Fermoy International Choir Languages Project

Herehau Blaise, from French Polynesia, a member of the Fermoy International Choir. (Picture: Sean Sharpe)

One of the most common excuses used by people for not learning a foreign language is that they just ‘don’t have the time’ – but such a response now is somewhat redundant for many.

And so the Fermoy International Choir has come up with a novel way to utilise its diverse membership to help the people of North Cork learn some phrases in other languages – and to help non-Irish people living in our area to learn some Gaeilge.

Graham Clifford, coordinator of the Fermoy International Choir explains.

“We have around 30 nationalities in our choir, though there are over double that number of nationalities living and working in the town of Fermoy itself and the surrounding area. It’s such a rich, varied and dynamic asset in our midst and now it would be great to tap into that.”

So, the Fermoy International Choir Language Project will begin next Monday, April 20th and help people, using online technology, to learn basic phrases in languages such as Polish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Lithuanian and Dutch.

“The huge majority of us converse in English regardless of where we come from initially – but it would be both respectful and interesting to learn a few phrases which we could use to greet our neighbours or colleagues with if they happen to be from those countries.

‘Having some phrases to use with locals could transform our holidays in the future’

— Graham Clifford

“Also, it could turn out to be incredibly useful for when this Covid-19 pandemic is all over and we want to spread our wings. Having some phrases to use with locals could transform our holidays in the future,” said Clifford.

And he continued: “If I walk into a Polish shop, I always make sure to say hello, thank you and goodbye in Polish. And that’s really appreciated by Polish staff. It took no more than 20 minutes to learn those off and it’s a great way to start a conversation and to develop a friendship.”

Learning from familiar faces

Fermoy, in particular, has many Polish, Brazilian and Lithuanian people living happily in the town.

“This year members of our choir learned off and sang the words of the song ‘Trasna Na Dtonnta’ and by the end of it, our members from places such as Lithuania, French Polynesia, the Netherlands and Nigeria were singing it every bit as well as many of us Irish singers.

“Language is a beautiful thing and it was intriguing to see people trying to pronounce and understand our native tongue,” said Graham Clifford.

Initially the International Choir, which has around 80 singers, will open the language project to its members, but the plan is to extend it to anyone who’d like to join and pick up some phrases in other languages.

“We will use Zoom to connect people and keep it simple and straight forward. You will be able to choose the language you want to learn.

“Our aim will be to teach people a couple of new phrases each week. Our choir members, who of course will be native speakers, will help us with the phrases, and be our teachers, and we hope people will join us as we all learn together from a familiar face,” said Clifford.

Meanwhile, the choir is looking at ways of using online apps to continue to sing together under the leadership of choir master Lisa Dunphy.

If you would like to register your interest for the Fermoy International Choir Language project, which is completely free, then drop an e-mail to Fermoychoirlanguageproject@gmail.com

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A print and broadcast journalist for two decades, Graham began his career with Radio Kerry before working on radio in Western Australia and then with Regional BBC radio in the UK. He became the Sports Editor of the Irish Post newspaper in London before becoming a freelance contributor to the Irish Independent and other national print titles. Graham would spend six years as a feature writer with the Independent while also writing for the Sunday Business Post. In 2019 he began feature writing for the Irish Times in a freelance capacity. He was shortlisted for Irish Feature Writer of the year in 2017 at the Newsbrands Journalism Awards and in 2016 for sports feature of the year. Graham spent four years as a reporter with the Drivetime programme on RTÉ Radio 1. He is also the founder and national coordinator of the multi-award-winning Sanctuary Runners Movement and the Together Ireland initiative. Originally from Glenbeigh in County Kerry, he moved to Fermoy in 2012 with his wife Catherine and four children.