Ag obair as láimhe a céile! Working hand in hand!

By Clár Ní Bhuachalla, Bord na Gaeilge UCD Irish Language Officer.

‘An Ghaeilge Bheo/The Living Language’ project – a collaborative project between Bord na Gaeilge and UCD Library, sponsored by SPARC.

Anyone who sat leaving certificate Irish might recall the term ‘seanfhocal’ or proverb. A lot of these ‘seanfhocail’ pertain to the weather, to the land or to significant life events such as births, marriages and deaths.  A sizable number, however, pertain to work, or more precisely, the advantages of working together; ar scáth a céile a mhaireann na daoine, or gioraíonn beirt bóthar*. 

Language promotion cannot be achieved by sitting alone at a computer, so, as a small 2 person unit tasked with the promotion of the Irish language across a broad community of students staff, alumni and diaspora, developing collaborations  with others is essential to achieving our goals.  A small unit is particularly conducive to innovative collaborations as we can experiment with projects on a small scale, make decisions, adapt or change track relatively quickly before developing something on a larger scale.

Our Collaborations

Ashling Harteveld & Ciarán Mac Fhearghusa at Mindfullness for Leaving Certificate Students. ‘An Ghaeilge Bheo/The Living Language’ project – a Bord na Gaeilge/UCD Library Collaboration

In 2016-2017 we collaborated with various partners – within UCD, nationally and internationally. One of our most exciting collaborations was planning and delivering a Seminar for international language practitioners, the first of its kind, born from the need to give minority language officers in third level education a voice and a forum through which they could exchange knowledge and experience.  I organised this in partnership with the Gaelic Language Officer, University of Glasgow, Scotland, drawing practitioners from Scotland, England and Wales to UCD. On reflection, it was challenging to work with partners based abroad, however, there was so much to be gained from the collaboration, it was worth every effort and I look forward to developing the project in the future.

Significantly more straightforward and equally enjoyable were our collaborations with colleagues on campus. This year we also collaborated with:

  • UCD Library in a series of talks & discussions for Irish speaking students and staff;
  • UCD Estate Services in a joint project focusing on developing Irish language signage for native trees along the Woodland Walkway. This project sparked a new cooperation between UCD and DCU, language units, services and visiting walking groups;
  • MSU in developing an Irish language online staff directory;
  • UCD Finance and MSU on developing an Irish language version of the online student scholarship payment system.

What I learned to date?

The Bord na Gaeilge /UCD Library ‘An Ghaeilge Bheo’ collaborative project took place in Spring 2017, and was supported by the UCD SPARC programme. SPARC, which stands for Supporting Partnerships and Realising Change, was set up to support UCD students in gaining real life experience along with a range of project management, problem-solving, and planning skills by working collaboratively with UCD staff. This collaboration is now completed, and it been completed proved very successful, so it is in reference to this particular project that I have noted the following.

I ndiaidh a céile a thógtar na caisleán! (Castles are built one by one/Rome wasn’t built in a day!)

Successful collaborations can start as smaller projects which form the basis for a good working relationship; for example in the case of the Bord na Gaeilge/UCD Library initiative, our experience in hosting an Irish language book club in the library proved we worked well together and had compatible goals so I saw the library as an ideal partner to work with on ‘An Ghaeilge Bheo’.

Tús maith leath na hoibre (A good start is half the work)

The project was characterised by good and frequent communication. I found that working with a large unit, which was experienced in working collaboratively, was a great advantage in this regard. At the beginning of the project, roles and timeframes were clearly defined, though as the project progressed, flexibility was also required.  Communication within the unit extended beyond the team directly involved in the project, for example to security, operations and information, thus facilitating the smooth running of events.

Chíonn beirt rud nach bhfeiceann duine amháin! (Two people see what one person cannot!)

This particular initiative involved complimentary skills and a respect for the expertise of all team members. The library team members we worked closest with were international staff with no prior knowledge of the Irish language. However, as accuracy and attention to detail is central to the library’s work, great care was taken to communicate regularly on all language matters.

Is fearr obair ná caint! (Work is better than talk!)

Finally, when team members see the bigger picture and are committed to the success of the project, they are generous with their time and supportive of each other.

The experience I gathered and the connections I made through collaborations during the past year have assisted me in my latest project, the development of Bord na Gaeilge’s new Summer School, Tionól Gaeilge UCD which will run 31 July to 4 August 2017.  The Tionól involves all of the afore mentioned collaborative partners plus more; from communicating with universities at home and  abroad, to accommodating participants (UCD Estate Services), devising  booking systems (MSU), advertising in Dublin libraries (UCD Library), and most importantly financial advice (UCD Finance).  It’s thanks to those very many supportive colleagues that we can continue to improve our services, innovate and expand our reach.  Ní neart go cur le céile, there’s strength in unity.

*Proverbs translated as; ‘We live in the shadow of each other ‘and ‘ Two shorten the road’.


Author: Clár Ní Bhuachalla

Clár is a member of Bord na Gaeilge, UCD, a cross- faculty board which provides opportunities for UCD students and staff, along with the wider UCD community and alumni to engage with the Irish language.  Her role, as language officer, is to initiate and manage a wide range of projects which engage learners and fluent speakers alike.

Clár also facilitates the university in its compliance with Irish language legislation, through the provision of language courses and translation services to colleagues across a broad range of schools and units.