Center for Irish Studies Welcomes New Irish Language Professor
Often described as an expressive, poetic and musical language, Aoife Ní Ghloinn says native speakers of the Irish language are known to use at least five words when one will suffice.
Ní Ghloinn, a visiting scholar from Ireland, will share more than a few Irish words with University of St. Thomas students as she teaches Irish language courses and develops courses in traditional Irish music and culture for the 2008-2009 school year.
A native of Carlow, a small town near Dublin, Ní Ghloinn grew up in a bilingual home where her parents spoke both English and Irish. A musician and seasoned world-traveler, Ní Ghloinn recently spent several months in Argentina volunteering at an orphanage while learning Spanish, but her recent arrival in Houston is only her second visit to the United States. While on an Ireland study abroad trip with UST students in 2008, Center for Irish Studies Director Lori Gallagher found Ní Ghloinn through the faculty at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth.
Ní Ghloinn earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Irish language and music from the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, graduating top of both of her classes and receiving academic awards for her scholarly achievements. This academic success led to a scholarship from the Northern Ireland Department of Education and Learning to pursue her studies at Queen’s University Belfast, where she received a Master’s degree, with distinction, in Irish and Celtic Studies. Ní Ghloinn is also an accomplished musician. She plays the piano, fiddle and guitar, and she loves to sing.
She has spent the last number of years teaching both English and Irish as second languages, at all levels from elementary school to third level institutions. Ní Ghloinn also transcribed interviews translating and writing voice-over scripts for Irish language television documentaries and also helped translate Microsoft XP programs into Irish.
“We are thrilled to have Professor Ní Ghloinn here to facilitate the expansion of our Irish language program,” Gallagher said. “We are entering our third year of teaching Irish, and we are pleased with the student interest in Irish language and culture. Professor Ní Ghloinn is an enthusiastic proponent of Irish language, music and culture, and she is a wonderful addition to our Irish Studies faculty.”
In Ireland, Ní Ghloinn says, there are regions of the country where a small portion of the people still grow up learning to speak Irish, but a large percentage of the population cannot speak the language. The Irish government has made a concerted effort to promote the preservation of the Irish language and heritage, generously funding Irish Studies programs both in Ireland and abroad. The University of St. Thomas Center for Irish Studies received a grant of more than $244,000 for 2008 through 2010 from the Irish government to promote the Irish language and provide scholarships and books to students interested in the Irish language. The grant enables the Center for Irish Studies to provide all Irish language students with free Irish language books, and the first 15 students who enroll in the first semester of Irish language in fall 2008 and spring 2009 are eligible to receive a $500 scholarship.
“The very essence and character of the Irish people is expressed and reflected in the Irish language,” Ní Ghloinn said. “With globalization, our world is becoming more and more homogenized. I feel that the preservation of minority languages, such as the Irish language, is vital to maintaining the cultural identity of the people who speak them.”
As she becomes more acquainted with her new home in Houston, Ní Ghloinn said she plans to build on the established Irish language program while bringing in her own “flavor,” including creating new classes in traditional Irish music and culture.
“I’m really looking forward to sinking my teeth into the Irish Studies program because I have lots of ideas and we have many exciting upcoming events,” she said. “We’re working on the Irish Gala scheduled for November 14, which is the primary fundraiser for the Irish Studies academic, and study abroad programs. Additionally, this year the Houston International Festival has selected Ireland as its featured country, so we will involve our students in the Festival and in turn bring more attention within the community to the University and the Center for Irish Studies.”