Monday, February 11, 2008

Lip Service for the Irish Language?

Tá sé litir ar an eagathoir ó Irish Times anseo. Léamh mé ar an anois. Ceapaim mé smaointe go maith faoí an áit tábhachtach Ghaeilge. Ar bhfuil é beo nó marbh? Go gorta? Go gortáigh?

Paying lip-service to Irish

Madam, - I am a student of Trinity College, Dublin who is spending his year abroad in Russia. I was recently contacted by two Russian students who are writing their dissertations on Ireland. When we met, it became clear that what interested them the most was learning Irish. They refuse to have a concept of Ireland without its native language.

How is it that two students from the far east of Europe consider a basic knowledge of Irish compulsory for the understanding of our country, yet successive post-Independence governments have done more to kill the language through bad policy, stilted thinking and neglect, than a foreign power ever managed in hundreds of years?

The compulsory teaching of Irish, often cited as the primary killer, has not done as much ill as poor policy and half-baked ideas. Firstly, the language is not taught as a living one, the curriculum is dated and grammar, despite the primacy it enjoys on the curriculum, is badly taught. The result is that after 14 years, students do not grasp such basic concepts as number and case. Secondly, the zeal of the independence movement, combined with that peculiarly Irish laxity, has left us with the prevalent notion: "Irish is a beautiful language, a part of our heritage, but we don't need to speak it to keep it alive - that's for others, and sure isn't it an official EU language?"

This is the nub of the problem. We are an independent state, under no foreign military pressure, yet we will do anything to keep the language alive other than actually utter it.

Instead, we exploit it. We apply for grants because our houses happen to lie half-a-mile inside a box on a map; we send our children to gaelscoileanna, not for linguistic reasons, but because they are better funded and their students attain more points; we close our parliamentary sessions 'as Gaeilge' if a hasty exit is needed. This is how we abuse that element of our culture without which we are nothing.

Where is the indignation and anger at so many years of short-sightedness and stupidity? Where is the nerve to actually speak, with our own mouths, the language we have been 'reviving' since Independence? Does Irish have to die before anyone cares?

It's not too late. In Latvia, the Isle of Man and Scotland, people realised what was happening and did what was necessary to safeguard their culture. We can do the same, as soon as we rid our native tongue of the burdens of tokenism, bureaucracy and muddled thinking. But first, we need to use the language for the purpose it was intended - and speak it, without reserve, without shame, without prejudice. - Yours, etc,

Iain Mac Eochagain, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia.
11ú Feabhra 2008
Irish Times - Lthch:
Letter to the editor

Image/ pictiúr:
[Text/taecs: "The windows were sparkling." Signed by/ scríofa le: Eiblín Ní Coclaín]
Lomra an Óir.
Máiréad Ni Ghráda, M.A.

Brún agus Ó Nualláin Teóranta. B.A.C. 125 leathanach.

Tá scéalta fiannaíochta, paidreacha, filíocht agus scéalta nua-aimseartha sa leabhar beag seo. Tá sean amhráin inti freisin mar shampla 'Séan Ó Duibhir An Ghleanna'. Gheobhaidh tú scéalta inti ar nós 'Eoinín na nÉan' le Pádraic Mac Piarais. Tá na piosaí agus na rannta iontach simplí, bheadh an leabhar an-oiriúnach do dhuine a bheadh ag foghlaim na Gaeilge. Leabhar simplí so-leithe.

My loose translation: "The Golden Fleece." There's heroic tales, prayers, poems, and contemporary stories in this little book. Old songs are also included, for example "Seán O'Dwyer from the Glen." You can find stories inside such as "Johnny of the Birds" by Pádraig Pearse. There are wonderful, simple pieces and rhymes, a book that'd be a superb treasure for people who'd want to learn Irish. A very clear, straightforward book.

1 comment:

The Go Mann said...

Interesting point about the Isle of Man... after years of essentially killing the language off, Manx is now on the rise again with government policies encouraging its use. Language is the first step towards a unique culture.
Fastyr mie :)