Here is a one of my students writing about his experience back in Conamara and speaking the irish language.
“One of the most pivotal moments in learning Irish was my first conversation in Connemara with a native speaker. Paraic had been encouraging me to pick up the courage and just start with, “Cé chaoi a bhfuil tú?” and see what happens next. The moment came when I was helping the manager of the Connemara Hostel in Leenaun. When I was done helping him he pointed out that I had left my cell phone charger on a table. I forced myself to say, “Go raibh maith agat” in a shaking voice. He instantly replied with a mix of surprise and appreciation, “Tá failte romhat!” Later that night I walked up, stuck out my hand and said to him, “Cé chaoi a bhfuil tú?” and we were off and running.
Paraic wasn’t there to back me. I switched to English when I didn’t know the word, and just spoke as much Irish as I could. But something switched on in my head that wouldn’t have if I hadn’t jumped into the conversation, I started thinking in Irish for the first time and I had to do it quickly. I realized I just needed to relax and enjoy the experience of finally fulfilling a life long wish to speak with someone in the Gaeltacht and make myself understood.
Two days later I found myself speaking Irish in Padraig Pearse’s writing cottage at the Ionad Cultúrtha an Phiarsaigh in Ros Muc. There I was, speaking Irish in the writing cottage of a man who had dedicated his life to the survival of the Irish language. I felt humbled and proud in the same moment. Paraic helped make that moment possible for me and it is a debt I will never fully repay. I look forward now to many more just like it.”