Tomhas na Teanga
Dia daoibh! Hello, y’all! Tá an
t-earrach ann! [tah un taar (a like in at) okh o(w) n] It’s Spring! Buíochas
le Dia! [Bwee a khus luh D(j)ee uh] Thank God!
Spring being a time of renewal and new life, I’m going to cover the
topic of language revival this time.
Ireland is not the only country with
language ‘issues,’ by any means! It is
unique in that the Irish language is the oldest surviving vernacular language
in Europe (not counting Greek). It has
the richest literary tradition outside of the classical languages. So it is a pearl of great price.
There are other countries, even in Europe,
which have minority languages. The
Basques in Spain and the Bretons in France are examples. The EU has set up The European Bureau for
Lesser Used Languages (they have a bureau for everything) (in Irish, An Biúró
Eorpach do Theangacha Neamhfhorleathana) to help preserve and encourage these
languages, Irish included. They encourage
contact between the groups to share their experiences and they also provide
some funding. There is a generally
positive attitude towards language preservation in the EU.
The Irish language has never died out, and
so saying that the language movement is a revival movement is not totally accurate. We are not attempting to bring a dead
language back to life – we are imparting new life to an endangered language.
Other countries have had success with this. An extreme case is Israel. Hebrew was not used as a spoken language,
except for reading the scriptures and in prayers. It did not have modern vocabulary. With the founding of the state of Israel, and people coming from all over the world to live there,
a decision was made to revive the Hebrew language and make it the common
language of the country. This has been
hugely successful. As in Irish, new
words have been developed for modern concepts.
Hebrew is now a vital successful language, because of the commitment of
the Israeli people.
Another example of language revival is in Norway. Along with Swedish and Danish, this is one
of the descendants of Old Norse. Norway
was controlled for a long time by Denmark, and the language became much more
like theirs. Similar to Ireland, the
more native language remained in the isolated areas. Once Norway became independent, there was a push to revive the
original dialects and move toward the truer Norwegian language.
As in many countries all over the world, Norway has a
standard written language, and then there are the local languages. This is true of big language countries like
Germany and Italy, too. Many countries
have more than one official language, like Canada and Finland. And in theory at least, Ireland! Two or three isn’t so bad, in fact it is
very positive. Of course, there are
extreme cases. India has between 15 and
2,000, depending on your definition of language vs. dialect! English is also their lingua
franca. Through history, many languages
have served this function, and yet the local languages survive. Today, because of mass media, many more
languages are disappearing than ever before.
But it is not inevitable, necessary, or desirable. It is a choice, especially in wealthy
countries, like Ireland now is.
Some may think that Irish is at a particular disadvantage
because there are several dialects. But
German has many, many dialects, and seems to be doing quite well! Ireland has adopted a Standard Irish (an
Caighdeán Oifigiúil), which is used in much publishing, but is not as widely
adopted as the standards are in say Italy or Germany. Having a standard does not mean that local dialects are to be
discarded. They have not been in other
The major factor in successful language revitalization is
national pride and the appreciation of a distinct cultural identity. Community and community support are also
critical. This is why so many of us
learn Irish, even though we do not live in Ireland. And this kind of pride and appreciation is contagious! Tír gan teanga, tír gan anam (teer gon
tanga, teer gon an om) – A country without a language (is) ag country with no
enlivening the language…it’s time for the shameless self promotion! As you know, I published a book of poetry in
Irish and English last Summer, ‘An File ar Buile’ (available at all online booksellers,
or bookstores via the distributor Ingram, or from www.Xlibris.com directly). I had it in mind from the beginning to
record all of the poems, in Irish, so that people could hear the poems as well
as read them. I have done this. And since some of them are song parodies, I
also have made a CD of the songs, along with a lot of other (mostly funny)
music. These are ‘An File ar Buile’ (a
double CD of the poems in Irish) and ‘Cleas Amhrán.’ Both are available at www.cdbaby.com
. If you go to that website and search
for ‘Neachtain’ you will find both, and there are many samples to listen to.
Thosaigh mé an colún seo trí bliana ó shin! I started this column three years ago! Tá gach ceann ar an idirlíon ag http://www.scoilgaeilge.org/t_na_t/
fós. They’re all still on the internet at…
Gach dara mí, scríobhaim píosa ag bun an cholúin seo as
Gaeilge. Níl a fhios agam an mbíonn
daoine á léamh, ach sílim go mbíonn cúpla duine, ar aon nós. Is minic nach mbíonn baint ar bith idir an
píosa beag seo agus an t-alt ar fad. Ní
bhíonn anseo ach píosa siamsaíochta, agus deis chun cleachtadh a dhéanamh le pé
Gaeilge atá ag gach duine. Tá súil agam
go mbaineann sibh taitneamh as.
Is breá an rud é go bhfuil suim ag an AOH sa teanga, agus
go dtugtar an deis seo domsa rud beag a dhéanamh ar a son. Táim buíoch don eagarthóir agus don AOH as
seo. Má tá Gaeilge réasúnta maith
agatsa, bain triail as rud beag éigin a scríobh do nuachtlitir do rannóige
féin. Cá bhfios nach mbeadh suim ag daoine