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What Is a Native Irish Language Speaker? (Ep. 70)

What Is a Native Irish Language Speaker? (Ep. 70)

In this episode of the “new” Bitesize Irish Gaelic Podcast, Eoin talks about what does it take to be “a native Irish language speaker” and also tackles a few other heavy topics such as the future of Irish Gaelic, and relation between Irish & other similar languages .

You too can record a question for Eoin. Just head on to the Bitesize Irish Gaelic Podcast page and record your audio message.

At the beginning of the 70th Bitesize Irish Gaelic Podcast episode, Eoin share a few recommendations on how to think of a proper question and record it for us to answer.

What is a native Irish language Speaker? – this came as a reply to the email from Amanda: “I am from Connemara Gaeltach and your accent is not native.”

Bitesize Irish Gaelic Podcast 70th episode show notes:

  • By 1891, 680,000 people spoke it. [Source]
  • In 2016, 1.7% of people of Ireland spoke Irish dialy outside of education system. And only 20,000 (or 28%) of those people live in the Gaeltacht regions! [Source (PDF)] 2017 Irish Census.

Native Irish language Speaker show notes:

What is native?

  • Dictionary:
    • Being the place or environment in which a person was born or a thing came into being:
      • Came into being. All of Ireland. Or do we restrict that now to the Gaeltach regions?
    • belonging to a person by birth or to a thing by nature; inherent:
      • Mother tongue. That is my mother tongue. I am a native speaker.
    • belonging by birth to a people regarded as indigenous to a certain place, especially a preliterate people

What is not native?

  • A speaker of the Irish language who spoke English first
  • A stretch of an argument: Irish is not native to Ireland, it’s a blow-in language that killed of probably a multitude of other ancient languages
  • Urban Irish
    • Belfast
      • Irish quarter
      • Vibrant community
    • Simplified
    • English-Influenced, as French influenced Enlgish with X% amount of words

What is a valid type of Irish to learn?

  • Things are never A or B, but let me simplify the question to the following:
    • Would you prefer that people learn the Irish that was native, spoken say in 1600, which even that has imported Viking and French words.
    • Or would you like to learn to speak one of the Irishes that are spoken today, heard on Raidió na Gaeltachta?

Don’t forget that you too can record a question for Eoin. Just head on to the Bitesize Irish Gaelic Podcast page and record your audio message.

4 thoughts on “What Is a Native Irish Language Speaker? (Ep. 70)”

  1. Dear Eoin, thank you for all the amazing work you’re doing for the Irish language. You’re doing an amazing job and I hope you keep it up for a very long time. You are an amazing advocate for Irish and a refreshing, uplifting and informative online presence.

    As a linguist/language analyst (PhD level) it would seem to me that there are a few native dialects of Irish as you say, including newer (also native) ones where the pronunciation has changed (lost some of the broad/slender distinctions on consonants, incorporated the English /r/ etc). This does not mean that these forms are a creole (a nativised pidgin) or a non-native form of the language (learnt imperfectly as a second language). It’s still native (with total first language fluency and width of expression), still grammatically complex, still filled with core Irish lexical items, still idiomatically Irish in its turn of phrases, and as you say, still proudly Irish.

    It is different to Irish learnt later in life by native English speakers due to big distinctions in fluency, consistency of pronunciation and nativeness (deeply embedded nature of it).

    This is comparable to the history of English, where English underwent even more radical change through domination by the Danish and French at different times… where it lost entire grammatical categories, borrowed tens of thousands of words – even borrowing into its core vocabulary in the case of Danish, and it almost became extinct under the Normans .. finally it emerged as quite a different language. Something often not known my modern people.

    Compared to that, the change in some forms of Irish pronunciation is relatively small-scale change. That is, newer dialects are still mutually intelligible with other dialects, exactly as you say.

    Language politics is divisive and silly hey. If anyone has Irish, let them just use it.

    Keep up the great work!! I love your upbeat, inclusive, and positive attitude. Go raibh maith agat.


    1. Hi Stephen, thanks for the upvote! Very interesting to hear your perspective, with the example of the English language almost going extinct, and going through massive changes in the process.

  2. Mary Deirdre Martin

    Hi Eoin,

    Go raibh mille maith agat for your Podcast “What is a Native Irish Language speaker?”
    You provide excellent information, and your explanations are quite helpful.

    1. Hi Mary Deirdre,

      Many thanks for taking the time to leave feedback.
      Always great to hear and I will pass your kind words onto Eoin.

      Go raibh míle maith agat
      Paula at Bitesize

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