The Irish Language in 2016: Radical steps for revitalisation or time for formal disengagement by the State?

diy01

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The Irish Language in 2016: Radical steps for revitalisation or time for formal disengagement by the State?

Isn't it well past time that there was a national conversation on the place that the Irish language should occupy in Irish national life? Although Irish can stir up feelings of excitement, patriotism and cultural pride, it can also cause feelings of resentment, alienation and, above all...indifference!

What role should Irish play in the education system? What services should be available to Irish-speaking citizens without exception? How should official bilingualism operate in practice? Should Irish retain its current status as the "national language" in the Constitution? Is too much spent on Irish by the government? Too little?

Below, I propose five fairly radical steps for language revitalisation in the Irish context, followed by five steps for official DISENGAGEMENT. If most people are content to let Irish fade away, then the government should act and stop the pretense about caring for Irish. It should do this by taking definitive action pertaining to the role of Irish in the State. Enough with the tokenism and the ideology of the cúpla focal.

If, on the other hand, there is widespread enthusiasm for genuine revitalisation and official bilingualism worthy of the name, the government should act decisively while there is still time...

Numerous studies published over the past decade provide conclusive evidence that Irish is under immense pressure as a native/first language passed on from generation to generation, with a chance that Irish may cease to be the main language of communication in all Gaeltacht districts within 10-15 years. This is not the same as language death (Irish is not endangered in the since of possibly losing all fluent Irish speakers and Irish-speaking households), but what is at stake are the communities needed to sustain a language indefinitely.

There is too much apathy and government inertia on this topic...it's time for a truly national dialogue on the issue of Irish and its place in the country.

I propose five fairly radical steps for language revitalisation in the Irish context, followed by five steps for official DISENGAGEMENT. If most people are content to let Irish fade away, then the government should act and stop the pretense about caring for Irish. It should do this by taking definitive action pertaining to the role of Irish in the State. Enough with the tokenism and the ideology of the cúpla focal.

If, on the other hand, there is widespread enthusiasm for genuine revitalisation and official bilingualism worthy of the name, the government should act decisively while there is still time...

5 Steps of State Disengagement from the Irish Language:


English as sole official language

- Government to propose an amendment to Article 8 of the Constitution and the removal of the following text:

1. The Irish language as the national language is the first official language.
2. The English language is recognised as a second official language.

[8.1 Ós í an Ghaeilge an teanga náisiúnta is í an phríomhtheanga oifigiúil í.
8.2 Glactar leis an Sacs-Bhéarla mar theanga oifigiúil eile.]

Replace with something along the lines of

8.1 The English language is the official language of the State.
8.2 The Irish language has equal status with English within geographically defined parts of the State which are designated bilingual (i.e. the Gaeltacht)

Make the study of Irish optional after the Junior Cert

- Remove the ‘compulsory’ status of Irish within the education system: henceforth the study of Irish shall be optional after the Junior Certficate.

Redraw the current boundaries of the Gaeltacht

- Re-define the Gaeltacht and redraw its boundaries. Any Electoral Division where less than 50% of residents speak Irish habitually/daily (as per the most recent Census data) shall lose Gaeltacht status permanently, by Ministerial Order.

Remove Irish as an official language of the European Union

- Initiate the process whereby the Irish State formally seeks to undue the status of Irish as an official language of the European Union. Encourage Irish language translators and interpreters to return to Ireland to seek employment in the remaining Gaeltacht districts.

Abolish the office of An Coimisinéir Teanga

- Abolish the office of An Coimisinéir Teanga and end funding for cross-border projects linked with Foras na Gaeilge.



5 Steps to Revitalise Irish

- Establish a stand-alone Department of the Gaeltacht within three months (but with considerably more funding than the Dept. that existed from 1956 to 1993). Require that all Ministers of this Department are fluently bilingual, without exception.

- Establish a stand-alone Department of Irish within three months. Require that all Ministers of this Department are fluently bilingual, without exception.

- Establish “Intensive Language Education Centres” on Inis Meáin, Oileán Thoraí and An Blascaod Mór (staffed by teachers from mainland villages such as Dún Chaoin and Baile na nGall). These centres would be where non-fluent civil servants based in the Gaeltacht would be required to go for six consecutive months in order to achieve full fluency in Irish. At the conclusion of the six month course, individuals would take the Teastas Eorpach na Gaeilge (a certification exam endorsed by the Council of Europe). Those who fail to achieve a pass grade for Ardleibhéal 1 (C1) would be required to relocate outside the Gaeltacht.

- Segregate native Irish-speaking children under the age of 12 in Gaeltacht schools from their Anglophone counterparts in order to reduce the influence of English and encourage socialisation through Irish. In other words, ensure that certain Gaeltacht primary schools admit only children whose mother tongue/native language is Irish. No English to be included in lessons or interactions between staff and pupils for the first five years.

- Conduct a root-and-branch review of all schools located in the official Gaeltacht, as well as all State agencies, Public Bodies and offices which provide services in Gaeltacht areas in order to determine the following:

- The proportion of native Irish-speaking children in every school in all Electoral Divisions found within the Gaeltacht.

- The proportion of native Irish-speaking teachers and teaching/educational assistants in every Gaeltacht school

- The proportion of native Irish-speaking Gardaí stationed in Gaeltacht districts

- The proportion of State and semi-State employees who are native Irish speakers (administrators, HSE health care providers, etc.) based in the Gaeltacht.


FURTHER READING:

Death of Gaeltacht likely in next 10 years, warns expert

http://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/irish-in-crisis-we-need-a-new-deal-to-revitalise-the-language-1.2264426

Death knell tolling for Irish as community language

Comment: The Gaeltacht must be broken and remade to save Irish

Early exposure to English is damaging the standard of Irish among Gaeltacht young

Bilingual approach 'destroys' Gaeltacht Irish
 
Last edited:


GrainneDee

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Oct 12, 2011
Messages
26,759
Isn't it well past time that there was a national conversation on the place that the Irish language should occupy in Irish national life? Although Irish can stir up feelings of excitement, patriotism and cultural pride, it can also cause feelings of resentment, alienation and, above all...indifference!

What role should Irish play in the education system? What services should be available to Irish-speaking citizens without exception? How should official bilingualism operate in practice? Should Irish retain its current status as the "national language" in the Constitution? Is too much spent on Irish by the government? Too little?

Below, I propose five fairly radical steps for language revitalisation in the Irish context, followed by five steps for official DISENGAGEMENT. If most people are content to let Irish fade away, then the government should act and stop the pretense about caring for Irish. It should do this by taking definitive action pertaining to the role of Irish in the State. Enough with the tokenism and the ideology of the cúpla focal.

If, on the other hand, there is widespread enthusiasm for genuine revitalisation and official bilingualism worthy of the name, the government should act decisively while there is still time...

Numerous studies published over the past decade provide conclusive evidence that Irish is under immense pressure as a native/first language passed on from generation to generation, with a chance that Irish may cease to be the main language of communication in all Gaeltacht districts within 10-15 years. This is not the same as language death (Irish is not endangered in the since of possibly losing all fluent Irish speakers and Irish-speaking households), but what is at stake are the communities needed to sustain a language indefinitely.

There is too much apathy and government inertia on this topic...it's time for a truly national dialogue on the issue of Irish and its place in the country.

I propose five fairly radical steps for language revitalisation in the Irish context, followed by five steps for official DISENGAGEMENT. If most people are content to let Irish fade away, then the government should act and stop the pretense about caring for Irish. It should do this by taking definitive action pertaining to the role of Irish in the State. Enough with the tokenism and the ideology of the cúpla focal.

If, on the other hand, there is widespread enthusiasm for genuine revitalisation and official bilingualism worthy of the name, the government should act decisively while there is still time...

5 Steps of State Disengagement from the Irish Language:


English as sole official language

- Government to propose an amendment to Article 8 of the Constitution and the removal of the following text:

1. The Irish language as the national language is the first official language.
2. The English language is recognised as a second official language.

[8.1 Ós í an Ghaeilge an teanga náisiúnta is í an phríomhtheanga oifigiúil í.
8.2 Glactar leis an Sacs-Bhéarla mar theanga oifigiúil eile.]

Replace with something along the lines of

8.1 The English language is the official language of the State.
8.2 The Irish language has equal status with English within geographically defined parts of the State which are designated bilingual (i.e. the Gaeltacht)

Make the study of Irish optional after the Junior Cert

- Remove the ‘compulsory’ status of Irish within the education system: henceforth the study of Irish shall be optional after the Junior Certficate.

Redraw the current boundaries of the Gaeltacht

- Re-define the Gaeltacht and redraw its boundaries. Any Electoral Division where less than 50% of residents speak Irish habitually/daily (as per the most recent Census data) shall lose Gaeltacht status permanently, by Ministerial Order.

Remove Irish as an official language of the European Union

- Initiate the process whereby the Irish State formally seeks to undue the status of Irish as an official language of the European Union. Encourage Irish language translators and interpreters to return to Ireland to seek employment in the remaining Gaeltacht districts.

Abolish the office of An Coimisinéir Teanga

- Abolish the office of An Coimisinéir Teanga and end funding for cross-border projects linked with Foras na Gaeilge.



5 Steps to Revitalise Irish

- Establish a stand-alone Department of the Gaeltacht within three months (but with considerably more funding than the Dept. that existed from 1956 to 1993). Require that all Ministers of this Department are fluently bilingual, without exception.

- Establish a stand-alone Department of Irish within three months. Require that all Ministers of this Department are fluently bilingual, without exception.

- Establish “Intensive Language Education Centres” on Inis Meáin, Oileán Thoraí and An Blascaod Mór (staffed by teachers from mainland villages such as Dún Chaoin and Baile na nGall). These centres would be where non-fluent civil servants based in the Gaeltacht would be required to go for six consecutive months in order to achieve full fluency in Irish. At the conclusion of the six month course, individuals would take the Teastas Eorpach na Gaeilge (a certification exam endorsed by the Council of Europe). Those who fail to achieve a pass grade for Ardleibhéal 1 (C1) would be required to relocate outside the Gaeltacht.

- Segregate native Irish-speaking children under the age of 12 in Gaeltacht districts from their Anglophone counterparts in order to counter the influence of English. In other words, ensure that certain Gaeltacht primary schools admit only children whose mother tongue/native language is Irish. No English to be included in lessons or interactions between staff and pupils for the first five years.

- Conduct a root-and-branch review of all schools located in the official Gaeltacht, as well as all State agencies and offices which provide services in Gaeltacht areas in order to determine the following:

- The proportion of native Irish-speaking children in every school in all Electoral Divisions found within the Gaeltacht.

- The proportion of native Irish-speaking teachers and teaching/educational assistants in every Gaeltacht school

- The proportion of native Irish-speaking Gardaí stationed in Gaeltacht districts

- The proportion of State and semi-State employees who are native Irish speakers (administrators, HSE health care providers, etc.) based in the Gaeltacht.


FURTHER READING:

Death of Gaeltacht likely in next 10 years, warns expert

Death knell tolling for Irish as community language

Comment: The Gaeltacht must be broken and remade to save Irish

Early exposure to English is damaging the standard of Irish among Gaeltacht young

Bilingual approach 'destroys' Gaeltacht Irish
Ban it. That way everyone will want to talk it.
 

Clanrickard

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Make Irish the language of the civil service. You have 5years to be fluent in written and spoken Irish if you already work there. Privatise all English channels and keep TG4. Bring refugees to the Gaelteacht and teach their children Irish only until they are 9 and only then teach them English.
 

Kommunist

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I think making all primary and secondary schools gaeltacht's would probably have the long lasting effect you are looking for.
 

diy01

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Make Irish the language of the civil service. You have 5years to be fluent in written and spoken Irish if you already work there. Privatise all English channels and keep TG4. Bring refugees to the Gaelteacht and teach their children Irish only until they are 9 and only then teach them English.
Unemployment is already a significant issue in the Gaeltacht, especially the most remote parts (which tend to have the highest concentration of native speakers). Poor refugees if they are sent there!
 

diy01

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I think making all primary and secondary schools gaeltacht's would probably have the long lasting effect you are looking for.
There aren't enough fluently bilingual teachers in Ireland to make such a proposal workable. It has been that way ever since 1922!
 

GrainneDee

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There aren't enough fluently bilingual teachers in Ireland to make such a proposal workable. It has been that way ever since 1922!
Apart from the little fact that teachers, students and parents might object...
 

GrainneDee

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Make Irish the language of the civil service. You have 5years to be fluent in written and spoken Irish if you already work there. Privatise all English channels and keep TG4. Bring refugees to the Gaelteacht and teach their children Irish only until they are 9 and only then teach them English.
Yep, I can see that working. The Civil Service is slow enough without reducing manpower to a fraction of its present cohort.
 

Cellachán Chaisil

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I think making all primary and secondary schools gaeltacht's would probably have the long lasting effect you are looking for.
No. It wouldn't work. We wouldn't have competent teachers to manage them and the resentment created would ensure that students would disengage completely from the language.

Plus, it's actually been tried before.
 

silverharp

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it should be optional for leaving cert, my son will have to do 3 languages for LC including English. That is too many , only that he is fluent in his European language its a large skew in his subject selection as he is more of a maths and science head and probably overall a bias that suits girls and hinders boys
 

sadcitizen

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I'd love to see spoken Irish propagate through the country in my lifetime. But if there's one thing that demonstrably has not worked, it's the notion that this has to happen in a "trickle down/trickle out" fashion, which seems to be the way it's currently promoted I.e. civil servants speaking it, Gaeltachts being where you need to learn it, study it in college and have a segregated community of speakers (and segregated dorms, in some colleges), politicians speaking it...but politicians with non-fluent Irish being ridiculed, speak perfect Irish or don't speak it at all, and so on.

Your suggestions strike me as an extension of current policy, figuratively and literally isolating the language from our population (segregate native speakers, and go to an Island to learn it perfectly?).

We're not going to suddenly spit out a whole generation of fluent speakers. At some point, a transition will have to occur whereby citizens who are already alive start to learn it, and who we have to accept will never be able to achieve full fluency in their lifetime. Similar to the transition that occurs when non-English speaking adults migrate to an English-speaking country: the parents never attain perfect fluency but, through a transitional period of language learning, their children do.

So until every person currently alive in Ireland is comfortable that they can use pidgin Irish anywhere they go in the whole country without being ridiculed, and until the language purists and elitists go off to their island (as admirable as being a purist is, in some ways), no progress will continue to be made.
 

GrainneDee

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Realistically, which proposals do you agree with and why?

I agree that Irish should not be compulsory after JC, but Irish should be taught - differently, up to then. All the other disengagement suggestions are good, because they involve being honest for a change.

As for suggestions to improve usage, all unworkable as they involve compulsion. You will never win hearts and minds with compulsion. We should know that after ninety years of it.
 

GrainneDee

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No. It wouldn't work. We wouldn't have competent teachers to manage them and the resentment created would ensure that students would disengage completely from the language.

Plus, it's actually been tried before.
There would be no teachers left to teach.
 

LISTOWEL MAN

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the irish language is an elitist thing

in my experience the only people who speak it since i left school are condescending cu ts
 

Cellachán Chaisil

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the irish language is an elitist thing

in my experience the only people who speak it since i left school are condescending cu ts
If people consistently talk down to you it's probably because they expect so little of you.
 

diy01

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I'd love to see spoken Irish propagate through the country in my lifetime. But if there's one thing that demonstrably has not worked, it's the notion that this has to happen in a "trickle down/trickle out" fashion, which seems to be the way it's currently promoted I.e. civil servants speaking it, Gaeltachts being where you need to learn it, study it in college and have a segregated community of speakers (and segregated dorms, in some colleges), politicians speaking it...but politicians with non-fluent Irish being ridiculed, speak perfect Irish or don't speak it at all, and so on.

Your suggestions strike me as an extension of current policy, figuratively and literally isolating the language from our population (segregate native speakers, and go to an Island to learn it perfectly?).

We're not going to suddenly spit out a whole generation of fluent speakers. At some point, a transition will have to occur whereby citizens who are already alive start to learn it, and who we have to accept will never be able to achieve full fluency in their lifetime. Similar to the transition that occurs when non-English speaking adults migrate to an English-speaking country: the parents never attain perfect fluency but, through a transitional period of language learning, their children do.

So until every person currently alive in Ireland is comfortable that they can use pidgin Irish anywhere they go in the whole country without being ridiculed, and until the language purists and elitists go off to their island (as admirable as being a purist is, in some ways), no progress will continue to be made.
I genuinely believe you'd have to send civil servants to remote Gaeltacht islands (or an abandoned island, in the case of the Great Blasket) for genuine official bilingualism to became a reality in the civil service. In other words, I don't think it will ever happen. There isn't nearly enough enthusiasm. There aren't enough fluently bilingual civil servants, and in most departments and public bodies there is little demand for services through Irish anyway. (Whether this is due to the barriers put up by the extremely Anglophone civil service or a paucity of speakers is still up for debate...)

I considered including a proposal about forced Gaelicisation of all surnames in an attempt to portray just how radical and extreme the measures would have to be, but then I realised that the GAA has sometimes resorted to such measures, and the fascist party Ailtirí na hAiséirghe (which won 9 council seats in 1945!) had already proposed such a measure, along with the criminalisation of speaking English in public.
 

DJP

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The Irish Language in 2016: Radical steps for revitalisation or time for formal disengagement by the State?
Neither.

Neither is going to happen anyway, based on my experience of it.
 

Cellachán Chaisil

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diy01

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I agree that Irish should not be compulsory after JC, but Irish should be taught - differently, up to then. All the other disengagement suggestions are good, because they involve being honest for a change.

As for suggestions to improve usage, all unworkable as they involve compulsion. You will never win hearts and minds with compulsion. We should know that after ninety years of it.
If there was a referendum regarding Article 8, do you think a majority of voters would back the downgrading of the status of Irish in the Constitution?

Two hypothetical scenarios...

- English as sole official language
- English and Irish as official languages (no distinction between them, no 'first' or 'national' language, no second or 'other' official language)
 


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