Thursday, 23 April 2009

Irish Language Survey

There are three kinds of lies” said Benjamin Disraeli “lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Then there is The Irish Language and the Irish People, a survey sponsored by the Department of the Gaeltacht and Islands to justify its own existence.

The survey, from a sample of 1000 people, was compiled by Father Micheal Mac Greil, SJ (of NUI Maynooth) and Fergal Rhatigan, and concluded that 93% of those surveyed “supported the Irish Language”.

However, on closer inspection, it becomes obvious that two separate responses to questions were given, and then the two were added together, to give the misleading figure of 93%.

According to the survey, 41% of those questioned believed that Irish should be revived for public use, 52% believed it should be “preserved” (as in the Gaeltacht and art and culture), while 7% believed it should be discarded altogether.

Closer inspection still reveals that of the 41% of “revivalists”, 3.7% hardliners believed that Gaeilge should be the “main language” of the country, 4.7% believed that Ireland should be “bi-lingual” with Gaeilge as the “main” language, while 32% believed it should be “bi-lingual” with English as the main language. Confused? Join the club. It's all about how you frame your questions.

The most telling thing about a self-serving survey like this, however, is that it can mean anything its authors want it to mean. So though there is plainly some intersection in the responses to the two questions, as the 41% who want Gaeilge revived would plainly also want to see it preserved (conversely, it follows that 59% don’t want it revived) what the authors have done is add the two figures together to come up with the impressive figure of 93% overall support. Somewhat disingenuous, no?

Interestingly, the report condescendingly berates the “popular mass media” for its “relentless expression of negative attitudes” towards Gaeilge. There’s a thing. If the language is really as popular as the authors claim, why does none of that “popular mass media” communicate through the medium of Gaeilge.

One has to conclude there is no market for it, once the crutch of State funding is taken away.

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Anonymous said...

You are such a dim wit!

The Gombeen Man said...

That´s a pretty dim comment, if ever there was one. But expected, given the constituency.

Anonymous said...

"Why does none of that popular mass media communicate throught Gaeilge"

That is the most disingeuous comment on the whole blog.

There has been the introductoin of TG4 and the growth in Gaeilge usage on Irish Radio e.g. Radio na Life, Near90 fm. The introduction of a new magazine "Nós" also suggests that there is more demand for Gaeilge media.

Unfotunately the traditional media sit back on the old "Shur everyone can speak English" argument.

You are claiming that the authors are being dishonest yet you have not shown even one of example of dihonesty.

For example, even the 52% who believe the language should be preserved are definitely in favour of supporting the language as it will not be preserved without support. You should look up the meaning of "support".

If anything, the claim that 93% support the language plays down the fact that 41% want to see the language actively revived

The Gombeen Man said...

I have cleary stated why I think the "findings" of the State-sponsored survey are flawed.

Bottom line - Gaelic can't exist without State funding. It's a free market. Why are there no Gaelic language publications that can sustain themselves through public demand, if it is as "popular" as you presume?

Anonymous said...

I am a German who has learnt Irish and is still continuing to do so because it is an interesting language with an interestung heritage. Therefore I have also made my own experiences during my two travels to Ireland. Indeed there is mostly passive support, but rarely active hostility. With passive supporters I mean those who have a positive attitude but do not actively dominate and use it. I suppose that about 10% can really speak and understand it and are willing to do so if you are talking in Irish. There are noticeable differences also between areas outside the Gaeltacht. In Galway you are more likely to get by with Irish than in Cork City. Of course I wish there would be more active userss. But without the passive support and some hardliners Irish would be on the brink of disappearance everywhere.

The Gombeen Man said...

You're welcome to learn Gaelic if you so desire, Anon. A lot of linguists find all sorts of languages interesting.

Bottom line, you did not have it forced on you and you did not suffer educational disadvantage as a result of its promotion. There is plenty on such topics on this blog. See "bonus points" for instance.

Speaking as someone who was brought up here in Ireland.I would say the "hardliners" you refer to are the ones who have done their cause the most damage.

Viking said...

Very good post!
Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

I like your site gombeen man, but if your are against the irish lanuage then you've lost me because your not really Irish. Who cares what a survey says. If there was only one person in the world speaking Irish it would deserve our support, we have lost our way lets not kill off our culture completely. Ta do chroi san ait micheart Gombeenman. is mise Gaeilgoir

The Gombeen Man said...

Well mate, if you think I'm "not really Irish" because I dont' subscribe to a purely Gaelic definition of Irishness (which such a statement suggests), I don't think you're really getting what the site is about. Bye bye so.

Anonymous said...

Explain what is your site is about then. What does the whinging conceal, a latent rightwing agenda? Why don't you emigrate to somewhere more to your liking, there are plently of English speaking countries to choose from.
Btw, just because you don't like what I said doesn't mean I am not comment in future on anti-irish statements. Of course as it is your site you can pull my comments, which would prove my above statement.
Yours Gaeilgeoir.

The Gombeen Man said...

Corrrr-ect! I don't have to publish your comments, but I will, as they prove my point so well.

I don't have to explain my site to you, or anyone else. It's my site, full stop. If you don't like it, you don't have to visit it. There are lots of sites out there for Gaelgoir fascists like you.

"latent-right wing agenda"?... and you are telling me to emigrate from my own country because I don't - along with the majority of Irish people - speak Gaelic. Sort of a Gaelgoir BNP, is it?


Now go away.

PS you won't find any info on "Gaelgoir holidays" here.

Anonymous said...

Touched a raw nerve there did I Gombeen man. It's funny how quickly you rightwingers resort to calling people fascists. Your the one who is trying to push your views down peoples throats. Actually Gombeenman I am enjoying annoying you so much that I won't go away just yet, although to be honest I have got better things to do than read your website. You should try a Gaeilgeoir holiday sometime you might find you like it. Tír gan teanga, tír gan anam, go maire ár nGeailge slán. Is mise "An Nóinín Gaelach"

The Gombeen Man said...

The only nerve you touched was the one in my funny bone. I'm breaking my shite laughing here.

Enjoy your Gaelgoir holiday.

Anonymous said...

I glad that you have a sense of humour. I can see where Ireland is heading and I hope that the poet Quigley won't mind me stealing this quote. "Off in the distance I could see a group of youths throwing an oval object. It could have been a rugby ball but no it was the rotting head of a shamed Cúchulainn. While the lads cooed in their psuedo-English accents, tears of blood fell from his fetid eyes and soaked into the betrayed earth". Is mise "An Pocán Meidhreach"

The Gombeen Man said...

Oh Jaysus... this is too much!

I'm in communication with the spirit of Gearóid Ó’Cuinneagáin!

Ah sure, they should have banned those dirty "foreign games" years ago. Oh... the GAA tried that, didn't they...

Nasty alien influences corrupting the Gaelic heart of Old Erin. And then there's Coronation Street too.

The dirty bowsies!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Gombeen Man, I have never heard of Ó Cuinneagáin but I would certainly agree with preserving the Hill of Tara and the nationalisation of Ireland's resources instead of giving them away to multinationals. I don't think that you can call that fascism just common sense something that the place hunters and visionary pygmies that run Ireland are in short supply of. I would like to keep this going but I got other things to do, so I will have to leave you to your musings. No hard feelings.
is mise "Popshúil Mairnéalach"

Anonymous said...

'Lies, damn lies and statistics'-you can talk! 93% of people say they want Irish preserved and you think that's bad for the language. Sorry to burst your fantasy that everyone 'hates' Irish but it seems that only 6% of people do, the ones who want to discard it completely. People who hate a language usually don't want to see it preserved.
The numbers who want it revieved as a main language are small, but I'll take that, as long as my language rights are respected I don't care what the rest of society does.

BTW speaking of definitions of Irishness, yours seems to be an exclusive Anglo-Saxon, hate everything that's uniqely Irish definition of Irishness.
Is there anything that's indigenous to Ireland (language, sport, music, dancing, clothes, food etc) that you like?

The Gombeen Man said...

Even I would not have a problem with Gaelic "being preserved". And remember my "language rights" - you don't seem too concerned out them in the Dublin City Council thread. And I actually live here.

As for your personal attack on me, I think your "Anglo Saxon" jibe says it all. As it happens Anglo Saxon is very much in our DNA, as much as anything else, so why don't you quit the self-loathing, and stop hankering after some mythical version of "Irishness" that's more to do with early 20th Century bourgeois revivalism than anything else.

I have explained why the methodology of this far-from-independent survey is flawed, and I can't be arsed doing it again.

I have an affection for Shelbourne, I like Irish music. The Undertones, the Blades, Stiff Little Fingers, Thin Lizzy, and even a few Boomtown Rats ones. Banana Republic is my favorite. As for food, I like the odd Guinness and packet of Tayto.

Anonymous said...

That's a yes then on the exclusive Anglo-Saxon definition of Irishness, a definition that exludes all aspects of indigenous Gaelic culture, which you dismiss as a 'myth',

The fact that Irish has been spoken here for 2000+ years must be a myth then, hurling being played here that long is a myth, traditional Irish music and dancing are 'myths' as well.

You are in fact a mirror image of the anglophobic fanatics you keep complaining about. You denigrate all aspects of Irish Gaelic culture and anyone who engages in them, saying that this culture is false or made up in someway, similiar to colonist attitudes to indigenous cultures.
You're almost like the Franco-era fascists who attacked the Catalan language because it was a symbol of a separate Catalan identity, only you're worse, you're like a Catalan who attacks the Catalan language on that basis.

Re Dublin, I don't think English names should be banned, but it's hard to see what the fuss about 0.01% of housing estates in Dublin having Irish only names is.

Also, FYI, Irish has always been spoken in Dublin, where do you think the name 'Shelbourne' comes from? (It's from Síol Bhroin).
Deny it all you want Irish is a part of Dublin's and your heritage.

The Gombeen Man said...

It's funny. It would be nice to get a comment from a Gaelgoir that did not resort to personal insults. I think it happened once. You might know this one. Where does "London" come from?

"The linguistic history of Dublin is simple. Since the day that it received its royal charter from Henry II, its administrative language has never been Irish, nor has the language of the majority of its citizens. Yes, its two names are from the Irish, just as Londinium was the Roman name for England's capital today. But the origin of a place name doesn't mean that the people who inhabit it speak the tongue from which it derives. Do the inhabitants of Dublin's Rialto speak Venetian?"