The New Irish/Na Nua-Éireannaigh: Veronika is a great ambassador for the cúpla focal
2019-01-01 12:26:15 -
Opinion
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By Jessica Ní Mháirtín

 

While secondary school can be tough, in any country or language, Veronika Naprejenko has faced a challenge greater than many of her peers in Ireland.

Veronika was six years old when her Russian mother moved here from Latvia for work. A year later, she and the rest of the family followed to better their opportunities in work and education.

Speaking six languages in total (with fluency in four), the knowledge of history and culture appeals tremendously to Veronika. The 20-year-old says that even her two younger sisters, who were born in Ireland, have always been surrounded by multiple languages so learning Irish brought them closer together, especially when they were at home.

“I feel really proud to know Irish and it comes in handy for when I want to speak to my sisters without my mom eavesdropping, not to mention that it opens a lot more opportunities for me,” she says.

When it came to choosing a secondary school, Veronika’s parents thought it best that she have fluency in the Irish language for many different reasons and enrolled her in Meánscoil Gharman, an all-Irish secondary school in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford.

“I was very scared to go to an all-Irish school and learn everything through Irish as not even my English was perfected at that point,” she recalls. “I was afraid I’d mix them up and it would affect my grades and my social life.”

Another obstacle in trying to learn Irish grammar was her dyslexia, but growing up with her eyes open to multicultural influences, Veronika believes that helped her overcome a difficult challenge.

“Although I had some difficulty because of my dyslexia, I really enjoyed learning Irish. I always found the Irish culture really interesting and learning the true native language was difficult, but a brilliant experience. Personally it was the grammar that was most difficult and because English was also not my first language, it was difficult to juggle three languages on the daily inside my head.

“I’d say I was roughly in my second year of secondary school when I could more or less freely communicate with my peers in school and make conversation in Irish, but I’m still expanding my grammar and vocabulary to this day.”

Asking Veronika about her view on the mindset of other young people towards the Irish language, and if she thinks there was any difference now to when she began learning, her response is very interesting.

“When it comes to the mindset of teenagers. it really does depend on the encouragement of the parents,” she says. “Sadly the majority of my peers would be rather indifferent about not knowing their country’s language. “I would advise to take it slow; the majority of the country uses English and it can be very frustrating to be unable to communicate freely in any language, especially when you’re only after moving here.

“But I would recommend and encourage that you learn it at your own pace. It’s definitely worth it.”

 

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