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St Mary’s University offers free Irish language classes in London

St Mary‘s University currently offers the only Irish Studies programme in London

AN ARRAY of university courses that explore the history of Ireland, its culture and language will be available to members of the public next month.

The Centre for Irish Studies, at St Mary’s University in Twickenham, south-west London, is set to run community classes alongside the Irish Studies degree courses offered at the university.

In addition to the free intermediate Irish language classes, the general public can take modules titled: Irish History from 1949 and Irish Literature and Drama from 1949.

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The classes are part of a 12-week course starting on September 16.

Dr Ivan Gibbons, Programme Director of St Mary’s Irish Studies, said participants in the community classes – which enter their third year next month – are usually local residents of an Irish background.

However, Dr Gibbons stressed the courses are open to all.

“This is an opportunity for mature students thinking of returning to study to sample university education at St Mary’s. In particular, it is ideal preparation for joining our MA in Irish Studies this time next year,” he said.

Asked of the motivation for offering BA and MA degree modules to classmates drawn from the local community, Dr Gibbons said:

“Most students on the BA [Irish Studies] degree are younger, traditional undergraduates and by bringing in more mature Irish people who’ve had more life experience of being Irish (living in London and so on), provides a resource to the younger students.”

The benefits of offering Irish language courses for undergraduates is clear, said Dr Gibbons, as many future Irish teachers come over to St Mary’s to train and get their grad certs in education.

“Irish is compulsory if you want to be a teacher in Ireland,” he explained.

“Students sign up to remain competent in Irish so that they are in a position where they could potentially go home and get teaching jobs should they so wish.”

The courses also offer students the chance to mix with the “vast numbers” of first and second generation Irish people in West London who will have learnt Irish in school and would like to come back to the language.

Speaking of the language course this year, Dr Gibbons said that as it is part of a new MA at the university, it wouldn’t be suitable for absolute beginners. It is more for people who already have some knowledge of Irish or those who have learnt Irish before and don’t want their language skills to get rusty.

“It’s not all geared towards exams; people can talk Irish in a very relaxed [environment]. It’s a discussion group in Irish so that people who have some Irish can keep in touch with the language by talking Irish with Irish speakers of a similar level,” he added.

St Mary’s today maintains long-standing historical links with Ireland. The University was originally founded in 1850 by members of the Irish Catholic community in Halifax and for many years the college was run by the Christian Brothers, an educational religious order founded in Ireland.

The Irish Literature and Drama module will run on Wednesdays from 11am to 1pm; Irish History will run 1 to 3pm on Fridays while the intermediate Irish language classes will be held on Tuesday from 2 to 4pm.

Courses are expected to cost £265 for the 12-week programme. The free language lessons can be taken separately from the full course.

For more information about the classes, contact Dr Ivan Gibbons on 020 8240 4081 or


James Martin

James Martin is a freelance journalist. Follow him @JamesIsMartin

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One comment on “St Mary’s University offers free Irish language classes in London”

  1. John Joyce

    Of West of Ireland origin. Parents were Irish-speaking by birth. Have an Open University degree in Languages(French and Spanish) G C SE In German Now studying Italian. May I have further details


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