After moving to Ireland, sorting through all the tedious paperwork for your teaching registration, and finding yourself a job, The last thing you will probably want to do when you are trying to settle into your new life is take an Irish exam. This guide is here to make things a little bit easier!
If you are a teacher who has qualified outside of Ireland, you will need to fulfill the Irish Language Requirement when you register with the Irish Teaching Council. There are two options for this: the OCG, or Oiriúnú le hAghaidh Cáilíochta sa Ghaeilge (Adaptation Period) or the SCG. An Scrúdú le hAghaidh Cáilíochta sa Ghaeilge (Aptitude Test)
Note: You will find that in Ireland, Irish is more commonly referred to as Gaeilge than as Irish.
Can I teach in Ireland without Irish language?
In Ireland, you can teach post-primary (known as secondary school) without Irish language. This is children from approximately 12-18 years old. To teach primary school (children approximately 5-12 years old), Irish is needed to teach in a mainstream class. While the Irish Language Requirement is needed to teach a mainstream primary class, it is not always necessary for teaching in a primary school as a special education class teacher or as a support or resource teacher.
Can I get a teaching job without having completed the Irish language requirement?
You can register with the teaching council and get a full-time teaching position before fulfilling the requirement. However, this registration is conditional, and you will be given a certain length of time (often three years) to complete the language requirement.
How difficult is fulfilling the requirement?
This really depends on how strong your level of Irish is. Both options require a high level of Irish: "The candidate will be required to demonstrate competence at a level commensurate with graduates of the Bachelor of Education or Graduate Diploma in Education (Primary Teaching) awarded within the State" (Marino, Institute of Education).
Should I do the OCG or the SCG?
Both the OCG and the SCG have their pros and cons. On Marino, the Institute of Education’s website (the organization that runs the OCG and SCG) there is a helpful comparison chart that you can download to help you make your decision. Click here to see the chart.
In general, the OCG is considered to be the easier of the two options, as there is more in the SCG exam. However, to complete the OCG, you need to be teaching Irish in a mainstream classroom for a minimum of 120 days; this must meet the requirements of the Primary Curriculum for Gaeilge (Irish), and you also must be in continuous employment during this period. If you are new to Irish, this can cause difficulty, as "classes are entitled to competent Irish language instruction" (Marino, Institute of Education), and schools may have concerns about leaving the responsibility entirely in your hands. You will also have two Irish lesson inspections by a supervisor. You will need to have a folder ready to present to the supervisor with your lesson plans, etc. Make sure to check the requirements and have this prepared well in advance.
The benefit of the SCG is that you don’t need to be teaching in a mainstream class, and you are only visited once by an inspector to see you teach an Irish lesson. You will also have to complete a project. If you are living abroad, it would be possible to fulfill the SCG requirement. However, you will need to find a school that is willing to let you teach a lesson, return to Ireland to sit the exam and complete the Gaeltacht requirement.
The inspections usually take place between January and March, and the exams are held around April. There are then repeat exams later in the year. You will receive a minimum of three weeks’ notice about the date of your inspection (which could be problematic if you are living abroad).
What is the Gaeltacht requirement?
Gaeltachts are areas in Ireland where people primarily speak Irish. Although Irish is usually their first language, most of them are also fluent in English. These areas are usually remote and often have stunning scenery.
The Gaeltacht requirement asks candidates to spend 21 days (3 weeks) resident at an authorized OCG/SCG Gaeltacht course. You can complete these three weeks any way you want. For example, 2 weeks and 1 week The courses usually take place at a local school during the school holidays, and you will stay in a Bean an T’s house (a local family house). Often, many people stay in these houses (sometimes around 10). You will receive your meals here, which the Bean an Tí (woman of the house) will cook. Often, there are many bunk beds in one room for people to sleep in.
There are many courses to choose from in different parts of the country. They vary in the activities and classes provided; some are more exam-focused than others; some will have evenings free (when people often go to the local pubs); while others will have organized activities like céilís (traditional Irish dance). A list of recognized courses can be found here!
I went to Coláiste Naomh Éanna in Spiddal, Galway. It’s a very well-run course that takes you through the exams step-by-step and provides you with all the notes and study plans that you need. The houses I stayed in were lovely, and the food was very good. It is also only about half an hour from Galway City, so it is easily accessible. You can find the link to their website here!
I can't speak Irish, will the Gaeltacht course be beneficial for me?
The people running the courses have experience helping people with all levels of Irish from all over the world to complete the language requirement. It is best to explain your experience and circumstances to them before you sign up or arrive so that they can let you know if it will be beneficial for you or if they can adapt lessons to suit you. However, it might be best to wait until you are more confident with your Irish so that you can fully benefit from the Gaeltacht experience of speaking Irish with other students/locals and keep up in the lessons.
What is the best way to study?
If you have lived abroad and feel that your Irish could do with some revision or have recently moved to Ireland and have no experience with Irish, I would suggest taking some time to get your Irish up to the required level before registering for, studying for, and taking the exam.
Tips and useful resources for learning Irish/Gaelige:
The Marino website has resources for helping students to get their Irish up to the required level.
TG4 has lots of shows which are great for practicing your listening skills. I would suggest putting on the English subtitles first, then progress to Irish and then, if possible, none.
Past papers - many of the questions are repeated year after year, it is quite easy to learn a lot of the answers off by heart.
Learn off answers to questions - many of the longer questions fit the same format every year. It is easy to create an answer, learn it off and then adapt it to the question asked during the exam.
Gramadach na Gaeilge app - this is one of the most useful tools for Irish grammar that I have found. Many Irish grammar books are full of grammar activities to complete but they don't tell you how to correct them or explain what the correct answer was and why. This app gives you the feedback you need - it is also much more engaging than trying to do activities out of a book.
Duolingo - the Irish section of duolingo has some questionable translations. However, as an engaging, entertaining way to practice and improve your Irish overall, it's pretty good. Just be aware that not all translations may be that accurate.
Teanglann.ie - is a great online dictionary, it also has a grammar section and gives pronunciation examples.
Ciorcal Comhrá (Irish Language Conversation Group) - praciticing for the oral part of the exam can be difficult. Especially if you don't have anyone else to practice with. Conversation groups are a great solution, they are full of people with all levels of Irish looking to practice. They can be easily found on google or by contacting your local library.
How can I help inspections to go smoothly?
One of the requirements for the inspection of the lesson is that the whole lesson be taught in Irish. That means that you can’t speak a word of English during the lesson, even to give instructions for activities. If you have a class that struggles with Irish (as many classes do post-Covid), this can cause issues as they will be unable to follow the instructions. Using lots of visuals and gestures can help a lot with this. Practice with the children several times before so that they understand what to do from the visuals and gestures, even if they can’t understand what you are saying.
Try to keep the number of instructions to a minimum
Practice any games that you are going to play with the children several times before the inspector arrives.
Keep to the same routine for all Irish lessons so that the children are aware of what is going to happen and what is expected of them.
If possible, plan to teach topics and use vocabulary that the children are comfortable with when the inspector arrives.
Tell the children about the inspector coming to visit in advance, as this will reduce confusion and anxiety when he or she arrives.
Consider your seating plan carefully to reduce the chances of behavioral issues. If you are teaching a class that is struggling with Irish, it will be difficult to manage challenging behavior while speaking a language that they can’t understand.
Let the inspector know of any children with additional needs before the lesson starts; this will give you some allowance for using English with them during the lesson if you need to.
Note: As requirements may change from year to year, be sure to double-check the information on the Marino Institute of Education’s website.