Saturday, February 10, 2007

Where are the Irish-speakers--in Ireland?

Now and again among North American Pagans, I run into an earnest student of Gaelic.

When M. and I honeymooned in Ireland (back when the Celtic Tiger was still a kitten), I learned to puzzle out the signage and to go through the door marked "Fir."

But outside of Co. Kerry, I never heard Irish Gaelic spoken conversationally. I did see posters from the Ministry of Something urging people to speak it. The very fact that these posters existed was probably a sign that they were not.

A fluent Irish-speaker recently decided to put his fellow citizens to the test, and the results were not hopeful.

In Killarney, I stood outside a bank promising passers-by huge sums of money if they helped me rob it, but again no one understood.

A century and a half at least have passed since Irish was the common language. Despite the compulsory schooling, I suspect that it is sliding into the antiquarian category. The goddess Bridget will be summoned in English.

Perhaps there is a parallel with the Gaelscoileanna (Irish-language schools) to something I recently heard in Canada. A friend in British Columbia said that she was sending her son to a special bilingual (French/English) school, not because he needed the French so much as because the normal English-language schools were so full of immigrants with poor English skills that the teaching was slower and dumbed-down. I wonder if the Irish parents likewise see these schools as better overall and that is why they choose them.

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Anonymous Holly said...

It is rather unfortuante that languages are starting to be lost. It seems that being able to get the younger generation interested in the language and keeping it alive is part of the problem. If they can't see it having a practical use for them and it seems that they are only continuing it forward because of their heritage, it'll be harder to get them to take interest and use the language. At least that's what I would suspect.
I use to live in British Columbia and there is a high population of immigrants, which is fine. They are looking for a better life for them and their familes, but it has affected the school system. I finished High School a few years ago, and any school I went to, would be a school that was English and French because the public education was a bit better, and ranked higher for quality of education then public schools that didn't. Of course private schools typically did the best. But even in schools that had English and French immersion there were many things that were dumbed down, and progressed slowly because there was still a fair number of immigrants in the school.

3:58 PM  
Blogger ColoradoCelt said...

I am actually much more hopeful about the chances of Gaelige's survival than I ever have been. Places like Oideas Gael, and others in Ireland are really reaching out to teach Gaelige in a different way.

The Canadian experiment that you mentioned is being started by a group of students from Oideas Gael. They bought some land, and have the goal of making it a place where Gaelige is spoken year round.

It remains my hope, that with the resurgence of interest in Celtic paganism, that eventually we will have more and more pagans interested in actually learning and speaking Gaelige.

9:55 AM  
Blogger Chas S. Clifton said...

Thanks, but the Gaelscoileanna that I mentioned are in Ireland.

The Canadian school that I mentioned was part of the public school system in Vancouver.

What is the "Canadian experiment" that you are describing?

11:13 AM  
Blogger ColoradoCelt said...

I was just looking through my emails trying to find the reference to it. I cannot. :-(

I read it just last week. All I can remember was what I posted above, that they had bought 40 acres or so near the US border, they are frequent students to Oideas Gael (a school in Ireland) and that they wanted to establish a place that had Gaelige spoken year round.

Very cool to hear about the Canadian public school though!

11:26 AM  
Blogger Chas S. Clifton said...

The Canadian public school mentioned was French-immersion school. Did I not make that clear?

11:30 AM  
Blogger ColoradoCelt said...

Yeah. Ya did.

I simply like it when counties do not give up on languages in favor of an English only monglot society, whether it is French OR Gaelige.

4:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a native Irish Gaelic speaker reading this forum.... and I personally cannot live my daily life comfortably through English as I can Gaelic. Other native speakers of celtic languages, laregly in Wales make often the same claim. I personally think that the key to the language's survival is if we encouraged Gaelic monolingualism among Gaeltacht children. My generation speaks Gaelic everyday because at the time they grew up, TV's were scarce and Gaelic children had little access to the English side of Ireland... yet, I see young Gaels today replying to their parents in English and speaking/playing through English on the Gaeltacht everyday..... English is destorying it, and perhaps if more Gaels couldn't function in it... or well in English, perhaps it would increase stability of Gaelic...

9:49 PM  

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