Today we’re going to look at the website Vifax. This website is put out and organized by NUI Maynooth, and is one of the best tools for practicing your listening skills in Irish. During the school year, they release two videos weekly (last time I checked, it was on Tuesday). These videos have short (~2 minute) clips taken from NuachtTG4 which, for the longest time, was one of the few TG4 shows without embedded subtitles. They then have divided the clips into three lesson categories, one for each level – beginner, intermediate and advanced. In the PDF files of these different levels, there’s different types of questions to help you at different levels. The beginner one, for instance, tells users to focus on specific words and understanding their meaning, while the intermediate level asks more comprehension-related questions, as well as picking out words and their meaning. The advanced is mostly comprehension-based.

However, what makes all of these good for any learner is the fact that they come with one other crucial thing: a transcript. That’s right, all these videos come with a transcript, and that’s what makes them a wonder for practicing listening skills, even on top of the questions asked in the PDFs themselves (which were designed for group use, but can be used by people self-studying). While I will say please go ahead and do the exercises of each video (really, one or two a week is enough) that Maynooth has created, the rest of this post is going to be dedicated to discussing how to use Vifax, and the transcriptions, to improve your listening ability and ability to distinguish words at the various levels.

Accessing the Videos and Transcripts

It’s quite simple to access the videos and transcripts. At the top of the homepage, you can find a tab that says ‘2019-2020’ (likely subject to change with each school year), which takes you to a page containing all the current videos. To access the PDF, simply click the PDF image to the right of the video corresponding to your level (bun – beginners, meán – intermediate, ard – advanced). The transcript is always on the last page of the PDF, with answers to the questions right before it (which means you can check yourself!). On the actual homepage, a schedule is listed of when they’ll release new videos throughout the year, along with another link to the page of all of them. There is also a tab, ‘An Chartlann’, that gives a drop-down menu of various categories. Each one takes you to a page of videos relating to that category. They used to have older videos dating back over a decade, but a site redesign got rid of them (unfortunately, as it was a really good resource).


At this level, your main goal isn’t to understand, but to hear. By that, I mean you want to be able to hear the separate words as they’re said and start to get a rhythm for the language, regardless of whether or not you understand exactly what is being said yet (you’ll likely know a few words here and there). To accomplish that, first put away the transcript and listen to the video by yourself. Try to hear every word that is said, even though they talk at a native speed and I’m sure some of it will sound like gibberish. Do this once or twice before ever looking at the transcript.

Now take out the transcript and reading through it once before watching the video again. This is to prime your mind to what you might expect to hear, which makes it easier. Now listen to the video one more time without the transcript. Did you get any better? It’s likely you did. Now, read the transcript while listening to the video, making sure you can distinguish the words. This is the part where you need to put the most effort in, going back and listening to small segments or the entire video as many times as you need to make sure you can hear each individual word. This might seem like a lot, but honestly it shouldn’t take more than approximately 15-20 minutes.

Now that you are comfortable picking up each word while reading the transcript, do it one more time without it. Notice a big difference? Do this a few times, making sure you can still hear the separation between each word. Go back to the transcript to look at things as needed. After that, you’ve probably watched the video quite a few times, so go on and complete the questions on the worksheet (Especially the beginner and intermediate ones).

Do this a few times a week, and you’ll find that your listening ability practically grows by leaps and bounds. You’re able to understand words more clearly, which is the key for understanding that grows later. You might also consider writing down the words you don’t know, going to Teanglann to look them up, and making flashcards or just keeping them in a notebook. Every little bit helps at this level.


At this level, the goals start to shift. It’s not just to hear the words, but to be able to understand what each word is, its meanings, usage, etc. In this stage, the best piece of advice I can give you is to make your own transcription. To do this, pick a video that you’re interested in and give it a listen. After you have listened once, go back through and try to transcribe the video. Thankfully, they’re rather short, though this still can be a time-consuming activity.

While transcribing it, go back and listen to each section as many times as you need to. I usually did about 10-second sections at a time. I’d transcribe it, then move on to the next 10-second section. Again, this is time consuming, but does wonders for your actual ability to hear and understand individual words.

Once you have your transcript made, compare it to the official one. Mark your mistakes, and go back and listen to those parts again. See if you can distinguish what the presenters said versus what you thought they said. Once you’re certain that you’re now hearing what they actually said (and be aware of the notes as Vifax does standardize some dialectal sayings, but, as far as I’m aware, they make note of it when they do), you’re good to go. Read the transcript, make sure you understand it, and then answer the questions. Around this level you should be doing the intermediate or advanced worksheets, though the beginner one can be useful to help gain some vocabulary. Really, the key here is to start understanding what each word is when you hear it, apart from just being able to hear the separate words but not being able to distinguish what word is being spoken.

Since transcribing the videos takes a lot of time, I recommend doing it fewer times a week. Two to three would be more than enough, especially as there’s such a big back catalogue of videos. You could even split up and transcribe half of it one day and the other half the next to just let your brain take breaks, which is where lots of learning occurs.


Honestly, if you’re at this level, I don’t think there’s much Vifax can do for you. You can keep transcribing it like for the previous section, but mostly just focus on doing the worksheets. I think all of them could be a boon, as there’s useful stuff that can be gleaned from it. Make sure you understand and can distinguish the various words in the transcript as well as being able to understand the passage as a whole when you listen through it. Perhaps complete the worksheet after one listen, before you start working on your transcript. Otherwise, go listen to Raidió na Gaeltachta and other native content. If you can find some more dialectal stuff with transcripts, all the better.


So those are, in my opinions, the best way to use Vifax at any level to improve your listening ability. The B1-B2 one is personally tested by me, and it allowed me to raise my listening score on the TEG by over 10%; it really is a huge help being able to transcribe and distinguish words, as well as to be able to understand the videos. If you have any other way to use Vifax that you like, let me know in the comments and I’ll see about adding it in to the post!


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