Monday, 5 March 2012

What's the Irish for "leave those kids alone"?

Excellent article by Ann Marie Hourihane (left) in today's Irish Times.  I might not have bothered with the token Gaelic bits myself, but I accept she's used them in an ironic sense, in  "honour" of the recently concocted farce of Seachtain na Gaeilge.   

In case you're wondering what that is, it is a tokenistic sick-fest organised by the Gaelic League (Conradh na Gaeilge) which it describes as "the annual international festival organised by Conradh na Gaeilge to promote the Irish Language."    

What it means in effect, is that annoying TV and radio presenters – especially those employed by RTE – will interject words "as Gaeilge" as they introduce programmes or call out the Lotto numbers in a highly forced, highly self-conscious way.

It's just another irritant, culminating in the mother-father-and-grandparents of irritants, the famous celebration of Paddywhackery and public drunkenness known as Saint Patrick's Day.

Ann Marie's article tackles much more than said irritants, and deals with the institutionalised nonsense and jobbery surrounding Gaeilge and its counterproductive promotion  – it is well worth a read.  

Perhaps I should forcedly say  "Go raibh maith agut, Ann"? 

CAN IT really be Seachtain na Gaeilge arís? It seems like only inné that it was Seachtain na Gaeilge last year. And yet here we are again: Lá Groundhog. According to an Seachtain na Gaeilge website, on March 21st in Cork we can all go along to a session of bilingual flower arranging. Happy days.

There is also Bingo as Gaeilge, which sounds good fun actually, this Wednesday in Portlaoise. And then there’s the lecture to be given in Letterkenny, an Sathairn seo, entitled: “Our Culture agus Language”. The title says it all.

Creidim that it’s time we all took a closer look at the Twenty Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030 . And that won’t take too long, because it’s kind of on the beag side.
If you look at the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht website you will see one of the aims of this complex strategy, which emerged from several commissioned reports that were paid for with your airgead, is neatly summed up thus: “To increase the number of people who speak Irish on a daily basis outside the education system from 83,000 to 250,000.”
What’s the Irish word for ambition again? I think we should be told.

You’ll also be glad to know: “The strategy promotes a holistic, integrated approach to the Irish language which is consistent with international best practice.” What’s the Irish for “that’s a relief”?

Come on, we’ve wasted enough time on this nonsense. It is one thing to be taught Irish by your loving family in a happy home, as most of the Irish-language enthusiasts quoted in the article Mise agus an Gaeilge , published in this newspaper on Saturday, appear to have been. It is quite another to have the educational opportunities of hundreds of thousands of Irish children squandered in hours of non-teaching of a non-spoken language. Is mór an trua é.

Too many Irish children leave primary school unable to confidently read or write their mother tongue – by which I mean English. And now we see the numbers of special-needs teachers drastically cut – while of course the pensions of our former taoisigh remain reassuringly high, but that’s another day’s obair – and our unfortunate páistí still being dragooned into this national charade. Let Des Bishop teach them in his own time, if he’s that pushed about it.

Meanwhile, the second language of this country is actually Chinese. Our children are speaking not Irish but some sort of sub-Valley Girl patois. A bright eight-year-old was recently describing her favourite story The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. It was about a girl, she said, who found another country when she went into a closet. Could that closet possibly have been a wardrobe, a caring adult inquired. Oh yeah, said the bright eight-year-old, it could. That’s an interesting cultural nóiméad, I would have said.

Then there is the whole translation scam, by which all official documents must be translated into Irish. As we all know, the number of people who will read these vital communications in Irish is so small it would be much cheaper to send them all to live in Switzerland, keep them in cocaine for the rest of their lives and phone them individually with each translation as it limps off the presses.

In this country now, the Irish language is not even a footnote. Its only chance of survival – slim – lies not in official approval but in becoming a private passion. The people who really love it, and speak it – as opposed to making a living out of it – know this. They find the jobbery and the graft surrounding the Irish language an embarrassment.

A cúpla bliain ó thinn I wrote that the Irish language was our equivalent of the hijab, the headscarf worn by orthodox Muslim women as a badge of identity and compliance, a figleaf to cover a web of unacknowledged weaknesses. But all of this was put much better by Michael Lewis, in the best article written about modern Ireland, in Vanity Fair in March 2011. This is the best reply to Seachtain na Gaeilge.

“The first thing you notice when you watch the Irish parliament at work is that the politicians say everything twice, once in English and once in Gaelic. As there is no one in Ireland who does not speak English and a vast majority who do not speak Gaelic, this comes across as a forced gesture that wastes a great deal of time.

I ask several Irish politicians if they speak Gaelic, and all offer the same uneasy look and hedgy reply: “Enough to get by.” The politicians in Ireland speak Gaelic the way the Real Housewives of Orange County speak French.

“To ask ‘Why bother to speak it at all?’ is of course to miss the point. Everywhere you turn you see both emulation of the English and a desire, sometimes desperate, for distinction. The Irish insistence on their Irishness – their conceit that they’re more devoted to their homeland than the typical citizen of the world is – has an element of bluster about it, from top to bottom . . . The Irish people and their country are like lovers whose passion is heightened by their suspicion that they will probably wind up leaving each other. Their loud patriotism is a cargo ship for their doubt.”


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Anonymous said...

Excellent article. It is very true we spend up to 14 years been taught Irish for at least one hour a day and nobody can speak it. Yet our English which we use every day is terrible. When you live and work abroad you really notice how bad your English is.

On government spending on Irish language. Does DCU still do the fully paid for by the tax payer Masters in International Business all taught though Irish? Bonkers!

Anonymous said...

Níl san alt sin ach ciníochas glan rud is léir duit féin go maith. Scéal eile é gurb é an frith-Ghaelachas an t-aon chineál ciníochais amháin a cheadaítear sa dioscúrsa phoiblí in Éirinn.

(The article is just racism pure and simple and you know it perfectly well. It is another story that anti-Irish-language-ism is the only kind of racism that is allowed in public discourse in Ireland.)

Is í an Ghaeilge teanga thraidisiúnta na tíre agus a lán litríochta, cultúir agus ceoil ar fáil inti. Is rud nádúrtha é go gcuirtear ar fáil do chlann an náisiúin í. Pé acu is rogha leo an teanga a shaothrú ina dhiaidh sin nó nach ea, níl ann ach cothrom Féinne an teanga a bheith in aice láimhe acu.

(Irish is the traditional language of Ireland, and there is a lot of literature, culture and music available in the language available in it. It is perfectly natural that it is made available to the children of the nation. Whether they choose to use the language after their school years or not, it is only just and fair that they should have access to it.)

An páiste nár chuala Gaeilge sa bhaile, an páiste a bhfuil fuath na ndaol ag a thuismitheoirí ar an teanga, tá sé tuillte aige an spléachadh ar chultúr na Gaeilge a fháil a chuirfeas ar a chumas a chinneadh féin a ghlacadh i dtaobh na teanga.

(The child who didn't hear Irish at home, the child whose parents hate the language, deserves to be given a glimpse of the Irish language culture that will make it possible for him or her to take his or her own decision regarding the language.)

Is ríléir agus is róshoiléir nach bhfuil meas an mhadaidh agat ar an teanga ná ar chultúr ar bith. Ná síl áfach go bhfuil gach uile dhuine eile chomh barbartha leat féin!

(It is quite unmistakably clear that you couldn't care less about the language or about any cultural pursuits. But don't suppose that everybody else is such a barbarian.)

An Irishman said...

Well done with the article, Gombeen Man. As the the person who spoke in Irish, being opposed to the Irish language is NOT racism. Racists hate people because of the colour of their skin, not because they dislike a language that nobody, bar Gaeltacht dwellers, well-to-do cultural elitists and Shinners, speaks. I agree with you that people should be given a choice whether or not to learn Irish, but please don't force those who don't want to to do so.

"The child who didn't hear Irish at home, the child whose parents hate the language, deserves to be given a glimpse of the Irish language culture that will make it possible for him or her to take his or her own decision regarding the language."

And you are suggesting that the way to do that is to force those children to spend 14 years learning that language?

"It is quite unmistakably clear that you couldn't care less about the language or about any cultural pursuits. But don't suppose that everybody else is such a barbarian."

That is highly insulting to people who do not speak Irish. We are not "barbarians" just because we aren't good little boys and girls who will diligently learn a dead language just because your whim dictates. And by the way, it's a bit rich to use such terms, given that some Irish language activists (not all, I must emphasise )are quite republican in their beliefs and support the forced annexation of people who may not necessarily want a united Ireland. To go further into my opinion on the Irish language, please read

Gryphon said...

Good article

Love to know how much is spent on translations the like.

Sounds like another vested interest in ireland, the land of vested interest, motor trade, vintners, gaelgoirs,

The english or gaeilge choice on some bank of ireland ATM's really gets on my wick

Dakota said...

In or around 200,000 emigrants since 2008. If they were speaking Gaelic as their first language they wouldn't be as mobile as they are. The unemployment rate here would be over 25% and climbing, the economy would be a distant memory and Irealnd would be looking for bailout from Greece. Great craic.

Ella said...

Hi GM, an excellent article and thanks for brining it to my attention. Other cultural aspects of Ireland are enjoyed widely by many people. Perhaps it's because they are not forced down our throats. I am of course talking about Irish music and the like. People choose to learn to play the harp, uileann pipes, tin whistle etc. out of enjoyment, not many people who've been forced to learn Irish at school choose to continue when they leave school. I did FR, DE, EN and Irish to leaving cert. I've pursued DE and FR since leaving and have pretty much forgotten all my Irish. I'm not unusual in this...and I did like Irish at school, trouble is I was one of about 3 people in the class who did. It should be an option and not compulsory - then those who want to learn it will and those who have no interest don't need to waste their time and everybody else's too.

The Gombeen Man said...

@ Anon 15:06. That's right... our literacy levels are in decline, yet official Ireland wastes time and resources on trying to sustain Dev's reactionary vision.

@ Anon 15:29. Oh Jasus.

@ An Irishman. Good points - saves me having to deal with the headbanger above. Thanks.

@ Gryphon. It's all about creating an industry, I think. Years back, you failed your whole Leaving if you did not get Gaeilge. You could not get a job in the Civil Service without it. Now they are trying to artificially create "demand" through O'Cuiv's Official Languages Act in order to increase bureaucracy at a time we can least afford it.

@ Dakota. The greatest factor behind inward investment is the fact we are an English-speaking country. That and the tax scammery, of course. But being native English speakers is a huge plus. What if Dev's dubious Paradise came into frution? We'd be fucked, not to put too fine a point on it.

@ Ella. Well said. Your comment exposes the folly of compulsion quite succinctly.

John said...

Conradh na Gaeilge which is funded by the tax payer will charge you 18 Euro for the privilage of learning the Teanga. There are 19 Irish language promotion organisations .
Here they are and this is what they got from you, dear taxpayer:

* Forbairt Naíonraí Teoranta

All-Ireland voluntary organisation supporting the promotion of pre- school education and care services in Irish for children from birth.

Foras grant 2011: €1,015,217.

* Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge

The central steering council for the Irish language community, it is the primary language lobby dealing with State legislation. The body was the driving force behind the Official Languages Act 2003. It monitors any proposed changes to government policy in the area of language.

Foras grant 2011: €650,409

* Gaelscoileanna Teo

Umbrella group for Irish language schools. It provides support for the development of all-Irish schools at both primary and secondary level. It provides practical support to people who wish to set up schools, and operates according to public demand.

Foras grant 2011: €461,184

* Conradh na Gaeilge

Founded in 1893 by Ireland’s first president Douglas Hyde, Conradh na Gaeilge is the main voluntary community organisation that promotes the Irish language in Ireland and abroad.

Foras grant 2011: €541,911

I would like to point out that there are children in this country dieing for lack of medical treatment due to the cutbacks and that many parents are forced to beg the public for funds in order that these children have the chance to live.

Anonymous said...

@anony 15:29
At primary school some introduction level of Irish should be taught. I had better spoken Irish language skills in 3rd class then I did in my Leaving Cert. (our 3rd class teacher used to get us to do role play on old telephones all in Irish). At 2nd level, they need to rethink the entire system. Language being taught at 2nd level in general needs to be revised. English language skills are terrible, and at 3rd level the Erasmus students often have better written English.

The real solution here is to extend the school year. Currently the Irish school year is one of the shortest in Europe. Reducing summer holidays would be ideal. Now try selling that to teachers.

On a side note, I'm always amazed how, well, how arrogant Irish speakers are, not all of them. But a large chunk hold it over people. Especially teachers, who love to break into Irish when they don't want you to hear what they are saying, we can understand you!

Anonymous said...

Rud eile fós. Tá na Stáit Aontaithe breac foirgthe le grúpaí beaga eitneacha bundúchasacha a bhfuil a gcuid teangacha ag saothrú an bháis - i bhfad níos measa as ná an Ghaeilge le fírinne - agus iad ag iarraidh na teangacha seo a fhoghlaim arís agus á múineadh dá gclann le cuidiú ó na hollscoileanna áitiúla. Mar shampla, is féidir an teanga Miami-Illinois a lua.

(Another point. The United States are literally littered with small indigenous ethnic groups trying to revive, study and teach to their children their extinct or next to extinct languages, most of them much worse off than Irish, with the help of local universities. As an example, we could mention the Miami-Illinois language.)

Anois, má chaitheann tú anuas ar na Gaeilgeoirí toisc iad a bheith ag iarraidh an Ghaeilge a athbheochan, cén fáth nach mbeifeá ag spochadh faoin bpobal Miami-Illinois ar an dóigh chéanna? Cén fáth?

(Now, if you are attacking Gaeilgeoirs for trying to keep Irish alive, why shouldn't you poke fun at the Miami-Illinois community in the same way?)

Mise, Panu, Gaeilgeoir na Fionlainne

Anonymous said...

But cheeky, particularly these days, to be copying and pasting a full article from someone elses website into your own.

The Gombeen Man said...

@ John.
Thanks for that info... I have always wondered how much those particular quangos cost us. Well done.

@ Anon 09.09

That's a good point, the school year is reputed to be relatively short in Ireland. But those hard-pressed teachers need their long holliers, the poor things.

I think we need better teachers too, maybe some of the dead wood can be replaced when the scurry off for their taxpayer-funded early retirement?

@ Panu.

First off, this is not a State-subsidised website, and all its readers are English speakers. That is the vernacular (spoken language) here in Ireland, in case you aren't aware.

There is no need for your indulgent Gaelic translations and, what's more, you won't get paid for them.

Secondly, I am sure the people attempting to revive, or keep alive, Miami-Illinois do not constitute an elite in the USA, and make up the higher echelons of the Civil Service and the State broadcaster.

Likewise I am sure they don't coin it in in grants and subsidies, and attempt to build a state burueacracy around their language in order to benefit from the needless industry they create through statist "promotion" policies. I doubt if they are seeking to have it elevated to the first national language of the USA either.

Nor, I am sure, do they get up to 10% extra marks in state examinations for answering in Miami-Illinois. Likewise, I guess it necessary to speak that language to become a primary teacher.

So before you go ranting on again - perhaps you should consider that I have no problem with people learning or loving whatever languages they like. I have a problem with compulsion and jobbery. But you'd know about that.

Oh, and the earliest inhabitants of this island spoke a P-Celtic language, Old Britonnic, not Gaelic. Norse, Norman French, Yola and Middle English were also spoken here (English, one form or another, has been spoken here for centuries).

So excuse me if I take exception to the jobbery and careerism surrounding Gaelic (and the fact that it is used to exclude non-Gaelic speakers, Irish and foreign nationals alike) stemming as it does from the 19th Century cultural nationalism of the country's founding fathers.

@ Anon 18:15. No, it's not cheeky at all, as well you know. I am not claiming the article to be mine, and I introduce it in context.

Oh, and if you must indulge in your petty sniping, as you have been doing for years now, please at least have the courtesy to sign your comments - as I have asked you countless times before.

Anonymous said...

stating that earlier population spoke a P-Celtic language is innately wrong. Why because Q-Celtic is the ancestral form. Eg. Proto-Celtic was Q-Celtic. (The specific sound is feature of Proto Indo-European) Goidelic languages which include Irish have archaic features (other then perservation of "Q") not found in Brythonic.

If anything the languages that became Brythonic probably underwent soundchanges under cross channel influence from Gaul. The relative isolation of Ireland during the "dark age" period of 800-300BC probably contributed to preservation of features in what later became "proto-Goidelic"/"Archaic Irish"

Either way both of them (Goidelic/Brythonic) preserve features that could be classed Archaic compared to Gaulish. Archaic as in closer to the common proto-Celtic form. You thus see a gradient of features from Goidelic to Brythonic to Gaulish. With Brythonic clearly sitting in middle between the two extremes.

Folks doing computerised language phylogenetics reckon that Gaulish and Insular Celtic probably spilt around 1000BC. Insular Celtic spilt into Goidelic (ala Irish) and Brythonic (ala Welsh) probably from around 900-800BC onwards.

One could always compare it to people living in Hamburg where the local dialect has undergone sound changes to match what's in "High German" as oppose to local "Low German".

As for elite, how come areas such as Iorras Aithneach have unemployment on order of 25-30% throughout the boom years. Surely if these are the elite of the country (as native speakers) they wouldn't even know what unemployment was.

I should point out that Panu is a foreign national himself. "Fionlainne" == of Finland. So it's abit poor to claim the language is been used to exclude foreign nationals. Especially when alot of them end up having better Irish then alot of Irish people. (or so research on 8 years olds seems to be showing)


The Gombeen Man said...

And? The entire cultural nationalist project is based on Gaelic revialism. Nothing else.

The ideological assertion here is based on primary possession, since origins lend legitimacy to appeals for cultural possession. So how far back do you want to go? All Indo-European languages share a common root at some point.

If you want something more academic and studenty, I will quote Ian Adamson's "The Identity of Ulster: The Land, the Language and the People" (1982). If only as it emanates from the diametric opposite of "Irish" - our Irish - cultural nationalism:

"The oldest Celtic language, however, spoken in Ireland as well as Britain, was Brittonic (Old British) and this has survived as Breton, Cornish and Welsh. Gaelic did not arrive until even later [note "arrived", not evolved], at a time when the ancient British and Gaels thought of themselves as distinct peoples."

Not that it matters a bollocks of course. We could be speaking Chinese in 400 years time... and I don't mean that in a derogatory sense... but language patterns change and move on. The language shift occured in Ireland as English was the language of commerce and progress. That is why Gaelic died out. It only "revived" as the emerging Irish elite saw it as a tool for indpendence.

As for your pointing out that Panu is a foreign national - don't you think I know that? He is a middle-class linguist academic living in Finland who cannot possibly share the concerns of working class foreign nationals trying to attain work, education and English language support in Ireland's many new areas with large New Irish populations.

As for non-elitism, I'll draw your attention to a report published by the University of Limerick which found that “Irish was the language of the elite in Ireland… with speakers enjoying higher income than the rest of the population” (Irish Times, Jan 9th, 2010).

Key findings were:

Non-speakers of Irish are twice as likely to be unemployed as their Irish-speaking counterparts.

42 per cent of Irish speakers worked in senior professional, managerial or technical jobs, compared to 27 per cent of non-speakers.

Just 12 per cent of Irish speakers are in semi or unskilled jobs, compared to 20 per cent of non-speakers.

Irish speakers were also seen to enjoy the advantage of a network of social contacts and all of the perks that go with such a network.
22 per cent of Gaelscoileanna sent all their Leaving Cert students to third level, compared to a progression average of 7 per cent (2009 Irish Times Feeder Schools List).

So much for “minority rights” then. But I suppose elites are minorities too, in your own way. And you really want to hold onto that.

anna said...

Overheard 2 school boys on No 7
( Dun Laoghaire bus) 2 days ago.
'X is working hard on his sciences for Leaving cert'
'What about his Irish?'
'No he's not doing that- says he is dyslexic- he's done the exam to prove it.'
'How does that work- you just do the dyslexia exam really badly??'
'Yeah, that's it- plenty do the dyslexia exam to get out of Irish.'
And then they got off at Blackrock College.
NO I did not make one word of it up, and yes the no's of dyslexic pupils claiming exemption from Irish in Leaving Cert has shot up recently.
OH and like many things in Irish education- parents PAY for the exam to have their children diagnosed as dyslexic, an exam which would be free in other countries.IN FACT S V De Paul ( the charity) said a few yrs ago this is something that parents often asked for help with - the exam costs around 100-150 euro- and this was working class parents, desperately asking a CHARITY for help because their UN diagnosed Genuinely dyslexic kids were struggling to EVEN read English at school- these parents were'nt EVEN considering the angle of helping their kids to skip Irish so they could concentrate on their best sciences to get 600 points for medicine at Trinity.... there are Two vastly diverging Irelands...

The Gombeen Man said...

This is the thing that gets me. Why not accept reality? Why not make the subject non compulsory and end the pretence?

Despite what the Compulsory Irish Lobby may chose to believe, the reality is that last year 18% of students did not sit the exam.

There's a message there somewhere for our idiot political class.

Dakota said...

"As for elite, how come areas such as Iorras Aithneach have unemployment on order of 25-30% throughout the boom years." Why? Well isolated communities in remote areas are known to occupy such unfavourable conditions. A fact of life, in capitalist economies.

I would consider Gaelic speakers as an elite, the facts speak for themselves.

Just another entry card to certain Irish elite establishments. I have to say, the Irish elite should give lectures on how to subjugate and emasculate the general population of any given nation, by means of their own history and culture. Fascinating.

Anonymous said...

I detest Irish and all people who speak it. I wish all people speaking this dead language would just jump off a cliff into the Atlantic and let us west Britons get on with out lives (and I think we should reclaim the term 'west Briton' which was originally a compliment). We are a British people and always have been. The soul of Ireland is British and that's why we don't speak Irish. I wish the Queen would just take us over again so we could get rid of our gombeen political class. Our culture is British, I have no respect for Irish culture or language, why not re-join the UK?

The Gombeen Man said...

Ha. Nice try. The only things I detest are elitism, compulsion an jobbery.

Philip Toal said...

Good point Panu said:
- So before you go ranting on again - perhaps you should consider that I have no problem with people learning or loving whatever languages they like. I have a problem with compulsion and jobbery. But you'd know about that -

I taught English in Switzerland to students who had job and salary benefits as their prime motive for learning it. I also taught Guatemalan kids English and I improved my Spanish skills at the same time.
The Guatemalan kids had fun in learning and outshone their arrogant counterparts.