Three weeks on, things are progressing nicely. I’ve managed to teach the boys the names of the animals. Muc (pig) was an easy one. Others were slower to sink in. Feileacan (fay-le-kawn; butterfly) doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue on the first attempt.
Number Two, my new school boy, is the best of the lot. He now not only knows the animals names but can say “Ba mhaith liom bainne” (I would like milk) and “Is maith liom milsean” (I like sweets).
On top of that, mealtimes have become brighter. The vibrant colours give our plain white table a lift and the colours tie in nicely with some melamine cups I bought earlier in the summer. Even taking a break for a snack has become more of an event as we set out the placemats and matching coasters.
Not usually one for fiddly things like coasters, I am surprised how much I like this set and how often we actually use it. I had a niggling feeling in my mind when I bought them that they would get used a couple of times and then forgotten. For now, at least, they re in daily use and our Irish vocabulary is slowly but surely building up.