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Celtic culture is the talk of Essex

Bored by French and German? Then try learning Gaelic. George Wright reports

YOU might think the only language spoken in Essex is Estuary English, but in one corner of the county you are as likely to hear the lilting cadences of Gaelic as a mockney's glottal stop.

Unlikely as it may seem, pupils in Shenfield, near Brentwood, are discovering their Celtic roots and helping to revive the "dying" language of Ireland.

This small but thriving Anglo-Irish community has sprung up around Shenfield high school thanks largely to the dedication of sociology teacher Christy Evans, a Gaelic expert and enthusiast.

Mr Evans, who runs the department of Irish studies at the school, has made it his mission to strengthen the small community of gaeilgeoir! (Gaelic speakers) in England.

In his spare time he runs Col iste na nGael, a club that organises language courses and events around the country.

In the seven years since he started teaching at Shenfield, his passion has extended to his day job, enthusing students and staff.

The highlight is a summer field trip to Galway for Year 12 pupils, consolidating what they have learned in Irish-themed geography, literature and history lessons.

During the three weeks before they leave for the Emerald Isle, the students are given intensive training in conversational Gaelic.

Mr Evans, 36, who was born in Tyrone but moved to England as a child, said:

"About one third of our pupils have at least one grandparent who is Irish.

Schools in England are beginning to wake up to the resurgence of Celtic culture, because so many pupils have roots in Scotland, Ireland and Wales.

"Sometimes they can be bored by the regular languages such as French and German, but when they study something completely different like Gaelic, and go and try it out on Irish speakers, it helps them approach language in a different way."

GAELIC EXCUSES

"THE dog ate my homework": "D'ith an madra m'obair bhaile"

(Pronunciation: Di(n) onmod-rah mobbir vol-yeh)

"The bus was late":"Bh! an bus deanach"

(Pronunciation: V on busday-knock)

"My PE kit is in the wash":"T m'eide sp"irt sa n!och n"

(Pronunciation: Taw may-deh sport saw knee-ock-awn)

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