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Thursday, 28 November 2013

How I Study... Irish (Oral)

Right, that’s enough persuasion. Down to business!

So, the exam is made up of the oral, which will take place in April and makes up 40%, the listening test which is integrated into the written exam and is worth 10% and the written papers 1 and 2 which make up the remaining 50%.

More information on the syllabus and marking scheme can be found here.    

It’s well worth looking at resources like this and keeping the marking schemes in mind when you prepare for the exam, so you can prioritise when studying.

I could write for years about this, as I could with other subjects, so I’m just going to include a few basic points that work for me when I go over various parts of the course.


        1) The Poetry:

I have printed out my own copies of all five poems (which can be brought into the exam). I then listen to recordings on youtube by Marcus Lamb and pencil in any pronunciations I may have got wrong. Then I record myself reading them out and make sure I have them perfect. This is a part you can really do well on: it’s all down to practise until you’re confident. And guys... try and put in a little feeling.

2) The Sraiths:

OK so these are the bane of my existence, having to learn 20 and only ever being asked one... but enough of my moaning. My class does them in groups: we get a picture each to work on and we come up with four or five sentences. We always have to include a seanfhocail. Our teacher then checks them and prints them out for us. What I then do is pick out what I actually can learn. If there’s a ridiculously complicated sentence I’ll leave it out or replace it. Then I write them out for myself, which helps me revise, and record myself reading them once I have the pronunciation right. This is a bit cringe-worthy, especially when you’re listening to a song on your iPod and “Comortas Cor na Scoile” shows up unexpectedly, but listening to them really does help.

This is because I’m an auditory learner. I learn by listening. It’s worth finding out which of the three main kinds of learner you are: auditory, kinaesthetic (learning by doing) or visual. This can be useful in studying all subjects.

Another point to note is that there are many similarities between the sraiths, so you can get away with using the same familiar phrases a few times. Some class favourites are “thainig an lá mór faoi dheireadh”... and you’ll find that, in at least half the stories, “an griain” tends to be “ag scoilteadh na gcloch”. This can make them seem a little easier.

They’re mind-numbing, I know, but again here’s something you can get points for just learning off by heart. I’m not saying it’s right or easy, but that’s the way it is.

3) Greeting:

There are a few points of the greeting you can learn my heart too: name, date of birth, address etc.
If you really work at these three things, you’ll feel a lot better come exam time. They are the first three parts of the oral, so if all goes well you will be a lot more comfortable when it comes to the actual conversation part.

...These three things you can learn off, but for everything else it can be a bit unexpected. The examiner can ask you anything they want really, so it’s up to you to prepare a few things likely to come up. These might include: social problems, your plans for university or college, and lots of personal stuff such as hobbies and interests...

Keep a copy (notebook) for your oral work with all keywords and phrases you might use. A problem many of us come across is: “I don’t even know what to say in English!” so make sure you have some opinions about things like littering, etc, and choose a hobby you’d like to talk about. Know the words for all your subjects at school and things like that.

This all sounds very vague, but remember the point of the exam is to test your ability to communicate in Irish. So if they ask you about, say, hurling, and like me, you can’t tell one end of a hurl from another, prepare some phrases like “I don’t know much about that” and then proceed to tell them what you are interested in.
For example, in my summer test I told my teacher all about this blog, facts about which I had prepared. Because it was an interesting topic, she spent a lot of time asking me questions on it, most of which I had already prepared answers to. Think of something you could talk about for a while.

I like to practise by imagining having a conversation with someone in Irish: what are they most likely to ask me? What would I say in return? Take turns “examining” your friends, too. My Irish teacher holds an after-school club once a week to practise speaking Irish. If you have a resource like this, use it. And don’t be shy in class, either. Try asking questions in Irish, remembering of course that everyone else is just as nervous as you are.

Some sample questions to try answering are found here.

The day before the oral, I intend to speak as much Irish as possible to get myself in the right frame of mind. I’ve found even when preparing essays and such, immersing yourself in the language really helps. I hope my Irish and French exams are widely spaced apart!

Best of luck everyone, and wish me the same! Let’s all knuckle down, there’s only a few weeks lift till Christmas! If I’ve left anything out of this post please let me know, and as always remember that this is just how I do things. I’m not an authority on the matter and if you’ve got a way that works, stick to it! Perhaps you could even share it with the rest of us? 

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