This project involved the production of a full colour workbook to be used in conjunction with an Irish Language auto-learning television series, Now You're Talking, first broadcast by BBC Northern Ireland and RTE in September 1995. The teaching package was particularly applicable to learners of Irish in Northern Ireland: the dialect used is Ulster Irish, and it was the first Irish language television series broadcast in Northern Ireland. Now You're Talking was aimed at total beginners, and involved the first high-quality teaching workbook to be used in conjunction with any Irish language teaching series.
The Now You're Talking concept originated in Wales, where ACEN produced several series and attendant resource material. Unusually for a language teaching programme, Now You're Talking reached the top of the TAM ratings in Wales. The concept was adapted for Scottish Gaelic, and the Gaelic version, Speaking Our Language has also been a remarkable success.
The book was published by Gill and Macmillan, a subsidiary of Macmillan UK. At a commercial rate, the cost of the 15,000 print run would have been £14.95 per copy. A grant of £13,000 was sought from PSEP to reduce the purchase price to £9.95 so that it can be as widely available as possible, and affordable for young people and those on low incomes. This sum was matched by support from the Department of the Gaeltacht in the Republic of Ireland.
This project was developed specifically to appeal to a cross community audience. There is an increasing interest in the language among the Protestant community in Northern Ireland, and the trust has for long been aware of the difficulties many Protestants have experienced in locating Irish classes in areas to which they would be willing to travel. As television provides access to the language in the ultimate neutral venue of the home, our involvement in the series was based on the perception that a series of attractive learning programmes, using the Ulster dialect, aimed at complete beginners, and broadcast by the widely acceptable BBC, could have a significant impact on perceptions of the language. As well as providing opportunities for learning the language to those who do not have access to a nearby Irish class, we believe that the course has stimulated new learners of Irish.
It is not always possible to produce accurate returns on the cross community impact of a project such as this. It proved impossible to quantify either the number of books sold within
Northern Ireland or cross community uptake. Sales of the book within Northern Ireland are calculated at between 3,500 and 4,500 and up to one third of them may have been sold to members of the Protestant community. Of the 150 copies distributed directly by the Trust, over half have been to cross community groups or groups and individuals from the Protestant community in Northern Ireland. Many of the people with whom we are in touch - including a number involved in community relations - have commented favourably on the course, particularly noting its accessibility to all traditions. Informal contacts with bookshops in Belfast indicate that both the books and the teaching packages attract purchasers from both political and religious traditions.
Indications of cross community appeal come from the Trust's involvement
in a Cultural Heritage Enrichment Programme in twenty state grammar
schools, where many pupils indicated that their interest in Irish
was stimulated by the course, and some of whom had already learned
a number of phrases from the television series. This evidence
is supported by Liam O Cuinneagain, Director of an adult summer
college in Donegal, who reported to us that a large proportion
of enquiries from Northern Ireland have referred to the Now You're
Talking course as providing the initial stimulus for interest
in the language. At least 20 of the participants in Oideas Gael
summer courses in 1996 from a Protestant background have mentioned
Now You're Talking as one of their learning aids for the language.
We made a point of asking those people who mentioned that they
were using the book if they would have bought it at the increased
cost if £14.99. The vast majority of them indicated that
they could not have afforded it at that price.