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Gavin ( -
Posted on Friday, July 18, 2003 - 04:32 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Last night I received a letter from a pen pal in Belfast that upset me. She is a student, who like so many Irish children are tired of having to be forced to learn Irish when they know that they will never have to use it outside of the classroom environment.

Every letter I hear about how strange that a person like myself, an american, would bother wanting to learn a lanuguage that is, and her words not mine, "dying in the death bed," and my personal favorite..."such a worthless language that no one outside of the closets of Ireland feel that they need to take it seriously."

Now I understand where she is coming from, she is young, she is being force fed it in school, and she is one outside the small Gaeltachts speak it as their native tongue.

So then I as this...

Why us?

I hope that I am not being rash in assuming this, but I love the language, I would like nothing more to see more Irish and Non-Irish speak it. It doesn't have to be their native tongue. I would love to see a numerous amount of fluent speakers who not only can speak it, but can appreciate it for what it is...theirs. And I would thing that most of us here would agree with me to some degree.

Why us, who are we to fight against the death of a lanuage? Why us, why are we willing to trouble ourselves on a matter that most Irish don't even care about?

I am an American of Irish decent, I am wracking my English minded brain trying to learn a language that requires an Irish persona, and when I look to my Irish friends and family for help I get a why bother attitude.

Why do we here do it?

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Patrick ( -
Posted on Friday, July 18, 2003 - 07:56 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Well first off Irish is not a requirement in NI. It may
very well be that her parents have her attending a
school in which Irish is a part of the required courses.

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James ( -
Posted on Friday, July 18, 2003 - 08:48 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Some anonymous soldier returning from a war long forgotten was asked why he chose to serve in his nation's defense. He is quoted as having said, "If not me, then who?"

That's your answer. "If not us, then who?"

If the argument against Irish is that it is a language "not spoken outside the closets of Ireland" then we must speak it outside of those closets. It would thrill me to no end if we could take a group of people, all students of varying ages and ability, to Ireland and spend a week or more occupying every B&B in some small village of a gaeltacht. We should insist, by code of ethic and mutual agreement that we converse only as gaeilge. Stumble and bumble through the language, we certainly would, but at least we'd be showing those that cared to see it that the language is alive, albeit not necessarily well, outside of Ireland.

Le meas,


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Dave ( -
Posted on Saturday, July 19, 2003 - 02:24 am:   Edit Post Print Post

I thought long and hard on this one...

I like to think of myself as a Celtologist, and as one, I can tell you that no greater and more misunderstood culture existed. We owe so much to the Celtic cultures that I think we take them for granted.

I don't think many people out here understand how the Celtic culture influenced not only the Western World, but also the Modern World. Many of histories greastest have encountered a Celt and were awe struck by them. Just read any Greek, Roman, Norman, French, Nordic, Spanish, German, British, or American history book and I can assure you that the Celtic legacy will be seen and heard.

The only problem with this is that the Celts of the Continent as well as the Isle are no more.

For one reason or another, they have faded away into the back drop of history with very little behind to show us their true glory. I like to think that by speaking their languages we keep a small part of them alive with us. Granted we may change the language as we change, but so would they if they were still here.

So I say don't give up the fight, A Gheaibhin mo are not alone, I stand with you as do those here and round the world.

Tell your friend back in Belfast that she doesn't have to like the language but she better learn it because someday she is going to have to deal with her kids asking her a simple school question As Gaeilge.


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Bradford ( -
Posted on Saturday, July 19, 2003 - 08:04 am:   Edit Post Print Post

Why? Because I refuse to allow the language of my ancestors to fade into history without a fight! My part is to learn and promote Irish, and more importantly, pass it on to my daughter. It's then up to her to decide where the struggle goes. If others can't understand that then, well, it's their tough luck!


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Sherlock ( -
Posted on Monday, July 21, 2003 - 03:36 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

In 1988 I was in Dublin for 2 months and that's when I found out that there was an Irish language. I never really knew.

Oh sure, I had seen the "Erin go bragh" (ugh) flags at St. Patrick's time, but it didn't really register that there was an entire language that was being spoken somewhere.

I grew up with friends of Italian descent (I'm American). I had a Jewish girlfriend. And I always admired their incorporation of Italian and Yiddish into their everyday language. It's a reflection of pride. Pride in their heritage.

I have been wracking my brain trying to teach myself to read and speak Irish. Yes, it is difficult and confusing at times, but it is a labor of love. I'm proud to be Irish and I'll be damned if I'm going to let the language die a premature death. I want to reflect my pride.

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Oliver Grennan ( -
Posted on Tuesday, July 22, 2003 - 08:56 pm:   Edit Post Print Post


For every 1000 schoolkids who are forced to learn a useless language, at least (total wild guess) 5 or 6 end up loving it and have an abiding enjoyment of reading and speaking it. So, force feeding is a blunt instrument and I'm not sure I agree with it but it does find those kids.

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Aonghus ( -
Posted on Wednesday, July 23, 2003 - 04:18 am:   Edit Post Print Post

I don't have the census figures at my fingertips, but the analysis showed that somewhere between 1 and 2 % of the population of the southern Irish State _excluding those between the ages of 3 and 19_ speaks Irish on a *daily* basis. The daily newspaper Lá has a circulation in print of close to 4500.

That's a lot of people. I'm not for a moment claiming that the language is safe, or that mistakes haven't been made in relying solely on education to revive it.

But - there are a significant number of us out there in Ireland who speak and love the language, and are delighted to see others take an interest in it.

You will encounter the dog in the manger attitude of "I failed to learn the langauge after 13 years in school having it (mar dhéa) crammed down my throat, so why are you bothering". But I wouldn't pay that too much attention. There are plenty of people, from Japan to the US who have learnt the language and become proficient; and those people are heartily welcomed by those of us who speak the language.

The online magazine features an article every month from foreigners who are sufficiently proficient to write an article in Irish about how and why they learned the language. One article was even from a Serb in Belgrad who had access to less resources than most, but was still proficient!

Go n-éirí libh, agus ná bac le lucht an Bhéil Bhocht.

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David ( -
Posted on Wednesday, July 23, 2003 - 09:24 am:   Edit Post Print Post

I think that the same thing can be implied about History, Biology and Chemistry! one does not need them, unless one intends to continue studying and researching them!

Now, I can tell you as an outsider that extinct animal can be as useless in reference as the Irish language, or any other almost extinct language, but it's an integral part of you, what you are and what you have!

Losing it is like saying that the only thing important in life is money and food, or how to get rich!

Fortunately enough there are people in this world who think that philosophy, linguistics and literature are not less important for culture and life as a whole!

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Seosamh ( -
Posted on Wednesday, July 23, 2003 - 09:47 am:   Edit Post Print Post

Why us?
Don't think of yourself as an American who wants to speak Irish. Try to step outside the bonds of country, and think of yourself as a person who wants to preserve a beautiful language.
Yes, there are a lot of Irish people, primarily younger people, who don't like Irish. But there are also many Irish people, EVEN the young, who wish to preserve the language and study it further. And as far as people outside Ireland wanting to learn it...that shows that people outside of Ireland actually DO want to learn Irish, and DO care about Irish, and the sheer number of foreigners willing to learn the language is something to throw in the face of all those who think no one is or should be interested in it.

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Seosamh Mac Bhloscaidh ( -
Posted on Wednesday, July 23, 2003 - 04:51 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

All the surveys show higher levels of support for Irish than anyone would expect listening to the rhetoric that takes place on the subject. There is sometimes noisy bunch who have made themselves into the tail that wags the madadh.

As long as these people control much of the public discussion about Irish, it will be uncool to speak Irish. Compare the situation to that in Wales where teenagers and young adults think it is cool to speak Welsh.

There are, of course, many problems. One is the generations-old problem of producing thousands of fluent speakers in the schools, only to gradually lose them after they finish with their schooling. That's because there are few ways to use the language outside the Gaeltacht and/or the school system in everyday life unless someone actively searches out the opportunities. What language would survive if ordinary adults had to search out opportunities to use it?

Some things have been done, especially in recent years. There is an article in Beo this month talking about this question -- it discusses the need for Irish language-based employment.

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Paul ( -
Posted on Friday, July 25, 2003 - 10:37 am:   Edit Post Print Post

A chairde,

Re the Why question...

I did an Irish language course in Ireland and was the only American in the class, and I was constantly getting the 'what's a Yank doing studying Irish' question. Finally, the teacher said, you don't need to give 'em a reason. Why do people listen to music? Because they enjoy it.
You don't need to give people an answer to that question.
I thought that was a great way of looking at it. I certainly don't feel a need to justify my interest in the language, especially to begrudgers.
I try to operate on a philosophy of sticking close to people who encourage me and ignoring the begrudgers.

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Tomas OCathain ( -
Posted on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 01:50 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

I'm struggling through the language at a tremendously slow rate with no external help, but I love what I already know.
I've no time for being diplomatic with those people who belittle or put our language down.
They can go and speak Cockney rhyming slang for all I care.
I think these people need to be shown the value of the language in the context of their history and culture.
If they still don't like it then they are welcome to go to a country that should speak English as it's first language (ie England).
When you see countries such as France trying to stem the tide of English words into their own language then it's an indication of how great the problem is.
Gaeilge does need to have a PR job done on it.
I think it's associated with the past, being backward. It's got to be modernised.
More of the great bands coming out of Ireland should be making some of their songs as Gaeilge.
Think how easy it is to pick up the words to a song you like. My own Father knows an entire song in Italian because an Italian family used to sing it when he was a young boy.
Think of fans all over the world getting to grip with Irish or even having an interest in it kindled because one of their favourite bands use it.

We definately have to become more attractive to youth.

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Brian ( -
Posted on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 04:26 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

A Thomais,
I agree and the Welsh seem to be doing a pretty good job with this - getting Cymraeg into the pop culture. At least that's what I've been reading.

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Tomas OCathain ( -
Posted on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 06:14 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Yes, I've also heard that the Welsh have been very succesful with Cymraeg.
It's just all down to attitude and how it's percieved (primarily by the youth of the nation).

The Irish government really needs to take a look at it's current approach and then learn from the Welsh.
I believe that compulsory learning of Irish is the right thing to do. However, it's pointless if it's being foisted on unwilling subjects who will make a point of forgetting it asap.
Compulsory learning of Gaeilge will only work if the children WANT to learn it, and the way to do that is through popular culture, as you said Brian.
Those who know the language , even if not fluent, should expose their children to it as early as they are exposed to English.In such a way they will view it not as something peculiar or novel but as normal. If Gaeilge can be inserted gradually into everyday conversations (just as English seeps into other tongues) then a base can be established in which to progress.

I take heart from the Statute of Kilkenny, in which the English forbade the use of the Irish language due to a fear that use of English would disappear due to a re-emergence of Gaelic culture.
Gaeilge was once seen as an insidious threat to English, and I know it can be re-surgent again.

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Tomas ( -
Posted on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 08:39 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

A Thomais Ui Chathain, I have been reading with great interest your postings on this site and it seems to me you are determined to acquire fluency in Irish, more power to you NAR LAIGE DIA DO LAMH (Nawr legga Jee-ah duh lawv). Last year a group of American students here in California who were studying Irish staged a musical play in Irish at a prestigious theater in the entertainment district downtown. The entire dialogue was in Irish with a voice in the background giving a consecutive translation into colloquial American English. The show was spectacular and played to a full house which gave the performance a standing ovation. The play is now available on videotape and if you are interested in finding out more about the group and their activities you might like to visit their website It should give you encouragement to know that most of the actors are Americans who started learning Irish only a few years ago. The show also includes lots of Irish music, singing and dancing both traditional and "Riverdance" style.

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Dawn ( -
Posted on Tuesday, July 29, 2003 - 01:10 am:   Edit Post Print Post

A chairde,

I am new to this site and have found it to be a real treasure chest of information regarding the Irish language and culture. After months of searching the net for a group like this, tá áthas orm bualadh libh!
I think Tomas has made an good point here. After all, this was my first motivation to study Irish - to understand song lyrics! I remember thinking, how inconsiderate of these Irish bands to exclude English translations. Don't they know who their public is? Lol...maybe they knew what they were doing all along. :) I don't know if it would have the same effect on other people as it had on me, because I've always had an interest in language anyway, but it's an excellent place to start!
Le meas,

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Liam Ó Briain ( -
Posted on Wednesday, July 30, 2003 - 05:15 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

I came across this piece in a book by Bil Samuel. For Welsh read Irish .
I am uncomfortably aware of a general malaise which is spreading through the Welsh society of my boyhood-a change in character, in priorities, in values, which causes me to wonder, sadly, at the way in which we, as Welsh people, have allowed our country to develop. We belong to a very fine, extremely talented race of people, and our language is our hallmark. It is also our inheritance, and our means of experiencing a whole Welsh way of life.
I agree wholeheartedly with such sentiments.1. Irish speaking families are in fact all over the country, not just in the Gaeltachts-- from Bantry to Downpatrick and everywhere in between. Comhluadar the organisation for Irish speaking families in the Galltacht HAS OVER 1000 families registered with them.
2. This excuse for saying no-one outside the Gaeltachts speak Irish is a blatant lie. If you want to speak it you can it's called free choice. At the end of the day Irish speakers are unquestionably superior to monoglot English speakers in this country as they are upholding one of the great linguistic traditions in the world. If English speakers don't like hearing that then tough. Where's their pride? Irish people still afflicted with the dreaded inferiority complex. Look, why can't we have Irish first language and Englisg second. Many countries such as Netherland and Denmark keep theirs and have perfect English so arguing that Irish is not spoken outside the country and therefore should not be spoken is bull.

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