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The Daltaí Boards » Archive: 1999-2004 » 2004 (October-December) » Archive through October 13, 2004 » Do they really want to? « Previous Next »

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Diarmuid (Unregistered Guest)
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Posted From: 220.253.13.203
Posted on Wednesday, September 29, 2004 - 09:50 am:   Edit Post Print Post

Being from Australia im finding it quite hard to gain a perspective on the willingness of the Irish people to speak or learn their own language. Would the majority of Irish people be content with English as the sole language throughout the country? I sincerely hope not, but are we wasting our time learning a language that nobody wishes to speak? After i finish my studies i hope travel to Ireland both Ulster and the republic, will i find that my eforts to learn this majestic and poetic language in vain as people would either rather speak english to me or cant speak Gaeilge at all?
I hope none of this to be truth but i fear some of this may infact be the case...

Go raibh maith agat
Diarmuid

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Aonghus
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Username: Aonghus

Post Number: 211
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Wednesday, September 29, 2004 - 10:13 am:   Edit Post Print Post

The only evidence I can offer is that during the last census one third of the population reported themselves as able to speak Irish.

I don't claim this to be evidence of anything other than that those people are at least sympathetic to the language.

In some Gaeltacht areas, notably in Conamara (the further away from Galway City the better) and west of Dingle town the local gaeltacht population is enthusiastic about the language and at attempts to stem it's decline.

RnaG, TnaG, Gaelscoileanna and most other Irsih language enterprises are due to the enthusiasm of grass roots movements, within the Gaeltacht and outside it.

The Audit Bureau of Circulation figures for the daily newspaper Lá stand at about 4000; Foinse, the weekly paper has a circulation of about 4500.

You will find people who will be willing to speak Irish to you, but you may have to search for them outsides the core Gaeltacht areas.

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Tomás (Unregistered Guest)
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Posted From: 198.22.236.230
Posted on Wednesday, September 29, 2004 - 02:33 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Diarmuid, -- I definitely think people like Paul MacDonnell and Kevin Myers who despise and revile the expenditure of even one euro on efforts to support and revive the Irish language are overwhelmingly in the minority. Very vocal, but in the minority.
Also, something for you to take note of if you don't know: Many members of the Nationalist (mostly Catholic) community still object rather strongly to the term "Ulster" being used to describe the Six Counties of the North of Ireland that still are part of the United Kingdom. They quickly will point out that there are nine counties in Ulster, three of which are in the Republic. The phrases "The Six Counties" or "The North of Ireland" are the preferred terms.

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Jonas
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Username: Jonas

Post Number: 460
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Wednesday, September 29, 2004 - 05:16 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

the willingness of the Irish people to speak or learn their own language.

Unfortunately, my impression is that it is very low indeed. There are lots and lots of brilliant exceptions but the majority is at best indifferent. Irish is not a particularly hard language compared to many other European languages, and even the hardest language can be learned. If foreign enthusiasts are able to learn Irish in their own country and during short visits to Ireland, then of course most people in Ireland would be able to learn Irish if they really wanted to. They don't. I'm saying they are hostile towards Irish, just indifferent.

during the last census one third of the population reported themselves as able to speak Irish. I don't claim this to be evidence of anything other than that those people are at least sympathetic to the language.

You are perfectly right. Still, there are two points I'd like to make here.
1. That 1/3 is way below the proportion of Finns, Swedes, Danes etc. being able to speak English. It doesn't make any of these countries English speaking. Ability and acutal use are two different things.

2. As we all know, that number (1/3) has very little to do with reality. Most of them are schoolchildren who will never use it outside school. Others are people who are symphatetic towards Irish but don't speak it well enough to use. I've met lots of people from Ireland who have reported themselves as Irish-speakers without being able to carry out even a simple conversation in Irish.

In some Gaeltacht areas, notably in Conamara (the further away from Galway City the better) and west of Dingle town the local gaeltacht population is enthusiastic about the language and at attempts to stem it's decline.

Very true, I've lived in both the areas you mention and Irish is definitely the language of the people there. Buíochas le Dia...

RnaG, TnaG, Gaelscoileanna and most other Irsih language enterprises are due to the enthusiasm of grass roots movements, within the Gaeltacht and outside it.

Absolutely, my experience is that support for the language is growing. But much more has to be done - making Ireland Irish-speaking (or Swahili-speaking, Japanese-speaking etc.) is in fact quite simple if the will is there. Unfortunately, at present it is not.

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Diarmuid (Unregistered Guest)
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Posted From: 220.253.13.203
Posted on Thursday, September 30, 2004 - 03:54 am:   Edit Post Print Post

A further question.. do you think that the minority of people in Ireland that do speak Gaeilge seem to be of an older vintage? For instance is there any interest from say teens and young adults to speak or learn the language?
Myself being 17, what would be the likelyhood of being able to approach a fellow teenager and having a conversation in Irish?

Diarmuid

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Aonghus
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Username: Aonghus

Post Number: 216
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Thursday, September 30, 2004 - 06:35 am:   Edit Post Print Post

It depends on where you are.

In Dublin, I'd suggest going to one of club Sults evenings

http://www.clubsult.com

But then, I'm an old fogey past thirty...

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Jonas
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Username: Jonas

Post Number: 461
Registered: 08-2004


Posted on Thursday, September 30, 2004 - 08:42 am:   Edit Post Print Post

Diarmuid, I'd say that you stand a much better chance of being able to speak Irish with someone in their teens than with someone in their fifties. One reason is of course that all still are learning it in school. Even apart from that fact, I'd say that there are more young people taking an interest in it than those in their middle ages. Then again, I'm 26 and have visited Ireland since I was 19 so of course most of those I know are young as well.

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Tomás (Unregistered Guest)
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Posted From: 198.22.236.230
Posted on Thursday, September 30, 2004 - 01:00 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Diarmuid, -- Jonas is right. The primary attitudes are either of indifference or -- hmmm, how shall i say this -- the wish for success without effort. The census figures reflect that many, many people wish they were fluent, but really don't want to expend any time or effort to acquire it. Also, I'm 48, and so a much older fogey than either Aonghus or Jonas. Still, I also would have to say that the interest level of younger people is stronger than with people of my generation or older.

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James
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Username: James

Post Number: 38
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Thursday, September 30, 2004 - 01:27 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

A Dhiarmuid,

I was very interested to see your post because I've had the same question rattling around in my brain for the past several months. I've put a lot of time and effort into gaining my most rudimentary abilties in Irish and would hate to see those efforts wasted. But, I've come to this conclusion, albeit, a possibly flawed conclusion.

First) I will learn to speak Irish for the pure joy it brings me. I find I learn more about languages and grammar in general by learing any foreign language. Therefore, learing Irish carries with it an intrinsic academic benefit regardless of the practical utility of it.

Second) I don't care who I have to talk to in Ireland to use my Irish. I'd rather sit with 2 men over the age of 60 and use Irish than sit with 30 men (or women) under the age of 40 and use english. I would imagine, and again, this is speculation and is subject to error...but, I would imagine that the older generation would be suprised, yet pleased, to have a young Aussie sit with them for an hour or so and speak as gaeilge. At least, that's my hope.

In a former life of mine (much younger, more physically fit etc) I spent a lot of time running around some of the more unpleasant areas of Latin America. My ability to speak Spanish was a great asset, not just in affording me the ability to communicate, but also in the rapport that it helped me to develop with the local population. I found the same to be true recently in Africa with regards to my meager attempts to use Swahili and Somali. Just the effort, just showing you are aware of the "native" tongue and are not afraid to try....that's worth more in some regards than a fist full of tourist dollars. At least, that's been my experience.

In a perfect world, with no outside detractors, I would LOVE to go west of Galway and just hang out with some old farmer. I'd work for free, pay for my own food and just hang out experiencing Ireland on a day to day basis. My only requirement would be that he and his family not address me in one single word of english...not one. I'd avoid all towns, I'd avoid all telecommunications except TG4 and RnaG...a total immersion, if you will. THIS is the way to know Ireland (or any country) as far as I'm concerned. You may never become one of the "in crowd" but you'll be appreciated and respected if you work hard and aren't afraid to get your boots dirty, literally as well as figuratively.

So, I'd say "go for it." Your Irish is far better than mine and I'm certain you can make yourself understood in the gaeltacht. Get out there and throw yourself into it. You might be suprised where it leads you!

Oh...and I'm somewhere between Aonghus and Tomás in my "fogey-ness" so don't let my "youthful" enthusiasm overshadow yours!

Le meas,

James

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Jonas
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Username: Jonas

Post Number: 464
Registered: 08-2004


Posted on Thursday, September 30, 2004 - 03:18 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

In a perfect world, with no outside detractors, I would LOVE to go west of Galway and just hang out with some old farmer. I'd work for free, pay for my own food and just hang out experiencing Ireland on a day to day basis. My only requirement would be that he and his family not address me in one single word of english...not one. I'd avoid all towns, I'd avoid all telecommunications except TG4 and RnaG...a total immersion, if you will. THIS is the way to know Ireland (or any country) as far as I'm concerned.

Interesting, that is almost exactly what I did. I have to admit that occasionally I slipped into English TV, though. And I only stayed for two months, but still... However, not much to talk about compared to having been around Latin America. It sounds extremely interesting, James! I know this isn't the forum for a lengthy discussion on that topic, but would you just write a little bit of your experiences from that time.

Finally, to second what James wrote about getting to know the locals. I once stepped into this pub in one of the more remote villages on one of the Aran Islands. I knew no-one in there, but I could see that the place was divided. In one corner sat a group of tourists talking in English. The other people in there were locals from Aran and, obviously fed up with tourists, they did they best to ignore the English speakers. I went to the pub and ordered my drink in my by then far from perfect Irish. It was the perfect ice-breaker, all the local population immediately welcomed me as one of them and they were extremly nice to me the rest of the evening - even driving me home to my B&B when I left. The point I'm trying to make is that of course they all knew English and could have interacted with the other tourists - but they rather decided not to. In my case they appreciated that I had made the effort to learn their language.

(Message edited by jonas on September 30, 2004)

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James
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Username: James

Post Number: 41
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Thursday, September 30, 2004 - 05:26 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Jonas, A chara:

I spent the better part of my early adulthood working with the U.S. Army in Latin America. We were actively but "unofficially" engaged in a number of counter guerilla and counter-narcotic efforts in some of the more unstable portions of that area. Although intially met with suspicion and mistrust (for some obvious and not so obvious reasons) being able to speak the language and being willing to live and work as the locals did was, as you put it, the "ice breaker" that paid big dividends in the long run.

More often than not we (the Americans) would find ourselves sitting in a bar or cafe with this "I can't believe they're paying me to do this" feeling. It was like being a good will ambassador, national geographic explorer, anthropologist, sociologist and genuine barrel-chested-Freedom Fighter all rolled up into one really cool experience.

It was that experience; the "speak if you want to eat" nature of the job, that taught me more about myself and my "America-centric" culture than anything else. It is also where I learned and really gained a true appreciation of another culture and another language. That one period in my life has led me to pick up a smattering of Korean, Russian, Swahili, Somali and German. In each region where these languages are spoken I've found that just the effort...not the proficiency, but the effort alone has gone a long way to gaining me access to the "other" side of communities that the casual tourist will NEVER see.

That is the origin of my advice to young Diarmuid. Stay out of the tourist sections. Find out where the locals go and throw yourself into it. THAT's where the REAL Ireland can be found. But, having said that, you also have to be prepared for the reality of the REAL Ireland, or any other country for that matter! It's not all craic agus ceol. I've seen the ugly side of Africa and Latin America but, in seeing this "ugly" side it gives me a better understanding of who these people are and what drives their opinions, values etc. It has given me a better, more informed view of the world.

Mar sampla. We trained Hugo Chavez's soldiers when he commanded the Airborne battalion in Venezuela. At that time, the greatest political threat was a little known party called the "Gallo Rojo." Shortly after we left, he staged a failed coup against the government and was jailed for it. I returned several years later and worked with the same battalion under a different commander. As we were sitting around watching TV, Hugo Chavez's face appeared in a political ad. He had been released from jail and was running for president on the Gallo Rojo ticket! So, when I see what's going on in Venezuela now, under his rule, I have a much different perpsective. I know this guy, I know the region and the people of the region where he gained his support, I know the officers that supported his original coup atttempt....I mean, it's just a whole different perspective on things.

I was what it affectionately called a "muddy boots" soldier and that has shaped me for ever more. I'd rather be down in the dirt living life to its fullest than sitting in some office or institution pontificating on why life is the way it is. Life was meant to be LIVED....and I mean really LIVED. And, by extension and to keep things on topic, languages were meant to be SPOKEN.

So, to bring things full circle and to tie into what I advised Diarmuid:

If more people were like our intrepid young Aussie and less like our Dublin bound Wall Street Journal contributor, we'd probably see a better, more informed and more inclusive attitude toward the Gaeltacht and the people that inhabit those regions. Am I implying that Seamus O'Murchu is going to "rise up" and Diarmuid will be sitting in Sidney pointing at the Tele saying "I know that guy!"....of course not. But, when some amadan like MacDonnell launches into his biased rantings using outdated data gleaned from the protected enclave of his government funded academic fishbowl, Diarmuid (and hopefully hundreds like him) can form their own opinions and counter the absurdities with "ground truth" observations and experiences.

I just have so much admiration and respect for guys like Diarmuid and yourself who've taken the time to learn and experience something beyond their own shores. It is a glowing statement as to the character of the individual.

I don't know our young Diarmuid and, apart from your informative contributions here, I don't really know you. Politically, we may all be on opposite ends of a very complex spectrum...I don't know and I don't care. What I do know is that I abhor the arrogance of an academic who draws conclusions and puts forth ideas and attempts to shape policy based on nothing more than what he or she has read in books or gleaned from a seminar or symposium of like minded "philosphers". You and I, and those like us (ie; Diarmuid), have lived the life, breathed the air, eaten the food and absorbed the atmosphere of a world that these cloistered clowns can only pretend to understand.

Wow!!!....didn't mean to go on and on...it just kind of poured out....sorry for the rantings.

Le meas,

James

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Ó_diocháin
Member
Username: Ó_diocháin

Post Number: 17
Registered: 09-2004
Posted on Thursday, September 30, 2004 - 05:53 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

James, a chara
Tá mé buíoch díot as do theachtaireacht.
I'd have to disagree with your characterisation of Mr Mac Donnell as an academic though.
I can't imagine that anyone who writes in such an indisciplined and ill-considered manner could make it as an academic.
A pseudo-intellectual, who indulges in navel gazing between ill-informed rants on behalf of a government subsidised think tank.
I think that fits the bill much better, based on the evidence he has provided on this board.
But any way, this is off the point and I was always brought up to believe that one should not mock the afflicted... so I'll leave it at that.
Beir bua agus beannacht!
Chris

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Diarmuid (Unregistered Guest)
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Posted From: 220.253.13.203
Posted on Friday, October 01, 2004 - 08:38 am:   Edit Post Print Post

Firstly thank you all for your informative replys as always! It just goes to show what a wonderful resource this site really is. Where else could I have my questions answered so thoughtfully and thoroughly in such a short space of time. A further question, i believe my family were originally from cork and when i vist Ireland i plan to stay there for the majority of my trip, would i find the sort of people and culture there that has been discussed in the above posts(particularly the language aspect)?

Diarmuid

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Aonghus
Member
Username: Aonghus

Post Number: 233
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Friday, October 01, 2004 - 08:44 am:   Edit Post Print Post

There is a centre for spoken Irish in University College, Cork which coordinates all language activities in the university. There is also be an Irish Language Society in UCC.

See http://www.ucc.ie/ucc/igl/ and
http://www.ucc.ie/students/socs/gaeilge/


You should also check out the event guide on Beo for the places and times you plan to be

Also, there is on campus accomadation reserved for Irish speakers.

(Message edited by aonghus on October 01, 2004)

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(Unregistered Guest)
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Posted From: 203.62.171.1
Posted on Sunday, October 03, 2004 - 09:24 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

cheers Aonghus

Diarmuid



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