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Learning Irish At The Table

“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.


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16 thoughts on “Learning Irish At The Table

  1. Love this idea! It’s also fun for kids to learn that some everyday words and place names we use originate from Irish such as “what’s the craic” (a favourite here in NI)!! So colourful and fun, too. #HomeEtc

  2. Hi Fionnuala, just discovered your blog recently and Im really enjoying it! I adore those placemats, Im totally getting them! Im a primary teacher and I have a class blog….every week I will be putting up a question and answer in Irish….the children record it. If you want your children to hear a bit of gaeilge, you can find it by googling cbs Ennis then clicking on my class blog…Mrs Shine! Theres only one up so far as Ive been off with the flu this week! Looking forward to reading more☺☺

    1. Hi Mrs. Shine, how cool that you have a class blog. I looked it up and heard the question. Number Two was fascinated. We’ll check back again next week.
      I got the placemats in Homestore & More in Drogheda but they may be available in other shops too.

  3. I’m sure the boys would be happy to oblige and do a voice recording for you. You can contact me by e-mail (fionnusblog[at]gmail.com) if you are interested in some kind of culture swap project or learning about Germany with the class.

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