Éasca Péasca: Easy Peasy: Student Stories' Madeline Crisp - News and Events - iIrish

Éasca Péasca: Easy Peasy: Student Stories’ Madeline Crisp


Éasca Péasca: Student Stories
By Madeline Crisp

Irish is an old and beautiful language. The modern Irish language that we use today is dated to the 17th century, and was the native language of Ireland spoken by all inhabitants before colonization. Today, around 1.7 million people speak Irish in Ireland, with numbers rising. In the US, there are around 20,600 people that speak Irish.

My first introduction to Irish was during a trip I took to Ireland in the summer of 2017. I was there for a youth leadership conference, Foróige Leadership for Life, through 4-H with six other teens and three adults.

I noticed the Irish on the road signs and asked what it was, and was surprised to learn that Ireland had a native language. Throughout the rest of the trip, I had an incredible time and noticed Irish everywhere. We traveled all through the Republic, staying in Waterford, Wexford, Maynooth, and Dublin.

We toured the Waterford Crystal Factory; I bought a rose-shaped paper weight which is right here in front of me as I write this. In Wexford, we stayed at the Bread and Breakfast, Glorney by the Sea; it was beautiful. The owner of the B&B had an adorable little dog named Gaston, whom we all loved.

The leadership conference was held at the University of Maynooth, and I created a lot of new friendships with people from other parts of the U.S., Ireland, and India. At the conference, we spent time in classrooms learning about different types of leadership and playing games relating to communication abilities.

Apparently, I fit in very well with the Irish youth because my sense of humor matches theirs quite well. I loved every person that I met, and I am still in semi-regular contact with one of my friends from the conference, Elizabeth. After the Foróige conference, we spent two days in Dublin. Seeing the history in the streets and architecture, along with the differences in cultures, was refreshing and eye opening. I loved every minute of the trip, and I cannot wait to go back. 

In the 2017-2018 school year, I took a class on medieval history, and learned about the ancient history of Ireland, Ogham, and the early people of the island. I was very interested to find out more about the history and was not disappointed in my findings.

We spent a bit of time discussing the early pagan Irish myths, and I was in awe knowing that I had seen the Book of Kells in real life. I had heard a little bit about The Troubles while I was in Ireland, but I was still very unclear on what had happened in the conflict.

In May of that year, I took a DNA test and found out that I am 50% Irish. I was excited to already know so much of its history, and to have been there. Learning that my ancestors had come from Ireland made me want to learn even more to connect with my very far-removed culture. 

When I arrived at college in August of 2018, one of the women speaking at an orientation session mentioned that Irish was offered at Pitt, something very unique to the school. I was floored to hear so, as I needed two semesters of a language to satisfy general education requirements. Little did I know that once I started taking Irish classes, I wouldn’t want to stop.

I decided to get a minor in Irish, took the culture class, and passed Irish Level 4. While learning Irish, I was also obtaining degrees in biology and history. Even after satisfying all requirements for the Minor, I still continued into Level 5 and 6 with Marie and 2 other students, our own special group. 

My history classes sometimes related to my Irish minor, such as when I took a class on Northern Ireland and The Troubles. Learning about the culture and the language for my minor was very fun and lighthearted, so studying the violence brought about by The Troubles was surprising to me, as every Irish person I had met was kind and easy-going.

Irish Politics
However, learning about the bloody history of the conflict between the North and South, I realized that Ireland will always have more to it than meets the eye, and that the mellow nature of most people hides a long history of trauma, colonization, and violence. After learning more about the history of the island and understanding what some of the deep-rooted issues are, I find myself very interested in Irish politics.

I am also interested to see what implications Brexit will have for the tensions between the North and the Republic, as well as what policy changes may occur in the Republic because Ireland is the only country in the EU with English as one of its national languages. Even with the hurdles before them, I believe that both the North and the Republic will come out of these events stronger. 

I have greatly enjoyed learning so much about Ireland, the world, and myself since the last time I was on the Emerald Isle, and I really would love to return. As my time here at the University has come to its end, I have not decided on a career path yet, but many pharmaceutical and biological companies have headquarters based in Ireland. I would love to use my Irish outside of an academic setting; traveling to Ireland and visiting a Gaeltacht or finding a Gaeilgeoir would be a great way to immerse myself in the language.

Tá sé deacair an Ghaeilge a fhoghlaim, ach tá athas orm gur thug mé dúshlán dom féin.  Níl a fhios agam cad atá I ndán dom, ach ag féachaint ar m’ardaigh Waterford Crystal anseo os mo chomahir tá a fhios agam go gcoimeádfaidh mé mo cheangal le hÉirinn go deo.  (Irish is not an easy language to learn but I am proud that I took on the challenge. I have no idea what is out there for me but as I sit here looking at my Waterford Crystal paper weight, I know that I will forever have a connection to my Irish heritage through the Irish language).

* Madeline Crisp is a graduate of the 2022 Class at the University of Pittsburgh. She is the 10th student to receive the Irish Minor at UP through the Less Commonly Taught Languages Center. She is from Hackettstown N.J. and has a keen interest in all things equestrian.