THE IRISH LANGUAGE

n spite of all the efforts since Ireland achieved independence- some critics claim because of those efforts- the Irish language is in rapid and perhaps terminal decline in the Republic of Ireland. According to data compiled by the Irish Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, only a quarter of households in Gaeltacht areas posses a fluency in Irish.



The author of a detailed analysis of the survey, Donncha Ó´hÉallaithe described the Irish language policy followed by Irish Governments a complete disaster. At the foundation of the Irish State there were 250.000 fluent Irish speakers living in Irish- speaking or semi Irish speaking areas, but the number now is between 20.000 and 30.000.

According to the language survey, levels of fluency among families are very low, from 1% in Galway suburbs to a maximum of 8% parts of west Donegal. With such sharp decline, particularly among the young, the real danger exists that Irish will largely become extinct within two generations, possibly even one. With the language will continue to exist among English speakers who have learned fluency and are bilingual- though mainly English- Speaking in their everyday lives- Gaeltachtaí embody more that just a language, but the cultural context In which is spoken, through song, stores, social tradition, folklore and dance. The dance of the Gaeltachtaí would make a break forever between Ireland’s cultural past and identity and its future.

The belief, firmly held by parents, that Irish was a virtually dead language and one of no economic or commercial value compared with Spanish or German had at least the effects of establishing these as curriculum subjects in schools where they were unheard-of up until then. The same parents must, however, have wondered at the efficacy of these modern languages when they came to consider, if ever they did, just how useful economically the few residual phrases were to their children.

Anyway the Irish of the Diaspora are very likely in a mixture of nostalgia and pride to wish to claim this irreducible part of their heritage. In his introduction to traits and stories of the Irish Peasantry, the Irish speaking son of native speakers, recalled what his mother said about the translation into English of Bean an Fhuir, Rua- The Red-Haired Man’s wife: I will sing it for you, but the English words and the air are like a quarrelling man and wife; the Irish melts into the tune, but the English does not. The quarrel is still going on; it is paradoxically to the country’s advantage that it continues.

Ni Leor teanga amháin= One language is never enough

Sergio Calle Llorens