Adult learning classes are beginning again at this time in universities, colleges, schools and community education centres; Irish, English, maths, sciences, etc etc. My good friend Derry John and myself have enrolled for an Irish Bunrang class which began last Wednesday evening.

I’m amazed how at this of the year time we are filled with the desire to learn something new; to make a new beginning.  How we are filled with commitment, excitement and, admittedly, a sense of dread.

That's because we have to step out of ourselves and enter into participation with other folk who we have never met before. We must exhibit a willingness to learn and be open to new ideas and a new way of thinking. We must be courageous and allow ourselves to be challenged against our old ways of thinking.

John and I arrived early for our bunrang class. We are determined to support each other,  to rekindle our native tongue, to discover and recover our heritage to the poetic tones of a distant familiar sound that is home to the heart of our psyche.

Our class began at 7pm and we were able to meet face-to-face as the pandemic restrictions loosen. We experienced the joy of being with others even if we are challenged to be with people we have never met before. We know deep down in our hearts that they are kindred spirits who also wish to begin on the linguistic journey.

I’m like a child learning to talk and I’m filled with the desire to learn and we are blessed with so many classes and so many committed teachers who are inspired to teach and who know the needs of the beginner as they were once in our shoes.

There was a warm welcome as we entered the class room and took our seats, I felt like one of the three bears as I chose my seat. There was an air of optimism in the room as we shuffled around with pen and paper and were brave enough to introduce ourselves to others. Our young teacher introduced herself as Roisin and welcomed us to the bunrang class.

She was skilful in putting us all at ease as she welcomed us and outlined the content of her teaching over the weeks and reassured us all that we were on the road to fluency. She had a youthful optimism that you could almost feel in the room, a sense of leadership that spoke to us, letting us know that we were in good hands.

I personally experienced a sense of arrival to the journey of my native tongue as I sat in the company of other seekers and like minded people. My companions helped me feel at ease in my seat of learning with my new pen, paper and a bottle of sparkling black currant juice.

I had always wanted to speak our Irish language as I always knew the richness of our native tongue. At various times since childhood I have always felt robbed of part of my identity, especially when I listened to the lilt of others and the music of the soul.

I missed my language when I was filled with curiosity about place-names around our country and the magic of their translation. Likewise, when I heard of our myths, legends, poets, writers and artists. Legendary names like Ossian, Cú Chulainn, Brighid, Méabh, the battle of Cooley, Tír na nÓg, the sound of the fiddle, the pipes and the chanting, of ancient rhyme and wisdom, that my forefathers and mothers whispered in the winds of time, a sound that beckoned me to the distant sound of now.

Being called home to the one house where we can all abide in peace, filled with joy and laughter as we share our stories of a life lived and a life worth living. In that place, in the words of the great William Butler Yeats: “There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t yet met”. 

It is joyous to be filled with that sense of learning and the spark that rekindles that learning. Wonderful to be with others on our journey home to take our place at the hearth of our ancient land, set in the garden of rich mountains, lakes, rivers, flower, fauna and birdsong.

Back to the class. We know that there is work to be done as we help each other on the way through sharing the knowledge. We wake up to enjoy the journey and if we fall, we get up again to share a life worth living.

If you haven’t already signed up for a class, there’s still time to do so.

Let’s do it.