Irish in a multilingual world

In my previous post, I mentioned that new speakers of Irish are bringing the language into new contexts. While some speakers still try to model their Irish on what was traditionally spoken in the Gaeltacht, many others deliberately move away from this model. They break the rules of grammar and adopt hybridized forms of language. Although language purists may be critical of these non-conventional forms, as we all know the nature of language use is that it changes. The language is also been used in new and creative ways by the many new speakers of Irish amongst Ireland’s New Irish. These New Irish originate from places like Poland, Romania, Nigeria, the Philippines and China, to name but a few. I recently met a woman from Poland who was learning Irish and sending her children to an Irish-medium school. Many of the parents of immigrant background I met were very enthusiastic about learning Irish and ensuring their children would become speakers of the language. In a way, becoming a new speaker of Irish is not such a big deal for them. They are already multilingual individuals anyway. So they’re open to the idea of learning and trying out new languages. Of course new speakers of Irish are not restricted to Ireland itself. Irish is also spoken outside of Ireland. You can study Irish in Germany, Spain and Russia and there are dozens of universities in North America where Irish is taught. In fact, with the help of technology and the Internet, it is possible to learn Irish from anywhere in world without ever even coming to Ireland. To end, here is a fun video which tells the story of Yu Ming who learned Irish in China. As you will see, however, when he reaches Ireland he is a bit frustrated to find that in Ireland’s capital city, Dublin, he finds it difficult to find Irish speakers. For new speakers of minority languages, this is often a challenge and the active seeking out of speakers is a big part of the process. Bernie O’Rourke Email – B.M.A.O’Rourke@hw.ac.uk Academia – Bernadette O’Rourke Twitter – @BernORourke

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