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!