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Is the Irish Language Relevant to Irish People? (Ep. 74)

A listener question sparks an interesting topic – is the Irish language relevant to Irish people (compared to the U.S. for example). But before we go deeper in finding the answer, we first need to know what exactly defines the “Irish people”.

When answering this question, we should see the “Irish people” not as someone living in the Gaeltacht or someone who speaks Irish daily, but as someone who lives in the city, brought up by Irish parents.

If you prefer a smaller, video version of the main discussion in this podcast – is the Irish language relevant to Irish people, we recommend the following video record by Eoin.

Is the Irish Language Relevant to Irish People?


Bitesize Irish Gaelic Podcast Episode 74 Show notes

  • Tim asked:
    • “Is the Irish language at all relevant to the actual people of Ireland? Somehow, I feel like we over here [States] make a bigger deal of our “Irishness” than do the actual Irish.”
  • Assumption
    • We’re speaking about a person who doesn’t speak Irish daily. They just work and live in the city, for example. Assuming an Irish person who was brought up in Ireland to Irish parents.
  • Quick answer: on a practical daily life, Irish people probably reasonably don’t find the Irish language relevant to them. But it probably gets much more complicated and personal if you ask them on a more abstract level like “How would you feel if in Ireland not a single person remained who was able to speak or understand the Irish language? Would you feel a sense of loss?”
  • What’s relevance? There’s different aspect to it!
    • Applicable to daily life
      • Job
        • No, generally not. People work through English.
      • School
        • Spoke Irish with a kid after school. He said “I don’t want to speak Irish”. So for him, the Irish language was compartmentalised.
      • Entertainment
        • Probably not relevant mostly. They’ll watch Netflix, YouTube, go to the cinema, radio. All through English presumably.
    • Reality
      • Signs
      • Placenames
    • Sense of others “wasting resources” with the Irish language
      • Friend, told me a story of a lady who got her car test certificate in Irish
      • Smugly said she got it, but then she nor the mechanic knew what was to be fixed
      • So it should be a practical solution
      • You do have the right in Ireland to speak Irish
    • Sense of value?
      • More personal
      • And it’s part of relate areas, like Irish traditional music. You can’t extract one and still have the other.
    • Identity
      • Irishness. I think we see this more with emigrant-based societies, like USA and Australia, because you don’t have your identity necessarily defined for you. You have to go look for it.
      • https://twitter.com/Seananocoistin/status/1029668209157394433?s=20
      • Very different to someone growing up in Ireland. They assume their Irish identity. But of course it’s very personal. You identify with family, certain friends, sports, interests, hobbies, perspectives of life.
  • Conclusion
    • The question is not is the Irish language relevant. Its, is it relevant to you?

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2 thoughts on “Is the Irish Language Relevant to Irish People? (Ep. 74)”

  1. MICHAEL MacFaden

    Not mentioned in the podcast, the role GAA plays to keep the language relevant right? I listened last Saturday to the Hurling match. Comhghairdeas Luimnigh!

    Here in SF the Irish language crowns all the activities, music, art, and dance,
    So agree with your comments about where the language is most part of.

    When your kids are older they will learn about tally sticks, an Gorta Mór, Cromwell, and Penal laws. I would be curious to learn how your son will feel about his language in that context.

    Is aoibhinn liomsa Bitesize, go raibh míle maith agat.

    Ní tír gan teanga…
    Slán agus beannacht a Eóin

    1. A Mhíchíl, a chara,

      thanks for much for sharing your thoughts, and for recording them as a audio question. I’ll be addressing your questions in a future episode.

      The GAA is certainly part of the “ecosystem”, which can’t hurt.

      Interesting question about how people perceive the language through the context of history. I think that you’re implying that that makes it all the more important 🙂


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