Sunday, March 23, 2014

Irish and Language Snobs / Gaeilge agus Baothghalántacht Teanga

A chara, – It’s a delight to read Una Mullally’s view of the Irish language (“Irish – A language for all speakers”, Monday March 17th), coming as it does from a fluent urban speaker. She’s absolutely right to note that we need to start looking outside the Gaeltacht if we’re serious about achieving the 250,000 daily speakers sought by the Government by 2030. I fly in the face of conventional wisdom in my belief that this number is very possible, but it can only be done if non-Gaeltacht Irish speakers begin to shoulder the burden that Gaeltacht people have been predominantly carrying since the foundation of the State – using the language at home.
Ms Mullally is right to note that snobbery exists within the language, but should go a little easier on Gaeltacht people. Yes, there is a certain Gaeltacht hostility towards “46A Irish” and the dialect of the urban Gaelscoil, but it is there firstly because of the difficulty Gaeltacht people have speaking Irish with city folk, whose Irish is often a non-fluent schoolroom mishmash, but secondly because there is the whiff of the language hobbyist about many urban speakers. They’re delighted to “come down” to the Gaeltacht and practise their Irish on the natives, but when they go home, it’s back to English again. Native speakers are rightly annoyed by this. City speakers of Irish will earn respect when it becomes clear that they are using Irish as a home language with their children, not just for one-night-a-week hobbyism or for the day job.
When this happens (and I think it will), that 250,000 daily-speaker figure will rapidly become achievable. Is mise,
Department of English,
William Paterson University
New Jersey

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