How to learn a minority language - & how not to

Cai

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I've just spent the weekend at Plaid Cymru's annual conference in the genteel town of Llangollen (of international eisteddfod fame). A Plaid conference draws large numbers of people from all over the country, many of them Welsh speaking. Llangollen lies to the east of an old (roughly) north / south isopleth which traditionally divided Welsh speaking Wales from English speaking Wales. Llangollen is thus an English speaking town, & has been for a long time.

Now there were loads of people from the conference out eating in Llangollen last night. We were at a restaurant which had a Turkish waiter. He was getting along quite nicely with the groups of Welsh speakers in broken but perfectly passable Welsh. I asked him where he'd learnt Welsh, & he said that he used to work in a kebab joint in Blaenau Fffestiniog - a very different place to Llangollen. Blaenau is an old slate town, working class, rough - but on the other side of the isopleth. Nowdays it's one of the most Welsh speaking areas in the Dwyfor / Meirion area.

He'd learnt Welsh by standing around in a kebab place listening to the locals talking as they waited for their kebabs & pizzas (& from knowing the place, trying to reason with drunken customers & stopping them fighting late at night). I'm fairly sure that Welsh isn't part of the curriculum in Turkey - but it is in Wales, even in English speaking areas such as Llangollen. But most of the locals (in Llangollen) can't hold a conversation in Wales - although many of them would have recieved Welsh lessons from the age of four to sixteen. The guy from the other side of Europe can.

Surely there's a lesson in that little anecdote about how language aquisition works & how it doesn't work. Any thought as regards Irish.
 


PeaceGoalie

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I've just spent the weekend at Plaid Cymru's annual conference in the genteel town of Llangollen (of international eisteddfod fame). A Plaid conference draws large numbers of people from all over the country, many of them Welsh speaking. Llangollen lies to the east of an old (roughly) north / south isopleth which traditionally divided Welsh speaking Wales from English speaking Wales. Llangollen is thus an English speaking town, & has been for a long time.

Now there were loads of people from the conference out eating in Llangollen last night. We were at a restaurant which had a Turkish waiter. He was getting along quite nicely with the groups of Welsh speakers in broken but perfectly passable Welsh. I asked him where he'd learnt Welsh, & he said that he used to work in a kebab joint in Blaenau Fffestiniog - a very different place to Llangollen. Blaenau is an old slate town, working class, rough - but on the other side of the isopleth. Nowdays it's one of the most Welsh speaking areas in the Dwyfor / Meirion area.

He'd learnt Welsh by standing around in a kebab place listening to the locals talking as they waited for their kebabs & pizzas (& from knowing the place, trying to reason with drunken customers & stopping them fighting late at night). I'm fairly sure that Welsh isn't part of the curriculum in Turkey - but it is in Wales, even in English speaking areas such as Llangollen. But most of the locals (in Llangollen) can't hold a conversation in Wales - although many of them would have recieved Welsh lessons from the age of four to sixteen. The guy from the other side of Europe can.

Surely there's a lesson in that little anecdote about how language aquisition works & how it doesn't work. Any thought as regards Irish.
He had a motive to learn it. Ordinary Joe or Mehemt Soaps also have to have a reason. I've spoken Irish in Dublin recently with Japanese and, in the past, with Belgians and Vietnamese who spkak scores of languages and pick them up for hobbies. In the Gaeltacht, I met guys who learned it by working on building sites: tabhair dom on casur etc. Total immersion, regular practice or learn it as a hobby
 

redneck

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I think part of the answer for Gaelic is creating "Mini Gaeltachts" in the towns. That is a street or small area set aside for the use of the language.
Belfast has one. It needs careful thought though. Slán agus beannacht libh go léir.
 

Toland

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I've just spent the weekend at Plaid Cymru's annual conference in the genteel town of Llangollen (of international eisteddfod fame). A Plaid conference draws large numbers of people from all over the country, many of them Welsh speaking. Llangollen lies to the east of an old (roughly) north / south isopleth which traditionally divided Welsh speaking Wales from English speaking Wales. Llangollen is thus an English speaking town, & has been for a long time.

Now there were loads of people from the conference out eating in Llangollen last night. We were at a restaurant which had a Turkish waiter. He was getting along quite nicely with the groups of Welsh speakers in broken but perfectly passable Welsh. I asked him where he'd learnt Welsh, & he said that he used to work in a kebab joint in Blaenau Fffestiniog - a very different place to Llangollen. Blaenau is an old slate town, working class, rough - but on the other side of the isopleth. Nowdays it's one of the most Welsh speaking areas in the Dwyfor / Meirion area.

He'd learnt Welsh by standing around in a kebab place listening to the locals talking as they waited for their kebabs & pizzas (& from knowing the place, trying to reason with drunken customers & stopping them fighting late at night). I'm fairly sure that Welsh isn't part of the curriculum in Turkey - but it is in Wales, even in English speaking areas such as Llangollen. But most of the locals (in Llangollen) can't hold a conversation in Wales - although many of them would have recieved Welsh lessons from the age of four to sixteen. The guy from the other side of Europe can.

Surely there's a lesson in that little anecdote about how language aquisition works & how it doesn't work. Any thought as regards Irish.
The Basques put the football on the telly in Basque -- even Betis vs. Real Madrid. Their figures for speakers are about as good as you could expect them to be in the one and a half generations since Franco cashed in his chips.
 

Cellachán Chaisil

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I've just spent the weekend at Plaid Cymru's annual conference in the genteel town of Llangollen (of international eisteddfod fame). A Plaid conference draws large numbers of people from all over the country, many of them Welsh speaking. Llangollen lies to the east of an old (roughly) north / south isopleth which traditionally divided Welsh speaking Wales from English speaking Wales. Llangollen is thus an English speaking town, & has been for a long time.

Now there were loads of people from the conference out eating in Llangollen last night. We were at a restaurant which had a Turkish waiter. He was getting along quite nicely with the groups of Welsh speakers in broken but perfectly passable Welsh. I asked him where he'd learnt Welsh, & he said that he used to work in a kebab joint in Blaenau Fffestiniog - a very different place to Llangollen. Blaenau is an old slate town, working class, rough - but on the other side of the isopleth. Nowdays it's one of the most Welsh speaking areas in the Dwyfor / Meirion area.

He'd learnt Welsh by standing around in a kebab place listening to the locals talking as they waited for their kebabs & pizzas (& from knowing the place, trying to reason with drunken customers & stopping them fighting late at night). I'm fairly sure that Welsh isn't part of the curriculum in Turkey - but it is in Wales, even in English speaking areas such as Llangollen. But most of the locals (in Llangollen) can't hold a conversation in Wales - although many of them would have recieved Welsh lessons from the age of four to sixteen. The guy from the other side of Europe can.

Surely there's a lesson in that little anecdote about how language aquisition works & how it doesn't work. Any thought as regards Irish.
Immersion, immersion, immersion. It's the golden ticket to language learning.
 

Cellachán Chaisil

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I think part of the answer for Gaelic is creating "Mini Gaeltachts" in the towns. That is a street or small area set aside for the use of the language.
Belfast has one. It needs careful thought though. Slán agus beannacht libh go léir.
Would be an excellent idea, but can't see it happening.
 

GrainneDee

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I think part of the answer for Gaelic is creating "Mini Gaeltachts" in the towns. That is a street or small area set aside for the use of the language.
Belfast has one. It needs careful thought though. Slán agus beannacht libh go léir.
You can't "create" a Gaeltacht. People have to want to speak it, and when they do, an area can become a Gaeltacht.

Look, in Wales they are big into the language because they don't independence, and it's one of the ways they can assert their difference from the English. We don't need to do that, so we don't have the motivation to use Irish.

I've been teaching languages for thirty five years, and even with modern languages that are spoken as the everyday language in their particular countries, it's difficult to motivate Anglophones to learn them and to become proficient in them. It's almost impossible to motivate Anglophones to learn a language that they know is rarely used; they are more likely to use French or German or Spanish than Irish, that is the unfortunate reality.

One thing that might help is to give young people the chance to spend more time in the Gaeltacht. My daughter struggled with Irish for years, but probably learned more Irish in 3 weeks on Oileán Cléire than in the previous ten years. But it's expensive for parents to send them there. If there were more scholarships or grants available, it would be a big help. She also attended an Irish language youth club, and had fun through Irish without even thinking about it.

The OP is right- the best way to learn a language is to use it in ordinary life, and to have a reason to learn it, like the Turkish waiter. We've a long way to go to get to that point, but the government could do more to encourage people to have contact with Irish as a living language.
 

Irish-Rationalist

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People don't go to Wales to learn or use the language.

 
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I can't recommend this book enough:

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/nov/28/lingo-a-language-spotters-guide-to-europe-by-gaston-dorren-review-learned-and-pleasantly-ironic

It's a not entirely scholalrly trip through the languages of Europe. It features a devastating chapter on the Irish language in which all efforts to revive it are dissected and shown to have achieved the opposite to these aims.

There is also a wonderful story of one Scandinavian language about which linguists are unsure regarding its status as a live language. It is spoken by only two people, but they had a fight some years ago and they don't speak to each other any more. Live or dead?
 

stopdoingstuff

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For documents, they could use Babelfish, or the special version for Welsh, Baaaaabelfish.
 

automaticforthepeople

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After BREXIT English will become a minority language in the EU. It seems the BREXIT negotiations will be held through French, we effectively speak our own version of English anyway, we don't use words like shall or fetch or ought.
 

Hunter-Gatherer

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Lets restrict dole entitlement to only those able to speak Gaeilge up to , say, junior cert level.
 

Mercurial

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I've just spent the weekend at Plaid Cymru's annual conference in the genteel town of Llangollen (of international eisteddfod fame). A Plaid conference draws large numbers of people from all over the country, many of them Welsh speaking. Llangollen lies to the east of an old (roughly) north / south isopleth which traditionally divided Welsh speaking Wales from English speaking Wales. Llangollen is thus an English speaking town, & has been for a long time.

Now there were loads of people from the conference out eating in Llangollen last night. We were at a restaurant which had a Turkish waiter. He was getting along quite nicely with the groups of Welsh speakers in broken but perfectly passable Welsh. I asked him where he'd learnt Welsh, & he said that he used to work in a kebab joint in Blaenau Fffestiniog - a very different place to Llangollen. Blaenau is an old slate town, working class, rough - but on the other side of the isopleth. Nowdays it's one of the most Welsh speaking areas in the Dwyfor / Meirion area.

He'd learnt Welsh by standing around in a kebab place listening to the locals talking as they waited for their kebabs & pizzas (& from knowing the place, trying to reason with drunken customers & stopping them fighting late at night). I'm fairly sure that Welsh isn't part of the curriculum in Turkey - but it is in Wales, even in English speaking areas such as Llangollen. But most of the locals (in Llangollen) can't hold a conversation in Wales - although many of them would have recieved Welsh lessons from the age of four to sixteen. The guy from the other side of Europe can.

Surely there's a lesson in that little anecdote about how language aquisition works & how it doesn't work. Any thought as regards Irish.
Learning on the job is actually a pretty bad way to pick up a new language - it is often stressful for the learner and they tend to only learn enough to get by, doing the particular work they're required to do. The waiter in your example may have been able to carry on a conversation with customers about ordering food and whatnot, but many people in his position wouldn't be able to speak about much beyond that with any degree of comfort.
 

Mercurial

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After BREXIT English will become a minority language in the EU. It seems the BREXIT negotiations will be held through French, we effectively speak our own version of English anyway, we don't use words like shall or fetch or ought.
I think we could make fetch happen...
 

JCR

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After BREXIT English will become a minority language in the EU. It seems the BREXIT negotiations will be held through French, we effectively speak our own version of English anyway, we don't use words like shall or fetch or ought.
Whom are the "we" you refer to? In Ireland sometimes English can be spoken very badly, but that is not "our own version", it is merely incorrect.
 


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