Gaeilge - should we keep it?

Elements of Irish politics want to minimise compulsory teaching of it

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Gaeilge - should we keep it?

#1  Postby dj357 » Feb 02, 2011 2:50 pm

This question is primarily for non-natives as I already understand the native approach to it so, I'm wondering what people think about the issue of the Irish language? Gaeilge, a relative of Gaelic found in Scotland and various British Isles but distinct to Ireland, has had a tenuous relationship with English, for obvious historical reasons, but my question is should the Irish have their own separate mother tongue with English as a nationally taught second language like much of mainland Europe? Can anyone see benefits or is it all negative implications?

Most Irish people are generally resistant to Irish simply because it was yet another one of those subjects you were forced to study all the way up through the education system and most people don't use it anywhere else in their lives. Do you see any problem with adding Ireland to the list of European countries where you can get by with English but it would be pretty useful to know some words of the native language?

Personally, I see a lot of benefits to be gained from moving the country to Irish as the mother tongue and English as a secondary language. In our government and our public services being an Irish speaker is a required ability, our road signs are already bi-lingual as are place names and most maps and we already have television and radio media that operate exclusively in Irish. At present in the education system Irish is taught from the beginning of school education, all the way up to the Leaving Cert which is your college-determining set of exams. English is also taught, however the focus in English is more on form and style than usage and grammar as is the case in Irish, and this takes a lot of effort in most cases as Irish, for most people, is a uniquely school-based activity. The only time you hear or speak protracted bouts of Irish tend to in the classroom and nowhere else. Most people ignore TG4 and Raidio na Gaeltachta, Irish TV and Radio services, and so there is no constant reinforcement of the language as there is in English. Anyone who has a second language knows just how easily you can lose grasp of the basics simply through lack of use. Now imagine that Irish is the main language, taught primarily as form and style, and English is the second language, taught primarily as usage and grammar, begun at an early age and consistently reinforced by English-language media such as television, movies and the internet.

You need only look at countries like Germany and the Netherlands to see how successfully a country can work both nationally and internationally with English riding second to the mother tongue of the land.

What are your thoughts?
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Re: Gaeilge - should we keep it?

#2  Postby HughMcB » Feb 02, 2011 6:27 pm

Irish will never be the first practical language of Ireland, English will always be first. And it's a good thing too, being fluent English speakers is a valuable asset we have. Try getting a job in Canada, the US or Australia with only broken English and you'd understand.
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Re: Gaeilge - should we keep it?

#3  Postby dj357 » Feb 02, 2011 7:02 pm

We would not necessarily end up with broken English and being bilingual from birth is an extremely beneficial thing. Job prospects are higher for people with more than one language as I now from personal experience. Plus given that the North belongs to the UK there would always be a plethora of english language based media and services. My point is that at the moment, we have it arse-ways. We are forcing to people to learn a language that they only use in school which is a losing battle, whereas English is pervasive in modern culture and society so why not have all the pressure lumped upon a language that people want to learn and will have regular interaction with and use of, while maintaining both heritage and linguistic capabilities. I think that would be a far greater asset to have.
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Re: Gaeilge - should we keep it?

#4  Postby HughMcB » Feb 02, 2011 7:14 pm

dj357 wrote:We would not necessarily end up with broken English and being bilingual from birth is an extremely beneficial thing. Job prospects are higher for people with more than one language as I now from personal experience.

Not if it's Irish, unless you want a job for the government or as a Garda (which still only needs basic Irish). If the second language was a useful one then perhaps. But I really doubt the engineering company I work for in Canada would give a shit if I spoke fluent Irish (which I nearly do) or perhaps even Latin. Now If I was a bilingual English-French or English-German or even English-Chinese speaker on the other hand, then it would be a bonus.

I know from my own experiences when working in English speaking countries abroad (i.e. other that the UK and Ireland) that they prefer if you come from an English speaking country rather than to have learned it after the fact. Not that this is in any way a deal breaker, but I'm sure I would of been preferred to be hired here in Canada over a non-native English speaker.

dj357 wrote:Plus given that the North belongs to the UK there would always be a plethora of english language based media and services. My point is that at the moment, we have it arse-ways. We are forcing to people to learn a language that they only use in school which is a losing battle, whereas English is pervasive in modern culture and society so why not have all the pressure lumped upon a language that people want to learn and will have regular interaction with and use of, while maintaining both heritage and linguistic capabilities. I think that would be a far greater asset to have.

We already do maintain heritage and linguistic capabilities, far more than any other Celtic/Gaelic culture. We are the only ones to retain our language on a national level and to still have large areas where it is fully utilized. Not to mention our national sports of Hurling and Football, which (any Irish person knows) are fucking HUGE in Ireland. That keep many of our best athletes off the international stage! We also (arguably) have the strongest sense of Gaelic culture out of all the former Gaelic societies.
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Re: Gaeilge - should we keep it?

#5  Postby Saim » Mar 03, 2011 6:45 am

dj357 wrote:Now imagine that Irish is the main language, taught primarily as form and style, and English is the second language, taught primarily as usage and grammar, begun at an early age and consistently reinforced by English-language media such as television, movies and the internet.

What are your thoughts?

I would think that for this to happen, a majority of Irish would have to be taught most of their subjects in Irish. Teaching a language is far less effective than teaching in a language. So Irish education would start in preschool, then English-medium education in say, grade 3. In other words, most Irish schools would have to become Irish-immersion schools. I don't think that teaching English via immersion instead of as a 'foreign language', taught as if it's some table of information on a blackboard rather than an actual skill would be a good idea, though - one can teach courses in more than one language (indeed, most of the Celtic-language immersion courses for children do do this as far as I know).

HughMcB wrote:
dj357 wrote:We would not necessarily end up with broken English and being bilingual from birth is an extremely beneficial thing. Job prospects are higher for people with more than one language as I now from personal experience.

Not if it's Irish, unless you want a job for the government or as a Garda (which still only needs basic Irish). If the second language was a useful one then perhaps.

But language is not just a utilitarian thing, especially if the language is the historical tongue of your nationality. Furthermore, if all Irish were educated bilingually in Irish and English from preschool onwards, they would find it much easier to learn "important" foreign languages like French, German and so on.
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Re: Gaeilge - should we keep it?

#6  Postby HughMcB » Mar 03, 2011 2:35 pm

Saim wrote:Furthermore, if all Irish were educated bilingually in Irish and English from preschool onwards, they would find it much easier to learn "important" foreign languages like French, German and so on.

Irish people are educated bilingually in Irish and English from preschool onwards.
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Re: Gaeilge - should we keep it?

#7  Postby Nostalgia » Mar 03, 2011 3:27 pm

dj357 wrote:What are your thoughts?


I don’t think it’s a good idea.

A huge amount has recently been spent in my local area making all the road signs bilingual in both English and Gaelic, which was ridiculous because many of the place-names are derived from Gaelic names anyway so both languages have the same name, spelt the same. On top of this, my local authority covers the entire Highlands and Islands, but Gaelic speakers were only traditionally native to the Hebrides and the West coast. People from the East and the Northern Isles tend to have more Scandinavian blood in them than Celtic, and in many areas Gaelic was never spoken.
I can understand why people want to learn their native Celtic languages, whether it be Irish, Welsh or Gaelic, and they should have the opportunity to do so. But changing the official first Language to something other than English? That seems to me like a step backwards. Being native English speakers allows us many opportunities as HughMcB has already outlined.
What would make much more sense would be keeping English as Ireland’s first language and learning Chinese as a second one.
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Re: Gaeilge - should we keep it?

#8  Postby Saim » Mar 19, 2011 9:03 am

HughMcB wrote:
Saim wrote:Furthermore, if all Irish were educated bilingually in Irish and English from preschool onwards, they would find it much easier to learn "important" foreign languages like French, German and so on.

Irish people are educated bilingually in Irish and English from preschool onwards.

Only in Irish-medium schools. There's a difference between being taught a language and being taught in a language.
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Re: Gaeilge - should we keep it?

#9  Postby Saim » Aug 17, 2011 12:43 am

I know this is a bit of thread necromancy, but I couldn't resist.

MacIver wrote:
A huge amount has recently been spent in my local area making all the road signs bilingual in both English and Gaelic,

How much is a "huge" amount? Is this more than on wars? Is it not the government's role to protect your cultural and linguistic heritage, as well as respect the rights of minorities (including Gaelic-speakers)?

which was ridiculous because many of the place-names are derived from Gaelic names anyway so both languages have the same name, spelt the same.

I believe most of them would've been distinct, though.

I can understand why people want to learn their native Celtic languages, whether it be Irish, Welsh or Gaelic, and they should have the opportunity to do so.

It's not just about the opportunity to learn it, but also the opportunity for use. Without living Celtic-speaking communities in the world, it'll be very difficult to learn these languages to native-level fluency. The sad fact is that English and Celtic languages are competing for the same ethnocultural spheres, and without more people in the British Isles adopting Welsh, Scottish Gaelic or Irish as a native language (from use in the community since childhood) the Celtic languages will die out. Thankfully, Welsh is increasing in speakers, although the situation of Scottish Gaelic seems much more precarious.

But changing the official first Language to something other than English? That seems to me like a step backwards. Being native English speakers allows us many opportunities as HughMcB has already outlined.

Having English as an official first language and speaking it as a mother tongue are two different things. The de jure first official language of Ireland is Irish, but English is still the main medium of communication.

What would make much more sense would be keeping English as Ireland’s first language and learning Chinese as a second one.
Ireland already has the infrastructure (as well as will on the behalf of its people) in place to become predominantly Irish-speaking within a generation. All that Ireland needs is an expansion of this infrastructure (a majority of students going to Irish-medium schools, and then more and more Irish programming, and so on).

Chinese, on the other hand, is not an endangered language that has high sentimental value for many Irish. Nor does Ireland have many qualified teachers of Chinese. Sure, it'd be good for the Irish to learn Chinese (or any other foreign language), but I think taking care of one's own linguistic heritage is more important.
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Re: Gaeilge - should we keep it?

#10  Postby AlohaChris » Aug 17, 2011 12:51 am

Is ea! fíor le do thoil.
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Re: Gaeilge - should we keep it?

#11  Postby quixotecoyote » Aug 18, 2011 12:00 am

Saim wrote:I know this is a bit of thread necromancy, but I couldn't resist.

How much is a "huge" amount? Is this more than on wars? Is it not the government's role to protect your cultural and linguistic heritage, as well as respect the rights of minorities (including Gaelic-speakers)?


I'm going to say no. Maybe it's because I'm from the US where "protecting our cultural heritage" tends to mean flying slaver battle flags over the statehouse, but I don't think it's a legitimate function of government to resurrect the languages and traditions of years gone by, just because it's how it used to be and people are nostalgic.
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Re: Gaeilge - should we keep it?

#12  Postby AlohaChris » Aug 18, 2011 12:48 am

AlohaChris wrote:Is ea! fíor le do thoil.



My family is Irish (I'm 2nd generation myself) and I was lucky to have a grandmother who Gaeilge agat. (I think that means spoke Irish :) ) I learnt quite a bit from her and felt proud that I knew a little bit about my heritage.

It's completely impractical and has no 'use', unless I'm west of Galway but it holds a strong nostalgic attachment for me. Knowing a bit of Irish did get me laid once when I happened upon a girl from Dingle in a bar once. :thumbup:

I say keep it alive.
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Re: Gaeilge - should we keep it?

#13  Postby Saim » Aug 23, 2011 7:57 am

quixotecoyote wrote:
Saim wrote:I know this is a bit of thread necromancy, but I couldn't resist.

How much is a "huge" amount? Is this more than on wars? Is it not the government's role to protect your cultural and linguistic heritage, as well as respect the rights of minorities (including Gaelic-speakers)?


I'm going to say no. Maybe it's because I'm from the US where "protecting our cultural heritage" tends to mean flying slaver battle flags over the statehouse, but I don't think it's a legitimate function of government to resurrect the languages and traditions of years gone by, just because it's how it used to be and people are nostalgic.

Irish does not need resurrection, as it is indeed a living language. It just needs support. Do the Irish-speakers of the country not have a right to maintain their linguistic space?
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Re: Gaeilge - should we keep it?

#14  Postby zulumoose » Aug 23, 2011 9:48 am

Irish does not need resurrection, as it is indeed a living language. It just needs support.


Why should a language in its doddering old age be given a walker? It is not like a person or an animal, who may be valuable beyond their practical use, a language is more like a computer, which either evolves to maintain usefulness, or is discarded, since it has outlived its usefulness and the investment to learn how to use it is immense, and a non-recoverable expense.

Languages are not like antiques that have a quaint feel of tradition and culture, that can be appreciated without effort. Languages that do not have practical use are IMPOSED on those who do not want them, and are hated for it.

Let languages develop and die out according to their natural patterns of use in society. Imposing them or propping them up out of proportion to their popularity in reality is like a sickening form of social engineering, and destined to fail, at great expense in terms of time and money.
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Re: Gaeilge - should we keep it?

#15  Postby HughMcB » Aug 23, 2011 3:31 pm

quixotecoyote wrote:
Saim wrote:I know this is a bit of thread necromancy, but I couldn't resist.

How much is a "huge" amount? Is this more than on wars? Is it not the government's role to protect your cultural and linguistic heritage, as well as respect the rights of minorities (including Gaelic-speakers)?


I'm going to say no. Maybe it's because I'm from the US where "protecting our cultural heritage" tends to mean flying slaver battle flags over the statehouse, but I don't think it's a legitimate function of government to resurrect the languages and traditions of years gone by, just because it's how it used to be and people are nostalgic.

There's no "resurrecting" involved, it's a conservation if anything. And the only people enslaved were us (the Irish) therefore I don't think that'll be a problem.
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Re: Gaeilge - should we keep it?

#16  Postby HughMcB » Aug 23, 2011 3:35 pm

zulumoose wrote:Why should a language in its doddering old age be given a walker? It is not like a person or an animal, who may be valuable beyond their practical use, a language is more like a computer, which either evolves to maintain usefulness, or is discarded, since it has outlived its usefulness and the investment to learn how to use it is immense, and a non-recoverable expense.

Doddering old age?

Irish has been maintained in its current capacity for hundreds of years (as a second language to English), why does that imply that it is somehow dying? It's quite happy where it is.

zulumoose wrote:Languages are not like antiques that have a quaint feel of tradition and culture, that can be appreciated without effort. Languages that do not have practical use are IMPOSED on those who do not want them, and are hated for it.

It's no more imposed than say French is imposed on English speaking Canadians, or vice versa.

zulumoose wrote:Let languages develop and die out according to their natural patterns of use in society. Imposing them or propping them up out of proportion to their popularity in reality is like a sickening form of social engineering, and destined to fail, at great expense in terms of time and money.

Some might say that money spend in preserving tradition and heritage is money well spend.
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Re: Gaeilge - should we keep it?

#17  Postby Saim » Aug 24, 2011 5:53 am

zulumoose wrote:Let languages develop and die out according to their natural patterns of use in society.

There are no "natural patterns" in language use. Sure, there are certain historical trends, but we humans have sentience. Language use is about choice, and many Irish are sociolinguistically aware.

Imposing them or propping them up out of proportion to their popularity in reality is like a sickening form of social engineering, and destined to fail, at great expense in terms of time and money.

The average Irish person does have positive attitudes towards the language, though. There has been resentment towards mandatory Irish-language classes in English-medium schools, but I don't necessarily support that (nor do I expect that it's more resentment than there is towards Maths or English Lit classes). What I do support is government subsidies for Irish-medium education, as well as a plan to integrate the public system with these "Gaelscoileanna" (i.e., a situation where most Irish students are taught in Irish). Supply for Celtic-medium education in the British Isles is fast outstripping demand (in Wales 1/4 of children go to Welsh-language schools), so I don't see it as an issue of "imposition".

By the way, people need an Irish-speaking environment to keep speaking Irish naturally (of course Hebrew is a counter-example but a lone one). Since hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people want to speak Irish there's absolutely no sense in letting it run it's "natural course" (whatever that means for something that is to a certain extent a product of choice).
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Re: Gaeilge - should we keep it?

#18  Postby zulumoose » Aug 24, 2011 6:54 am

HughMcB wrote: Irish has been maintained in its current capacity for hundreds of years (as a second language to English), why does that imply that it is somehow dying? It's quite happy where it is. .



I was responding to the point made that it needed propping up, anything that needs support does not stand by itself, in language terms that implies dying out.

HughMcB wrote: Some might say that money spend in preserving tradition and heritage is money well spend.


Preserving tradition and heritage is one thing, spending hundreds of hours indoctrinating each child into having an ability to appreciate it is not comparable to restoring an historic building. If the desire for appreciation is not there to begin with the imposition is worse than meaningless. If it is all willing participation and voluntary then it is natural usage and there is no propping up, just response to demand. No problem with that, but then why use the term propping up?

There are no "natural patterns" in language use. Sure, there are certain historical trends, but we humans have sentience. Language use is about choice, and many Irish are sociolinguistically aware.
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Natural pattern of language use is simple, people speak what they have a use for, grow up with, or want to speak. Any effort made to promote or preserve a language among the unwilling beyond its practical benefits is unnatural.
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Re: Gaeilge - should we keep it?

#19  Postby zulumoose » Aug 24, 2011 7:03 am

To elaborate on the point of natural pattern of language, I have been taught 4 languages at school, one is my natural home language, English.

Of the other three languages I have once in my life spoken one of them to a 1st language speaker outside school, a lost child who didn't speak any English. ONCE, and it didn't help at all, since he ignored me. That is unnatural, all those hundreds of hours of resentment at being taught things I knew from day one I would never use and had no interest in.
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Re: Gaeilge - should we keep it?

#20  Postby HughMcB » Aug 24, 2011 2:00 pm

zulumoose wrote:Preserving tradition and heritage is one thing, spending hundreds of hours indoctrinating each child into having an ability to appreciate it is not comparable to restoring an historic building. If the desire for appreciation is not there to begin with the imposition is worse than meaningless. If it is all willing participation and voluntary then it is natural usage and there is no propping up, just response to demand. No problem with that, but then why use the term propping up?

Well in that case let's not bother teach history or English literature either, since the majority of Irish in school (once one has a basic understanding of the language) is just learning about history and a shit load of literature. I guess these things are just "indoctrination". :roll:
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