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Playschools that speak Irish - Naionra

Updated on March 7, 2012

History of the Naionra

Since 1974 over 300 naionrai have opened up throughout Ireland . Some of these are in the Irish speaking Gaeltacht regions of Ireland and some are in towns cities and even rural areas where groups of parents have a love of their native language.

A Naionra is a playschool in Ireland that is provided for children aged between 3-5 years of age. They are usually provided on a part-time basis of up to 3 hours a day under the guidance of a Stiurthoir which is the Irish name for the playleader. The aim of the naionra is help the children to acquire the Irish language or to improve their knowledge of the Irish language by using it as a means of communication within the playgroup.

Similar to any other playgroup there is an organised curriculum of activities that allows for free play and some more structured play. During this time the child will be involved in a wide range of activities such as sand and water activities, playing with age appropriate toys, art and craft.There will also be a circle time with stories and songs and discussion. Irish is the only language that will be used by the stiurthoir during the course of the session.


How do children aquire Irish in the Naionra

The idea behind the Naionra is that the child will learn a second language in a similar way to which they learned their first language. This is through listening to the language, repeating words and eventually producing phrases and sentences. Similarly to when a young child begins to learn their first language children often begin to understand before the begin to speak the language.

Sometimes parents are concerned that children will lose out on their first language because they are learning a second language at such a young age. However language research studies have proven that when a young child begins to acquire a second language their total language ability is promoted.

It is of great benefit to the child if the parents make some effort to learn the language alongside them as it shows the child that they are supporting them in their efforts. Also if the parents plan to send the child to an Irish medium primary school this will benefit them in helping their child with homework.  There are many evening classes of different ability levels available to help parents with this.In some areas there are also conversation groups to help people to use the language and to develop their skill.

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