Sunday, 20 July 2014

Saving Gaeilge

There was a post on facebook with a photo in relation to the people of the gaeltacht protesting that the new minister for arts, heritage and the gaeltacht doesn't speak Irish. Eventually the comments underneath drifted to how it's taught in schools via the current government's seeming lack of commitment to saving the language.
This got me to comment my own opinion and I thought it might make a good blog post, so here I am.
I'm of the view that it's (partially at least) the way it's taught in schools. So how do we change that? Practice makes perfect. Get the people speaking it regularly. TG4 does work to a certain extent in that I sometimes find myself trying to tweet "as Gaeilge" if I'm talking about something interesting I saw on the channel. But ultimately I don't tune in for too long because I cannot understand most of what's going on without subtitles.
My idea is based on getting teens conversing in the language. Have a compulsory class in secondary schools where it is mandatory to speak in Irish (as Gaeilge). Then let the teens chat and gossip with each other about anything they want during the class. The only condition being that they speak Irish. The teacher's role would be to make sure that no one drifts into comhrá Béarla (conversation in English) and any word they don't know in Irish can be written on the board so that the pupils can take it down so they know it next time. This could potentially be a class that even the least academic of pupils look forward to because it's almost like an extra break. It would get people used to speaking Irish and there maybe even new slang terms and cool words and phrases that would be integrated into everyday conversations - derived from the Irish speaking classes in school. That's what I think would save the language.
It's a language and not a cultural status symbol or heritage snobbery. The people who push for the literature end of things to stay compulsory in schools give off the status symbol / snobbery vibe at times even though I know that's not the intention. But to keep the literature, poetry and prose relevant (needed to maintain cultural heritage and identity), there should still be a written/literature Irish class as an optional subject in school. I know most people probably won't choose this class without parental pressure, but if people are happily speaking the language every day it won't die out.
That is how I think the language can flourish. Make speaking it relevant and cool to younger generations.

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