Connecting With Others Through Music




It is true that Ireland is a nation of talkers. The “gift of the gab” is considered the highest virtueand anyone with a talent for storytelling, competitive banter or clever word-play is bound to be very popular indeed. In fact, those who refuse to participate in the never-ending conversation are often accused of being eccentric or anti-social.

Your First Day 



If conversation is the number one sport in Ireland, then the Irish pub is the official playing field. However, in any traditional Irish pub, you will find a wonderful opportunity for people who are introverted to participate in the craic and enhance the atmosphere for everyone there.

This opportunity is, of course, the traditional Irish music session. Within these sessions, often extremely shy individuals are communicating in ways which most of us, who aren’t familiar with the nuanced vernacular of the tunes, will never fully understand. They are connecting on a level which is beyond language, connecting with others through music.

What’s more, they are accepted and welcomed by the other extroverts in the room for the exotic and emotive vibrancy the music adds to their conversations. Unfortunately, however, not everyone has the technical skill to participate in this wonderful tradition of musical conversation.

Musicians are often trained from a very young age and those struggling to make a sweet sound on their instrument will only be tolerated for a short time within a session. So what can we do?



One of our primary objectives as language learners is increase our connectivity to a new community and hopefully the wider world. There’s no doubt that gaining an appropriate level of proficiency at speaking a language can open up a vast universe of experiences and insights which would not have been possible if you hadn’t been able to converse with native speakers.

Having said this, I am always fascinated to observe how some students with only a few words of English manage to achieve a higher level of connectivity with their fellow students and their teachers than others who possess an impressively wide vocabulary.

Some even manage to cross cultural and linguistic boundaries in bold and creative ways and establish deeper connections than perhaps two native speakers.

As an English teacher at Atlantic Language, it is very necessary that I have a love of the English language. But I am equally fascinated by effective communication which is non-verbal, or communication which skilfully incorporates a mixture of words, movement and music.



In the video, “Do You Speak Bell?”, I am attempting to open this musical conversation to everyone. I am trying to show that we do not need to depend so heavily on our command of the language to make connections with people.

Though neither of us say a word (and neither of us are particularly impressive bell-players!), the exchange between myself and the stranger has all the aspects of effective communication: fluidity, patience, responsiveness and fun.

Yes, of course, we are here to learn English, but I believe that it is equally important to become aware of all the resources that we have inside us to be heard, understood and appreciated.


Donal McConnan