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Practice your Irish in a Galway hotel

The city of Galway has long been associated with the use of the Irish language and it is estimated that around 10 per cent of Galway’s population are Irish speakers. Galway city is to be found right on the doorstep of two of the most active Irish speaking areas in Ireland, the Connamara Gaeltacht and the Aran Islands. The word ‘Gaeltacht’ is used to describe an area where the majority of residents still use the Irish language in everyday conversation.

Irish music, theatre and television and radio production form an integral part of the cultural life of Galway. One organisation that strives to promote a bilingual atmosphere in Galway is Gaillimh le Gaeilge. Set up in 1987, one of the aims is to develop the Irish language as an economic resource for the Galway area. Gaillimh le Gaeilge works with Galway City Council and Galway Chamber of Commerce to develop Galway’s unique Irish image and promote Galway city as the ‘Bilingual Capital of Ireland’. The organisation has also been encouraging the use of Irish in local businesses and, as a result, there is now hardly any street in Galway that does not have a number of businesses featuring Irish only or bilingual signage. Indeed, some of Galway’s supermarkets now carry bilingual signs and in some city shops Irish is used on the public address system.

One of the initiatives of Gaillimh le Gaeilge is the Gradam Sheosaimh Uí Ógartaigh which is an annual Bilingual Business award. The aim of the Gradam is to recognise businesses in Galway that show a ‘visible’, ‘genuine’ and ‘creative use’ of the Irish Language, making an impact on the bilingual image of Galway and on their staff.

One business that has embraced the use of bilingualism is the Menlo Park Hotel located in the Terryland area of Galway city. One recent visitor to the hotel said: “There aren’t many hotels on the island of Ireland that promote Irish speaking to the extent the Menlo Park does”. On arriving at the hotel reception you are very likely to be greeted by the Gaelic phrase “Dia Dhuit ” or hello. Prominent on the hotel website is the phrase: “Fáilte Chuig Óstán Menlo Park” or “Welcome to the Menlo Park Hotel.” In each bedroom there are small booklets with useful Irish phrases as well as a guide to pronunciation. Irish takes a central role in hotel policy and ensures that both guests who stay in the Menlo Park as well as staff and locals all experience the language. The hotel hosts a weekly Ciorcal Comhrá (conversation class) which gives locals the opportunity to practice their ‘cúpla focal’ (few words) on a regular basis. Thanks to its hard work in embracing the Irish language in its business the Menlo Park Hotel received the Gradam Award in 2011.  On presenting the Award Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht,  Dinny McGinley T.D., said: “The Menlo Park Hotel stood out for their creativity, innovation and drive to make Irish work at work.”

So, if you are planning a visit to Galway to practice your Irish, then a stay at the Menlo Park Hotel is a must.