New York Garbage Grant to Study Gaelic

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It’s amazing how much learning another language has the potential to change your life. For example, check out this New York Times article on Ed Shevlin, a garbage collector born and bred in New York.  He’s perhaps one of the last people you’d expect to speak fluent Gaelic, but actually he’s been studying the language for the past few years and can communicate in it quite well.

Shevlin’s mother was from County Cork, and he began learning the language as a way to connect with his Irish heritage. His studies have literally changed his life, bringing him opportunities for travel, romance, and hopefully a new, post-retirement career.

They’ve also brought him closer to the community where he works, as the Rockaway neighborhood where he picks up trash is historically Irish. He told the New York Times that this was an unexpected bonus, saying “I was amazed to find there were people I could speak Irish with, while picking up their garbage.”

In June, Mr. Shevlin was awarded a grant to study Irish in Ireland along with other university students, mostly career academics. In Ireland, Mr. Shevlin said, his background attracted a lot of attention:  “They’re intrigued that I’m a blue-collar guy who’s learning their language while he’s putting the garbage in the truck.”

What about romance? Mr. Shevlin met his current wife on, “using the screen name GaelicSpeaker, and writing that he was seeking “grá mo chroí,” or “the love of my heart.” She responded in Irish and Mr. Shevlin was so impressed, he suspended his “No Jersey girls” rule.”

Once he retires from the Sanitation Department, Mr. Shevlin plans to study for his Master’s degree and then start a new career as an Irish teacher.