The Irish language, back for good

We know through our own SEVENTYMILLION social network (www.seventymillion.com) that there are efforts across the global Irish community to learn and keep up the Irish language.  One day soon, we hope to have a blog in Irish, but for now we’ll have to make do with one about the Irish language written in English.

Apparently, the Irish language is witnessing a re-birth (’Ireland’s Language Dilemma‘ by Don Duncan).  In Irish education, the fastest growing sector is ‘gaelscoileanna’ – schools where all the lessons are taught in  Irish.  Gaelscoileanna make-up 5% of schools but their numbers have tripled since the early 1990s.  Today, between 5 and 10% of the 4.2 million people living in Ireland speak Irish on a daily basis, and many of those are students who speak it in school.

But as the language has been rejuvenating itself over the past twenty years there’s been another dynamic happening in Ireland – immigration.  More and more foreigners (from China, Nigeria, Poland, etc) have been arriving on the back of the Celtic Tiger:  In fact between the late 1980s and today, the percentage of foreign-born residents in Ireland grew from around 1% to almost 12%.

Ireland has an obligation to integrate its increasingly immigrant population and it’d be nice to think that all can be a part of this new interest in the Irish language.  This beautiful and poetic tongue could be used as a tool to bring disparate peoples together and unite them with a shared interest in the land they live.

And if you don’t quite know what I’m getting at, here’s something someone overheard in Dublin recently, which sums up a possible language dilemma in Ireland nicely:

“I was standing at a bus stop on O’Connell Street. There were two girls beside me talking in Irish to each other. Next thing you know, two local Dubliners walk by and hear the two girls talking. One of the Dubliners looks at the two girls and says -

”Hey f**k off back to yer own country”.

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