Brown librarian teaches Irish Gaelic

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Sheila Hogg, senior library associate specialist at the Orwig Music Library, will start teaching a 10-week class this month in Irish Gaelic at the Irish Ceilidhe Club of Rhode Island in Cranston. Hogg, who said she is the only active Gaelic teacher in the state, has taught the language since the 1980s.

Hogg first started teaching Gaelic in 1985 when a group of about 20 students approached her to lead a Group Independent Study Project. “I hadn’t started out thinking that was what I wanted to do,” she said. “It’s such an unusual skill that people (who want it) find you.”

Since then, she has led several other GISPs and tutored Brown graduate students, especially aspiring ethnomusicologists hoping to take their exams in Gaelic.

Though Hogg hasn’t taught Gaelic to a group at Brown in the last few years, she said she would be interested if some students approached her. She said she might also approach the University about teaching a class, potentially even for credit. Though she hasn’t started the official process of proposing such a class, Hogg is concerned that the University’s requirements for professors’ teaching hours might be untenable on top of her current responsibilities in the music library, she said.

Hogg learned Gaelic as an adult after being inspired by an Irish cultural revival in the 1970s. Hogg’s passion is sean-nos, a type of traditional Irish singing.

Hogg estimates that fewer than 10 percent of the population in Ireland is able to use Gaelic as a spoken language. “A lot of people find themselves learning Irish through something else, largely through contact with the music,” she said.