Let me frank about the Irish language and the bigger picture of biodiversity. Usually, I’m Eoin, but today I’ll be Frank.
- Earth’s biodiversity has fallen below “safe levels”.
- The Gaeltacht areas are shrinking faster than expected.
- The language of today’s Ireland is English.
- The accent of today’s Ireland is Californian (yeah buddy!)
- The grammar of the Irish language might no longer matters so much.
- People in the Gaeltacht might not speak Irish with you.
- Immersion is the best way to learn a language, and that’s exactly how people outside of English-speaking countries are learning English.
- The Irish language is in great danger.
- Sea levels are going up. Current predictions up to 2 metres (6 feet) in the next 100 years.
- Bees are dying. Bats are dying. Species are going extinct at a rate of mass-extinction that does not lie in with Earth’s “normality”.
- Even the Irish language is an invader in Ireland. It killed the languages that came before it, that were possibly in Ireland for 5,000 years before it.
Am I being Frank enough?
It’s all connected. It would be ludicrous to deny that the Irish language is in danger. It would be absurd to think that your children’s children will live in the same world you currently do.
Irish Language Word Biodiversity
Manchán Mangan is an interesting dude. You could easily brand him as a “travel journalist”. He lives in a house made of straw bales.
And he’s “preserving the Irish language one word at a time“.
I listened to him describe this on Irish radio. His idea is that if he meets you he gives you an endangered Irish word to love an protect. You become the guardian of that word.
The reason is that the Irish language is losing many a lovely word that its speakers had to describe the world around them.
I’ll be Frank again. As an Irish language speaker in Ireland, I probably have 10% of the vocabulary that an Irish speaker had 2,000 years ago. Maybe 3%.
Here are words I wanted to use in Irish lately, but just didn’t have it coming to mind:
Love it or hate it, urban Irish is a reduced form of the Irish language, and it is what I speak.
2 Million Speakers… of Slovene
I was in Slovenia during this summer. That’s the country of my wife Saša.
During a meal with family friends, I used a little bit of Slovene language. One Slovene business man told me:
Don’t be stupid trying to learn the Slovene language. We’re a tiny country. We only have 2 million speakers. Just speak English to us.
Guess what? The Irish language probably has 30,000 daily speakers or less. That’s a CRAZY low number. It’s at the point of sheer endangerment.
A million people “speak” Irish, but a fraction of them could understand a native Irish Gaelic speaker in a conversation.
For every reader of an article like this one, there will be often a person who says “don’t look at the negative side, you’re ruining the language, it’s not constructive”.
I’m not so sure. The points above are reality. If you don’t agree with one of them, it might be an argument of semantics. Or you might be simply fooling yourself.
If you don’t agree with the current reality of the language of your ancestors, you can live in a bubble of rose-tinted glasses.
Wolves and Bears and Elks
A really short time ago (let’s say 14,000 years ago), Ireland was under glaciers and ice. It was the last ice age.
Really soon after that, the ice cleared. Funnily enough, humans were just at that time becoming agricultural.
7,000 years ago the first humans arrived in Ireland for the first time ever. It was a land of trees and birds and insects. There were surely no “fields”.
Wolves roamed the land. Bears roamed Ireland. Elks (deer) with massive antlers walked around. Eagles soared overhead.
They were killed and made extinct. The trees were cleared (some blame the British for this, but that’s a huge over-simplification of what us humans have done to the land of Ireland).
Let me emphasise once again: this article is about bringing our conversation about the Irish language and Irish culture to reality.
This is not meant to be negative. It’s meant to WAKE YOU UP as to the seriousness of the situation. The Irish language is one little symptom of a global trend.
So what? Do you give up and except brittle mono-culturism? Nope, not at all.
Here’s where you step in. Be a little part of your culture’s biodiversity. Do make the Irish language part of your daily life. Do be aware that Earth’s human population is moving towards mono-culturism. That’s not important, what is much more important is to be aware that Earth’s natural biodiveristy has shrunk, and we’re the cause. We haven’t seen the beginning of it, and we haven’t seen the end of it.
What Stoics like Seneca would tell us is that it’s not actually so important what’s happening around us. Death is much closer to each of us than being drowned in a flood caused by an overly-energetic climate, for example. The only thing that matters is what you control. That that comes down to how you think every day. It comes down to that little thing you can do today to expose yourself to the Irish language.