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athgarvan

An Ghaeilge

FavelaI am always amazed at how little respect our Irish people have for our own Gaelic language which is one of the oldest and richest languages in Europe. Many are very committed to the preservation of the ruins of Norman and English castles and churches, etc. - dead stones that recall the invader -  but have no time for their country's own beautiful, living language. Although it is recognised in our Constitution as the first language of the State and is 'taught' in all schools, a very small percentage of us speak or even understand it.

I am reminded of this every time I visit the small corner shop beside us which is owned by a Turkish man. He greets one and can chat with one somewhat in Irish. Many other Europeans have mastered the language only to find that most of the 'natives' cannot converse with them!

One of these foreigners is Alex Hijmans, a Dutchman who is fluent in the language. Alex moved to Ireland to study. He is a writer, journalist, and former café owner in Galway. He later worked as a journalist for R.T.É, Radió na Gaeltachta, and TG4. He then spent some time in Brazil and published his first book, Favela, in Irish. It describes his experiences among the people of a poor suburb in Brazil where he still lives. His most recent book, Rebekka, also in Irish, tells the story of a young female Dutch artist who comes to live in Galway and who works in an Irish speaking but unique type of café.

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I dated a woman years and years ago who took me to some Scottish Gaelic classes (my mother identified us as Irish, but the maternal family name is actually McIntosh). I learned just enough Gaelic not really to speak it, but to understand a bit and be able to read it some (with a dictionary, because my vocabulary is very limited). The woman who took me is much more fluent than I am. She keeps a blog also, and when she posts something that she wants me to pay particular attention to, she will post it in Gaelic. (It is still kind of our "secret language").

It's a beautiful language. Scottish Gaelic is close enough to Irish that knowing it gives me access to both. I love to hear it spoken and, especially, sung.
Yes indeed it is a lovely language and sad to see it dying away ever more speedily.
It is sad, but there are Americans that are quite interested in preserving it, and if I had the time and the money, I would have no trouble finding a class here.
There's a great video on Youtube showing the story of a young Chinese man who decides to come to Ireland and learns Irish in preparation -- only to discover that virtually no one speaks it. I know that it was just an extended joke, but the attitude to Irish seems quite different to the attitude to Welsh.

There was a TV programme on here some time about (a real fly on the wall documentary this time!) about a man who travelled around Wales speaking only Welsh. He actually managed OK because even English incomers have usually learned a bit, even if they have no confidence in speaking. And those who don't speak Welsh are always very apologetic about their lack of knowledge. At least in the North. It's all a bit more complicated in the South.
As you say, it's complicated in the south.

My SiL is southwalian, hales from Newbridge, speaks no Welsh and is anything but apologetic for the lack. The former pit villages of the south still tend to see the intrusion of Welsh as a form of northern cultural imperialism. Wenglish is also a living language and one that tends to get overlooked much to their annoyance. It's not something I'm inclined to get her started on! :o)

Isn't it sad to see any ancient language die?