'Virtual lab' helps Irish language students
A new website linking Irish language students with native speakers has been launched.
The online classroom allows teenagers to interact directly with Gaeilgeoiri, record their own material or try their hand at correcting their own work.
Billed as a virtual language lab, Abair Leat will support the increased focus on oral Irish in the Leaving Certificate in coming years.
Comedian Des Bishop, widely praised for the In The Name Of The Fada documentary following his attempts to learn Irish in one year, has backed the initiative.
Education Minister Batt O'Keeffe said the website should be seen as a flexible modern teaching tool.
"The website encourages independent learning by allowing students to practise their oral Irish at home and in the classroom and it gives teachers the opportunity to assess them online," the minister said.
"I want to acknowledge the continuing support of Des Bishop, who has generated significant goodwill for Irish and championed the cause of the language as a living part of the community."
Fourteen post-primary schools have been chosen to take part in the Abair Leat pilot programme, designed to support the first year oral syllabus.
Bishop, who will tour the pilot schools to promote the site, added: "Abair Leat is an important step in our ongoing efforts to make the learning and teaching of Irish more enjoyable and interactive by focusing on the primacy of the spoken word."
The Government is encouraging more emphasis on spoken Irish rather than written to encourage its day-to-day use. Over the next two years, the proportion of marks for oral Irish in the Leaving Cert will increase from 25% to 40%.