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 Post subject: Gaeltacht, and you...
PostPosted: Sun May 17, 2009 4:21 pm 
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As an armchair student, over the years I've enjoyed being a language tourist, which usually means that I'll work my way through the grammar of a given language, not enough to become at all proficient, but enough to get an understanding of how that particular language works. And, one of the benefits to that is in also learning more about the culture of the people there, hence, tourist.

These days I'm just getting started with Irish, and until exactly yesterday I was generally aware that there could be a few dialects as spoken within all of Ireland, including Northern Ireland. Then, however, as my curiosity grew, I searched on "Irish language", and there found reference to Gaeltacht, or officially Irish speaking districts. And, let me mention my surprise.

I had expected to see Irish in diminished use, as English could be predominant, and in recent years Irish governmental surveys apparently indicate that nearly half of Ireland's population could claim that they had at least a basic understanding of the Irish language. OK, I was expecting something like that. Yet, apparently according to those who could be expert on such a matter, it seems there could be fewer than one hundred thousand people who could qualify as regular, daily, fluent speakers of Irish. Now, considering that the whole of Ireland including Northern Ireland could have a population of nearly six million people, after doing the math it appears that considerably less than two percent of the population could qualify as being fluent in Irish. And, for me, that was a real eye opener!

Edit: An edit occurred, here, nearly three hours after my Internet service crashed. Oh, well.


Last edited by Cork on Sun May 17, 2009 7:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun May 17, 2009 4:36 pm 
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Yup. And even in the Gaeltachts (I've spent probably about 2 to 2.5 months in them) most people will predominantly speak English. (Though I will never forget the two year old Aran Island boy being offered a box of raisins by his mother, and shouting "Dún é! Dún é!!! ("Close it!")

As Irish language is a required part of the Irish school curriculum, most people will have *some* ability to speak it... but not fluently. Consider the ability in a language that an American student might have after being forced to take Spanish or French through high school: You can ask for the bathroom or the library, and maybe introduce yourself and identify some foods and family members, but that's about it - especially if it wasn't a subject you wanted to take in the first place.

So yes, I have a basic understanding of Spanish, and if they offered that on a survey I could tick the box. I can tell you that I like cheese, and that I have one brother, and that my cat's name is Charlie. But I can't tell you what I did last week, or where I'm going tomorrow night, or say if x then y. There is hope for Irish though, because from what I saw in my two visits 5 years apart the resources for and the interest in the language is spreading. Fingers crossed that it continues.

Did you know there's an official Gaeltacht in North America now? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permanent_ ... _Gaeltacht

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PostPosted: Sun May 17, 2009 8:42 pm 
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avanutria wrote:
...Did you know there's an official Gaeltacht in North America now? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permanent_ ... _Gaeltacht

No, I didn't know that, but interesting, an officially recognized Gaeltacht, but with zero population! lol

And yes, it appears that within certain Gaeltacht the efforts to preserve and to promote Irish are getting downright serious, that in at least one district there's legislation apparently being considered which could effectively outlaw any residential construction there by anybody who could not be a qualified Irish speaker. In other words, one either speaks Irish, or one can't reside there. It seems that Gaeltacht often are in beautiful but economically poor regions, and that not only could the non-Irish-speaking landed gentry be snapping up real estate, there, but apparently those who were born in those regions, who then for reasons moved sometimes far away, who then became economically successful, and who then married and then had an otherwise non-Irish speaking family, could also be returning to those same areas, too, all of which then contributing to a further weakening of Irish in those regions, including the displacement of those natives, especially the young, who simply can't afford to live in their own neighborhood!


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PostPosted: Sun May 17, 2009 8:59 pm 
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It's outside purchases they're trying to prevent with the language rules in the Gaeltacht. When Ireland became a member of the European Union, they started having trouble with people from outside the country (particularly German tourists, who seem to be very drawn to rural Ireland, for some reason!) purchasing property in Gaeltacht regions for vacation homes (because, as you noted, they're often in scenically beautiful regions). As Gaeltachts are often the last refuge, not only of the Irish language, but also of Gaelic culture, they really didn't want to see them become...well...Malibu Europe.

It's funny (funny sad, not funny "ha ha") the relationship the Irish have with the Irish language. I know many people who think that the future of the language lies outside of Ireland...in places where the language and the culture are less politically charged.

On the other hand, outside interest in the language has been the saving grace of some of these communities. A friend of mine who grew up in Ulster has mentioned that cultural tourism...people with interest in the language, as well as in traditional music and crafts...has been a HUGE boon to Gleann Cholm Cille. Seeing the number of people, even early in the summer, who come to Oideas Gael to study Irish, I can believe it.

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PostPosted: Sun May 17, 2009 10:05 pm 
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Redwolf wrote:
...It's funny (funny sad, not funny "ha ha") the relationship the Irish have with the Irish language. I know many people who think that the future of the language lies outside of Ireland...in places where the language and the culture are less politically charged...


NOTE: This is not PROCT, and the following is not an attempt to instigate talk of politics. However...

I don't quite understand how politics could have to do with the Irish language. Now, it's altogether true, on a global basis, that many national languages are currently under stress, in some cases considerable stress, and, unfortunately, in some cases fatal stress, especially of numerous of the more remote dialects, and that's largely due to a de facto domination by several of the world's major languages. Yet, Redwolf, could you please shed some light on how politics could have to do with the Irish language, in Ireland?


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PostPosted: Sun May 17, 2009 10:51 pm 
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Oh Lord, where do I start?

Well, you do know that the Irish language was deliberately suppressed for a very long time, yes? When children were beaten for speaking Irish in school? When proprieters were required by law to have their names in English only on their places of business?

Because of that, the language has become associated, in many peoples' minds, with Irish republicanism. And, as a people who have lived with violence for a very long time, the Irish people are not overly fond of anything that seems to be a dividing force. That's one political aspect, particularly in the north. On the one hand, for the people in the north who cherish their Gaelic culture (many of whom, though not all, are republicans), the language has become a rallying point. And sometimes it's hard for them to get others to accept that their use of the Irish language isn't a declaration of defiance. The situation has also kept unionists with a real interest in the language and culture from actively pursuing it...they tend to get demonized by both sides.

On the other side of the coin, in the Republic, the attempts to revive Gaelic culture, and particularly the language, through legal means (mandatory classes in school, mandatory signage, etc.) have caused people who have grown up through English, and who think of English as the only language that has any real future, to resent the language and, in many cases, to actively work against it. Kids who have to pass tests in Irish don't see the significance, and really resent it (as do their parents, who have to find some way to get their kids through those tests). Certainly a large part of that has to do with how it's taught, which opens yet another political can of worms. And, bottom line, the fact that it's no longer a daily language for most of the people on the island is itself a political situation...after all, the Irish didn't just give up their language because they liked English better, if you know what I mean.

Consequently, there's very little involving the Irish language that doesn't have political ramifications of some sort, regardless of where you happen to be in Ireland.

I'm trying very hard to avoid taking sides here because a) as you said, this isn't the procto forum, b) I have friends I like, value and respect on both sides of the debate, c) I'm an American, and thus removed by several generations from ground zero (in other words, to a huge extent, it's none of my business), and d) the situation is what it is, and nothing will be gained at this point by demonizing one side or another. Better for everyone to move on, and learn to get along with one another. But you did ask.

That's why many feel that Irish has a better chance to survive and flourish outside of Ireland, where the political concerns no longer exist to any real extent, and where we're thus free to simply enjoy the language, the culture, and the heritage without either insulting someone or touching off a powder keg.

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PostPosted: Mon May 18, 2009 12:14 am 
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Great post, Redwolf, very insightful, and thank you!

There's an old Russian saying, however, that whomever could fail to keep one eye on the past and one eye on the future is a fool.

English could well be in Ireland's future, but Irish is known to be in Ireland's past, and present, including all Irish people.

The conflict between Ireland and Northern Ireland goes back a few hundred years or so, but the language is much older than that.

And, basically, that's why I couldn't see a connection between politics and the Irish language.

Indeed, as a commonality, perhaps a shared interest in the Irish language between these factions could only help to unite them.


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PostPosted: Mon May 18, 2009 11:12 pm 
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Redwolf wrote:
...Consequently, there's very little involving the Irish language that doesn't have political ramifications of some sort, regardless of where you happen to be in Ireland...


Update: Oh, now I'm beginning to see what you mean!

Until today most of my research of Gaeltacht regions were of the Dingle Peninsula and of the Connemara, both in the west of Ireland. However, today I looked at County Donegal, which then lead to looking at the city of Derry/Londonderry, and which then lead to looking at the whole of the Province of Ulster. There, moreover, perhaps political ramifications, as you referred to, could more accurately be described as walking on thin ice, or through a minefield, and although I was generally aware that there have been hostilities in that region for centuries, today I had a much closer look, spanning the past 350 years or so.

As a Gaeltacht region, County Donegal is an interesting place, but it also appears that some real boundaries could exist, there, too.


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PostPosted: Mon May 18, 2009 11:26 pm 
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Cork wrote:
Redwolf wrote:
...Consequently, there's very little involving the Irish language that doesn't have political ramifications of some sort, regardless of where you happen to be in Ireland...


Update: Oh, now I'm beginning to see what you mean!

Until today most of my research of Gaeltacht regions were of the Dingle Peninsula and of the Connemara, both in the west of Ireland. However, today I looked at County Donegal, which then lead to looking at the city of Derry/Londonderry, and which then lead to looking at the whole of the Province of Ulster. There, moreover, perhaps political ramifications, as you referred to, could more accurately be described as walking on thin ice, or through a minefield, and although I was generally aware that there have been hostilities in that region for centuries, today I had a much closer look, spanning the past 350 years or so.

As a Gaeltacht region, County Donegal is an interesting place, but it also appears that some real boundaries could exist, there, too.


Well, that looks at the issues in the north, to be sure, but you have to be aware that Irish is a politically charged issue in the south as well. There's the issue you yourself raised, for example, of trying to limit home purchases in Gaeltacht regions to Irish speakers. That's a huge political issue. There's the Gaelscoileanna controversy...on the one hand, parents clamoring for more Irish-medium schools, and on the other, powers that be in education trying to force Gaelscoileanna to teach through English in the early elementary grades. There's the fact that, although it's the first legal language of the nation, few elected representatives can speak it (An Uachtarán being a notable exception). There's been the push to get it recognized as an official EU language (which eventually succeeded, though it was an uphill battle). There are parents and students trying to get the Irish requirement removed from the LC. There is no part of the island of Ireland, north or south, where Irish isn't a political issue.

The issue in the six counties may be more of a powder keg, but it's important to understand that it's a political issue in the republic as well. The language has avid supporters in both places, but it also has people in both places who will sneer at you for having anything to do with it, and who will resent someone who is not an Irish national getting involved in the debate. That's just a reality of the language, I'm afraid.

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PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2009 12:12 am 
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Redwolf wrote:
...The issue in the six counties may be more of a powder keg, but it's important to understand that it's a political issue in the republic as well. The language has avid supporters in both places, but it also has people in both places who will sneer at you for having anything to do with it, and who will resent someone who is not an Irish national getting involved in the debate. That's just a reality of the language, I'm afraid...


<takes deep breath>

Whew!

OK, I'm beginning to get the picture. Fortunately, I'm not a party to any of the issues I've encountered, but there certainly are some things to be aware of.

Thanks for the insight!


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PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2009 2:44 am 
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Hello people. An example:

I was in university with a couple of girls from Derry (who taught me what little Irish I have - apparently I've got a strong Derry accent, would'ya believe it?). I sent one of them a letter, in those pre-email days of the early '90s, and addressed it in my attempt at Irish. Now, I'm Welsh and always address letters to Wales in Welsh or bilingually, and it isn't that big a deal here any more. When I saw Jen after the holiday she told me how upset her father had been, how dangerous it could be to receive such a letter with an Irish address. People noticed these things

Without trying to be overtly political, erm, life is political! It's especially political when you speak a minority or lesser-used language, and have to make a conscious effort to speak it and use it in contexts when that isn't always easy, popular or even possible. Bear in mind, too, that I'm talking about what you could justifiably class as our 'native' languages here - if you can't speak Welsh in Wales, or Irish in ireland, where can you speak it? But, of course, Welsh isn't the 'native' language for most people in Wales, as Irish isn't in Ireland.

Languages are so tied up with personal identity that they're bound to cause very strong feelings. You'll note that I said addressing letters in Welsh isn't 'that big a deal over here' - and certainly not as big a deal as ina a place where political violence was endemic. I qualified it 'cos it can still cause strong feelings in Wales, and, indeed, annoy a lot of people who can, perhaps, feel threatened as Welsh isn't part of their own, personal Welsh identity. Understandable - if you aren't brought up speaking Welsh, how is it relevant to you? Again, I've come across this in Ireland. And Scotland. And Brittany...

A really big issue with Gaeltachtai, and other enclaves of lesser used languages, is that of course we can't switch globalisation off. You need young people to WANT to speak a language which may well, to them, seem old-fashioned, boring and divorced from MTV and Manchester Utd and all the other influences going on in their lives. A geographical area can't stave off satellite TV and the internet. This is apart from the other political issues, of course!

:(

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PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2009 7:12 am 
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Redwolf wrote:
Because of that, the language has become associated, in many peoples' minds, with Irish republicanism.


You also have to remember that Irish was the language the Republicans used primarily when speaking to one another....it became the language of rebellion. And this wasn't hundreds of years ago...this was during the Civil war of the 1920s, and also during the Troubles in the North in the 1970s (and still today, according to many people I know in that area). Also, many people see those that want to bring the language back as it was as being far too "nationalistic". Keeping the culture intact, along with the language, is looked at as going backwards. If the Irish are to overcome those stereotypes about being so primitive, they have to lose the language, the music, the dancing...all of it. And these are absolutely issues being discussed on a regular basis in the country. Not just on a small level. So, it is very much political, which is really unfortunate.

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PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2009 2:07 pm 
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izzarina wrote:
You also have to remember that Irish was the language the Republicans used primarily when speaking to one another

Really?? I find that generalization very hard to believe, Izz, especially by the 70s; that Republican partisans would be any more fluent in Irish than the general population outside the Gaeltacht, and not communicate primarily in English - except for the "I have a little Irish" sort of thing that allows for demonstrating a badge of identity, and occasional code switching. Especially among rank and file, not early leadership enthusiasts of the Gaelic League, etc. And in the North, where there was no general Irish language education, which doesn't lead to the kind of fluency you're implying anyway. I'd like to know your sources or evidence to change my mind.

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PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2009 2:42 pm 
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I do know that Irish was the language of choice among the hunger strikers (they didn't always have good Irish, but they used whatever they did have out of preference). That's where we get "tiocfaidh ár lá" (which will, by the way, get you into big trouble in the wrong neighborhoods in the north) and the fact that a slang term for republicans is "Chuckies" ("tiocfaidh" being pronounced, roughly, "chuk-hee").

A friend of mine, who grew up in the six counties during the late 60s and early 70s, tells me that the language was very much equated with the Fenian movement. You had to be very careful about when and where you used it. Irish classes were offered in most major cities by the Gaelic League, and republicans did tend to study it and use it. In fact, when she would speak it around the house, her mother would get very angry and refer to it as "that Fenian language."

And, btw, she did study Irish in school. Schools in the north are divided along Catholic and Protestant lines, and Catholic schools have offered Irish classes for a very long time. She's around my age (and let's just say that I'm toddling steadily toward 50), and a fluent speaker.

Redwolf

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izzarina wrote:
You also have to remember that Irish was the language the Republicans used primarily when speaking to one another

Really?? I find that generalization very hard to believe, Izz, especially by the 70s; that Republican partisans would be any more fluent in Irish than the general population outside the Gaeltacht, and not communicate primarily in English - except for the "I have a little Irish" sort of thing that allows for demonstrating a badge of identity, and occasional code switching. Especially among rank and file, not early leadership enthusiasts of the Gaelic League, etc. And in the North, where there was no general Irish language education, which doesn't lead to the kind of fluency you're implying anyway. I'd like to know your sources or evidence to change my mind.

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PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2009 2:54 pm 
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Redwolf wrote:
I do know that Irish was the language of choice among the hunger strikers (they didn't always have good Irish, but they used whatever they did have out of preference).

I am informed (Rightly? Wrongly?) that a good deal of this was as best as they could do without knowing much in the way of grammar or pronunciation, so it sort of became an Irish-related patois in its own right and was termed "Gaolic" (pronounced "Jail-ic", for those of you who don't read British English well. :wink: ). Jocular, in a dark sort of way.

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