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Trauma, and The Irish Language

The Irish Language

Irish people are traumatised, distraught, and brought to tears at the thought of learning to speak the Irish language. That’s what some people in Ireland tell themselves. Read through Loren’s experience which he emailed us (with permission to post here, and updated to fix that Loren is a “he”!), and our reply below:

I’m concerned. Excited about Irish, I began establishing communication with people in Ireland. Overwhelmingly, however, I’ve not only received discouragement but utter disdain for the language. So many people already seem to discount it for dead, find it impractical to learn, and have no interest in a renaissance.

I recently had a talk with a guy who seemed, if anything, traumatized from his experience growing up and being forced to study the language for 14 years. So bitter was his experience, he refuses to speak it at all. “I’ve done my time,” he said.

According to him, this narrative is quite common, that even little children can be found in tears when they are put into this class. He said this bitterness is so pervasive that Ireland is struggling to find Irish teachers.

If policies to preserve Irish only end up embittering the youth, how can Irish survive? What do you think? How might Ireland change its approach so that Irish can be loved rather then feared and that it might prosper in the 21st century?

My heart breaks imagining a future in which yet another treasure of this world is lost.

Hope you have some comforting words.


As with many things in life, each of us has the freedom to give in, or the freedom to do something. I get the impression from Loren that he’s enthusiastic has has the energy to do something.

You exercise your freedom to give in when you sit on your couch, take out a loan, watch TV for six hours, pop your pills, eat from factories, and when you tell yourself it’s not worth doing something.

You exercise your freedom to do something when you stand up, move, go for a walk, learn a new word, keep in touch with friends, meet your neighbours, smile, and when you tell yourself it’s worth the effort to do something.

To this person who Lauren was speaking to, I would ask him: Are you that traumatised and bitter about geography? Geography is taught by the same teachers in the same classrooms to the same children. By that reckoning, the poor little kids’ hearts will be palpitating at the mention of cirrus clouds or river bed sediment. (And, no, he’s not so traumatised by geography.)

Obviously, there’s something about learning the Irish language that some people in modern Irish associate with negatively. But I don’t think it’s do to with the class itself, not in modern Ireland… education 70 years ago was indeed a different story. Indeed, what’s actually upsetting them is what these people are telling themselves, telling each other, and telling their children.

It’s interesting how ideas can last for many generations. You can’t even blame these people. They’ve been told the same storyline passively by their parents, and it’s the attitude toward the Irish language that they pass on to their kids. An example I have is when our first son came along, and he was being spoken to at home in Irish, in Slovenian, and then in English at daycare. Three Irish people separately asked me, “Won’t he be confused?”. This particular fear they have isn’t out of the blue, it’s something that they’ve picked up implicitly in English-speaking Ireland.

Loren also asked us:

Is the government directly counteracting the language or indirectly through political and bureaucratic entanglement?

Well… yes. This is not a big conspiracy theory. It’s simply a fact that most in government and state bodies represent the majority of Ireland. They speak English every day, so that is their reality. Yes, the Irish nation state is weakening the Irish language, but not through intently malicious actions.

Does Irish Gaelic have a future? First, who knows?! Second, it will survive in the “cracks and crevices” of Irish society, as Conn Ó Muíneacháin discussed in our podcast 48.

If the Irish language has a future or not should not actually be of much concern to you. What you should concern yourself with is what you can do about it.

Learn a new word of Irish Gaelic. Learn to express yourself little by little in Ireland’s native language, the language and culture of your ancestors. Get off the couch. Go for a walk. And when you’re back from your long walk, take just one Bitesize lesson in Irish Gaelic by getting your free trial of our Irish Gaelic program, already!

9 thoughts on “Trauma, and The Irish Language”

  1. Its is a conspiracy. Have you even heard of new world order? “wake up call new world order documentary” search it up. This isn’t tin foil hat stuff. The elite of this world want to OWN you. Culture has gone down the drain like marriage, money, and everything else.

    Do you realize that people are exposed to all sorts of chemicals, bad GMO food, tainted water, and also major media run propaganda? Its no wonder kids, or anybody, have a hard time learning, with so much against them.

    This problem is wayyyy bigger than anyone commenting on this website. Think about it.

  2. The only way ahead is just learning a phrase every now and then and then using it…..”even in the heart of the enemy” … bars in London and New York, for example.
    Why everyone seems to want to learn English is beyond me…..if you try to use Dutch in Holland or Danish in Copenhagen they always insist on replying to you in English…in India, every second person seems to speak it fluently. It is NOT the English doing this, just as in Ireland.It is the local people themselves who will happily slag off the English nation and people while insisting on turning themselves into good little “Anglos”
    Stop blaming “The English”; they gave up colonization long ago and are reduced to starting micro breweries as an act of atonement for their evil ways……it is the rest of us who are to blame for our mad lemming like enthusiasm for what was originally an obscure German dialect from Angeln in Schleswig,Germany

  3. God bless you,Loren! NEVER GIVE IN! It’s unbelievable.People whining and wingeing about being taught their own language. Have you ever heard of a Frenchman complaining “It’so terrible.I’m being tortured! For years they made me learn French at school!” Or even the English,the persecutors of the Irish for 800 years,and still today in English-occupied Northern Ireland,can you imagine an Englishman saying,”For years I’ve been tortured every day at school. They’re making me learn English! I can’t wait to leave school,and speak a decent language.Like Irish. Or French. Or Bulgarian” It’s crazy. Don’t give in,Loren! Irish Catholics are the best people.(And we are Catholic,not atheists.)Irish is the best language,it’s ours,given to us by God. I pray that you’ll learn to speak fluent Irish! I pray I will,too! Tiocfaidh ar la!

  4. Michael MacFaden

    Watch tg4 series ‘No Béarla’ you can find it on YouTube. Fechim daoibh ag clár ‘No Béarla’ sa YouTube.

  5. Thank you for this article/post. It is so sad to witness the death/decline of a language, and largely this is attributable to the associated cultural death – often caused by the forced sublimation of the people by the dominant colonisers (Africa; America; Canada; Australia etc, etc). We see it in so many countries around the world, it has been thoroughly researched, yet it is not publicly acknowledged. I agree with others who have commented here – that salvation lies in redeeming pride! It is in the hands of those who take pride in our heritage rather than assuming/succumbing to the false stereotypes which were manufactured in order to suppress our ancestors. I have instilled this into my children, openly discussing these concepts with them and allowing them to become aware that stereotypes are merely that: false labels used by people to control & demean others.
    Thank you so much for your dedication to this culture/language,
    Gail Hickey

  6. Dia dhuit I am an American with all my ancestry Irish. I love to hear Irish Gaelic, spoken or sung and am laerning a bit. Through my love of Yeats poetry I have been learning some Irish history and the ferocity of the abuses the English perpetrated on the Irish, on my ancestors is stunning. Unfortunately the psychic children of abuse can be self abuse. Most likely Irish will continue to mostly grow at the edges, in the margins, where creativity always prospers. Thanks, Brian

  7. I just recently read The Broken Harp: Identity and Language in Modern Ireland by Tomás Mac Síomóin, which suggests that the dysfunctional relationship the Irish have with their native language has much to do with the psychological baggage of centuries of colonization. It’s a powerful essay, and I highly recommend it. Even if you may not agree with the overall premise, there is much food for thought.

    Another factor worth discussing is the evolution of pedagogical techniques for teaching language. I bet that a lot the “trauma” from learning Irish had to do with the rigid and unfriendly teaching techniques that were in place. There is a lot of recent research about how to get students actively engaged in learning, and how detrimental it can be to try to force students to learn language in a rote and rigid manner.


  8. Dia dhuit

    That’s very interesting! Ive heard similar stuff about Irish people being forced to learn Irish in schools but I agree with Eoin, geography wasn’t traumatizing and it has more to do with cultural shaming of the language. Perhaps we need to inspire a movement about how cool Irish is and attitudes will change.

    I’ve recently met Irish people in Australia through a friend and told them Im learning Irish and they said “why would I want to do that?” One guy, who’s now moving in as a house mate, finally spoke Irish to me after saying he couldnt speak it. He’s a very friendly guy and I think our discussion might be making him think twice about the worth of his native language. So that’s how I’m contributing to keeping the langage alive – by learning it myself and inspiring Irish people to re-embrace it 🙂

    Slán go fóill

    1. QUOTE:
      Is the government directly counteracting the language or indirectly through political and bureaucratic entanglement?

      Yes, its is NWO new world order. Google up September Clues Documentary, or Agenda 21 for dummies, or even the zeitgeist documentaries.

      The people who run this world want to turn you into a slave!! And many people don’t care!!!

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