…Long live the Gaeltacht.
Considerably large parts of the map of Ireland are dedicated to “Gaeltacht” areas. The Gaeltacht areas are those parts of Ireland where it was deemed over the years that Irish Gaelic was the predominant community language in those areas.
The borders of these Gaeltacht regions are outdated.
Out of 155 “electoral areas” in the Gaeltacht, only 14% of those areas (21 of them) are where Irish Gaelic is still spoken daily by two-thirds of the community in 2015.
In May 2015, an authoritative report said that social use of the Irish language is declining at an even more rapid rate than predicted in 2007.
The Gaeltacht is dead.
A Weekend in the Kerry Gaeltacht
This summer, we as a family spent a long weekend on the Dingle peninsula. An absolutely beautiful part of Ireland. Well-worth visiting.
We stayed at a B&B on the peninsula.
In the house, there was a young school-aged kid. He speaks Irish Gaelic natively. He and our kid played away in Irish Gaelic, which was great to hear.
But today, there are only remnants of the Gaeltacht around him. At the very tip of the peninsula, the community does indeed speak Irish Gaelic. In tiny villages, you’ll hear this.
Even in the larger “towns” on the peninsula (where there are a couple of hundred people living), the English language is the community language these days.
The Irish language will dwindle for a long time in the traditional Gaeltacht areas. It won’t suddenly disappear from memory.
Irish Gaelic is Not Dead
Have a look at this up-beat video about Irish Gaelic in Dublin city (thanks David!). They state that there are more Irish Gaelic speakers there now than there has been in a long time:
“Urban Irish Gaelic” is not a remedy for dead Gaeltacht areas. The premise is that Irish language speakers network in an English-language dominated city.
It does seems to be the way of the future. The language will survive in “nooks and crannies” of society, as Conn Ó Muinneachán described in our podcast episode.
Don’t underestimate the energy that is behind the language. It has jumped a generation. Through organisations, many young Irish people are interacting through the language.
What can you do? Don’t give up, that’s not the point. It’s what you can do.
As Dineen Grow said on our podcast, start something. Learn a little Irish Gaelic each day. Take our Bitesize Irish Gaelic free trial to start now. Share your learnings online. Look for other people in your area who would also be interested in meeting up.
And when you do visit Ireland, show the locals that you’ve spent the effort to learn a couple of phrases, or more, of their language. You’ll get smiles. And you might just help the language a little bit further.
(The report discussed is “NUASHONRÚ AR AN STAIDÉAR CUIMSITHEACH TEANGEOLAÍOCH AR ÚSÁID NA GAEILGE SA GHAELTACHT: 2006 – 2011” (2005) by Conchúr Ó Giollagáin and Martin Charlton. Here’s the PDF in Irish Gaelic.)
(The map graphic is adapted from Wikipedia, under a Creative Commons license CC BY-SA 3.0).