Dedicated to the Gaelic Language of the Isle of Man
Imraaghyn Features

Online lessons make for accessible learning

Thu, 14 Jan 2021

14 January 2021

Back at the start of 2020, the word ‘Zoom’ wouldn’t have meant much to most people. It might have stirred up some memories of watching a (dubious) superhero film with the same title, back in 2006, but that’s probably about it. Now, for many people who use the internet, it has become a way of life for those living in lockdown: a way of hanging-out virtually between family and friends, hosting meetings, and attending conferences or classes. I’m sure that most of you who have been forced into using Zoom (other online-platforms are available!) will, no doubt, have had an embarrassing moment or two, whether that’s from a child or pet bursting into the room just at the most inopportune moment, or a suspect squeak from a chair when your microphone is unmuted! 

While nothing can ever truly replace the value and importance of in-person contact, there were some unexpected benefits for those who were able to get online during lockdown 1.0. The world of online-learning opened up further than ever before, with audiences being able to access classes delivered in real-time from all over the world. For those for whom travel is too difficult or expensive, online-learning helped to melt away the miles.

When Covid19 first reached us here on the Isle of Man, there was a huge rallying effort from the community to adapt and change to our new circumstances. Like many other things, Manx teaching and learning also went completely online. A variety of teachers delivered lessons through online-platforms, and the Manx-speaking community also took informal conversational groups online, welcoming new participants into the fold. Some people on Island who previously had not been able to leave their homes because of other commitments, or not wanting to drive at night to attend classes, saw the advantage of fitting in an online class and having fun learning something new. Perhaps most excitingly, the move to hosting classes and conversation groups online meant that Manx speakers and learners from across the globe could now take part in ‘real life’ discussions and sessions. We talked with enthusiastic and committed Gaelgeyryn from as far away as North America and Australia, and saw large numbers of Irish and Scottish Gaelic speakers further engaging with their Manx Gaelic counterparts.

By summer, we saw the return of some face-to-face provision for Manx, but there was also a more blended approach with some real-time learning opportunities remaining online. With accessibility in mind, Culture Vannin advertised two brand new Manx classes for beginners, to be delivered on Zoom from January. The uptake was immediate and places quickly filled up, with learners from across the Isle of Man, but also the British Isles, Ireland, North America and Australia. I dread to think what time it is in Adelaide, when I run a lunchtime Zoom class here on the Island! This reflects how the Manx language is one of the Island's most important cultural assets; it is an Island success story and something in which we all can take great pride. As well as the flourishing of interest in Manx on-island, which was particularly visible in 2020, it is great to see interest in Manx culture and language from international audiences, who are keen to be part of a growing community of Manx speakers. 

Face-to-face Manx classes, however, still remain an important offering, and will resume as soon as it’s safe to do so. We have two new classes, beginning next week, that still have places available: the times of these are: Tuesday 9.15am – 10am for lower-intermediate learners, and Thursday 9.15am – 10am for beginners. Both classes are scheduled to take place in Green’s Café, St. John’s, but will initially start up on Zoom. If you are interested in coming to a class, or want to register your interest for other Manx classes in future, please send me (Ruth) an email: manxlanguage@culturevannin.im – I would love to hear from you!

Lastly: tannee sauchey as gow kiarail – stay safe and take care!