Just as a follow up on my last post on big tech companies and the Irish language I thought I’d write a short post highlighting some handy tech tools available to learners and speakers alike, just in case some of you might be interested (or have some spare time).
I’ll start with the best Irish language learning app I’ve ever come across, Duolingo.
Duolingo offers a competitive semi-game based learning experience and you can learn loads of different languages with it. It does not ‘do’ grammar, but rather breaks the language up into learning topics, which the user enters and begins a 20 question lesson. Basically the user has to do both-way translation, word ordering and listening activities on a specific topic. It might sound simple but it is very effective and the only thing that it lacks is speaking activities, but then you can always go find someone to practise with in real life or on Skype. I could not praise this app any more, to be fair, as it starts with the simple things, making it ideal for beginners, then thoroughly works its way through more complicated vocabulary and sentence structures, teaching you grammar without you even realising it. Its game based learning, with 3 lives per 20 questions, acts as a perfect incentive for you to really concentrate during that section. The sections themselves are short enough, only taking between 5 and 15 minutes to complete and you can choose how many you want to do each day, or simply not do them each day but whenever you have a chance. So, for anyone with beginners, intermediate or up to advanced levels of Irish, who wants to improve or perfect their spelling, sentence structure, grammar and listening skills in a really fun way, Duolingo comes highly recommended.
For people who need help with vocabulary and not just words like in a dictionary there are two fantastic online tools available. Focloir.ie is both a dictionary and a corpus with sections on phrasal verbs related to the word searched for, expressions and examples of use in context which really helps for informal language. Focal.ie on the other hand, is the go-to terminology dictionary to really help you with specific language, like for example scientific language, and newer terminology. The fact that it functions in both Irish and English means that it is really great for translators who need specific terminology or for those who need to write emails in a specific professional context.
Another great tool, this time to practise your listening and speaking skills is the text-to-speech synthesiser developed in Cólaiste na Trionáide, (TCD) by Dr. Ailbhe Ní Chásaide, Abair.ie This is one of the fundamental tools in language technology and it has and will have very important usages in the very near future, for example in allowing blind people to read text or even public signage. Or we could even imagine 10 years in the future being to lazy to read an article on the internet and instead just clicking a button or asking the computer to read the text for us. This is text-to-speech technology and it will become very important, mark my words 😉
In any case, the Irish version began a long time ago, as this technology requires a huge corpus of words and naturally someone to say and record each one individually. Recording fragments and full sentences is also very important in making the flow of the digital speech more natural. As you can imagine, accents and dialects are very important in this technology as people may say words differently in different parts of the country, in every language, so abair.ie started off with an accent from Gaoth Dobhair in the Donegal Gaeltacht. It has since added a Conemara accent and is currently developing a Corce Dhuibhne corpus.
It really is a great way to hear how words and sentences are pronounced correctly in each different dialect and is a great tool to help a learner to grasp basic pronunciation as well as helping more advanced learners get to grips with the different dialects. So go ahead and have some fun!
Moving on to social networks and operating systems, many, at least the most commonly used ones, offer Irish as an interface language. Windows, Facebook, Twitter, Mozilla and others let you manage your digital life as gaeilge, which is great recognition for such a small language that has to compete with a behemoth. The content you deal with though, can be in any language you like, be it English, Spanish, French or Hindi, because being bi or multilingual is cool and something we enjoy and promote here at Diaga Language!
So if you have any more suggestions or tips about great new technology available as gaeilge, just let us know. In the mean time though, bainigí sult astu!