The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Oct 30, 2007

More Linguistic Mayhem

Here's a strangely moving story. As the English language trundled across Ireland and swamped the local Gaelic tongue, the Irish established the Gaeltacht, separate areas where native Gaelic speakers' rights and culture were protected. But in this once homogeneously populated land looms the shadow of immigration. Today, a tenth of the 4.2 million residents of the Emerald Isle are foreigners. Many of them have settled in the Gaeltacht. Their knowledge of English is shaky, so what is their fate in the Gaelic-only school system?

Recently, there were news reports that students walked out of Pobail Scoil Chorca Dhuibhne, a school in Dingle. They were protesting a new policy of teaching only in Gaelic, and wanted to show their solidarity with a Russian classmate who couldn't follow her lessons.

What is to be done? Relaxing the rules countywide would result in the dilution and the eventual disappearance of Gaelic. But are the Gaeltacht rules helping preserve the language? This guy thinks that some of the students are not fully competent in the Irish language despite having attended Gaeltacht schools all their lives. And this report in 2005 supports his contention.

If the strict linguistic rules were retained, though, recent immigrants would be marginalised and alienated... Truly a rum situation.


Anonymous said...


I sought to read your posts under 'Language' today and found this post.

I learnt some languages formally and whether we could or not, we were required in those classes not to utter a word of anything else but that very language. Difficult but it broke many people's hesitation.

In life otherwise, too bad if immigrants do not want to learn a language. They need to make more effort. Else they lose out on a lot other than just education. The Russian student has the best chance to learn now - while he is young - than when he is old or never...

I wrote about linguistic apartheid during the Scottish elections last year here:

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