Still trying to learn Irish

TWO years ago I declared that I was going to learn Irish as a New Year’s resolution. Progress in the first year was, eh, slow. But last year I took the initiative.

In the autumn I did an intensive course with Gael Linn. To sum up the outcome, I think that my Irish has improved from about 10-30 per cent.

I understand a great deal more but my ability to speak the language has stalled. I can never seem to conjure up a working sentence when I need it. The bottom line is that it needs more work on my part in order to use the Irish that I’ve learned.

I must say (as someone who absolutely detested Irish at school) that I enjoyed the course. It was carried out entirely through Irish by an excellent teacher (Aisling) but I understood every bit of it.

The emphasis was on learning useful phrases and vocabulary with only the occasional foray into the dreaded grammar.

I hope that the teaching of Irish has been totally overhauled since I went to school but attitudes to the language among young people hasn’t changed. What I’m hearing from some children is typical of general opinion. Kids today seem to dislike Irish as much as I did.

As well as that…

Still compulsory

One very disappointing aspect of the Gael Linn course was the overwhelming presence of people learning Irish just because they have to.

Three-quarters of those present were there simply because they need Irish in order to be allowed teach. Most were primary teachers and a couple were lawyers.

You can see why primary teachers need a grasp of Irish (because they need to teach kids) but why lawyers need to know Irish baffles me.

If you needed a lawyer to defend you, you wouldn’t want one who wasn’t a native speaker anyway. And this is the sort of thing which marks the Irish language movement as a repressive force. Unless an official is actually going to be using Irish, it should not be a compulsory requirement. No-one should be short of a job because they can’t speak Irish. To insist otherwise is zealotry.

On the issue of compulsory Irish in schools – I’m in favour of keeping it as long as education itself is compulsory.

Irish should be part of a broad, say, 10 subject Leaving Cert. The real danger in education is trying to simply produce people for industry.

Galway got it right

GALWAY County Council wants to restrict house building in gaeltacht areas to Irish-speakers.

I don’t like the sound of this. But it might be OK if it was fairly administered. English speakers from these areas shouldn’t be disadvantaged and the gaeltacht boundaries should be redrawn to reflect reality.

But Irish speaking communities are a priceless cultural asset to this country which should be protected. You wouldn’t be allowed build a house in front of Newgrange would you?