As a foreigner, I don’t speak Irish and have never learned it in school. I did make an attempt many years ago to learn it and bought a book and a few cassette tapes (it is THAT long ago!), but I don’t think I made it beyond the first lesson.
Why did I want to learn it? Well, if you move to a country where there is a different language than your own, you at least make an attempt and in addition there is this romanticised idea that it will come in handy somewhere.
But then you realise that ONLY English is needed in Ireland and that apart from some politically inspired publications, there is not even a proper newspaper available in Irish, which is a clear indication to me that the language has been given up.
Is it a terrible thing to give up language that is not useful anymore? Not at all! Otherwise we would all talk in Shakespearian English. Languages change and move, disappear and appear and even if there is history of a language, it does not mean that it HAS to be kept alive. On the other hand, there is NOTHING wrong with keeping it alive if there is sufficient interest and if people want to use it.
The “Oireachtas Standing Joint Committee on the Irish Language, the Gaeltacht and the Islands” was now told last Wednesday by Dr Brian Ó Curnáin from the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies that the number of Irish speakers is decreasing, that young people’s competence in the language even in the Gaeltacht is declining and that the Gaeltacht in its current state is not viable.
This has been reported by RTE.ie here.
It can’t really come as a surprise! Money is spent on Gaeltacht and on Irish language initiatives and the forced language teaching in Irish schools is still in place. But all this seems (to a non-involved observer) more like state-prescribed or forced programmes and not at all like genuine enthusiasm for the Irish language.
It seems that the language enthusiasm in Wales (for Welsh) is much bigger than in Ireland (for Gaelic). And considering that Welsh only became official language of Wales in 2011, that is some achievement. I am not sure what exactly was done in Wales to get there, but the system used in Ireland is clearly failing, so now the strategy needs to be changed OR maybe it should be considered to let Irish die?