Meet the Team: Freda Nic Giolla Chatháin


Freda Nic Giolla Chatháin is Irish Language Communications Officer at Galway 2020.

If you spied a day in the life, you might see her translating a publication, tutoring staff on their linguistics or interviewing with RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta on behalf of the team. In her own words, “I ensure that Galway 2020 works as a bilingual organisation, and that our native language has a prominent place in the Galway 2020 ethos.”

As a practising musician with a Masters in translation, Freda has a cultural fluency to match her language skills. “Sometimes a translated text can be grammatically correct but lacking in flow or literary sensibility,” she says. “I’ve worked with Irish literary programmes and An Taibhdhearc theatre. I have a translator’s mind and a lifetime’s experience in culture. It’s a good marriage for this role.”

In a county with an “official bilingual city on the doorstep of Ireland’s largest Gaeltacht,” language plays a major part in a successful European Capital of Culture programme. “For one person to speak to that audience is a challenge.” A challenge that reached its pinnacle when Freda oversaw the translation of the 165-page cultural programme, in liaison with cultural partners, external translators and the communications team.

“Is í an Ghaeilge an tseoid is luachmhaire atá againn agus ní mór dúinn aire mhaith a thabhairt di.”

These challenges are lightened by Galway 2020’s positive attitude towards the language. “There is never a sense of ‘Do we have to?’ she explains. “More often than not, people are one step ahead, saying, ‘Of course, we will have that in Irish.’ I find that very refreshing and encouraging.”

In recent years, Ireland has seen a wider embrace of the native language. “Most people I meet now that don’t speak Irish tell me that they wish they did,” she says. “As Mary McAleese said about coming to Irish later in life – it brings Irish life into technicolour. All of a sudden you have an understanding of, among other things, place names and their connection to the landscape.”

Freda is thrilled to see Oireachtas na Gaeilge, once an event for Gaeltacht people, now packed with young people from every corner of Ireland sean-nós dancing to traditional music at Club na Féile. “We will welcome back Oireachtas na Samhna to Gaillimh in 2020 for the first time since 1993. We have had so much development in the language since then with the likes of TG4 and NUIG’s Irish language campus, Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge. We’re really excited to partner with TG4 in 2020. Their phenomenal programming has attracted new audiences far beyond the Gaeltacht.”

Our friends in Europe are equally as enthusiastic. “Europeans don’t think twice about it,” says Freda. “They’re used to speaking English in addition to their native language. When a European delegation arrives, we ensure that they meet native speakers and have a sense of it as a living language. They speak Irish themselves and get a Gaillimh le Gaeilge phrasebook to take home.”

With key Irish language projects like Branar Téatar do Pháistí’s Sruth na Teanga and Manchán Magan’s Sea Tamagotchi to look forward to, Freda is proud to showcase the language to the rest of the world, adding, “As we step onto the European stage, it is important that we don’t lose sight of our own identity, and the Irish language plays an intrinsic role in that. Is í an Ghaeilge an tseoid is luachmhaire atá againn agus ní mór dúinn aire mhaith a thabhairt di.”