Moving the Minority Language beyond the Minority
© An Dr Ciarán Dawson
Ionad na Gaeilge Labhartha
Coláiste na hOllscoile Corcaigh
An Indo-European Language
About 7000
BC in Ukraine
An Ghaeltacht
Number of Speakers: Ireland
Population
Irish Speakers
1841
8,100,000
4,100,000
1901
4,458,775
619,710
2001 (north)
2002 (south
Total
1,617,957
4,057,646
5,675,603
75,125
1,656,790
1,731,915
Number of Speakers: United States
In the Census of 2000 25,870 people said they
use Irish at home.
Legal and Constitutional Status
South
Article 8
1. The Irish language as the national language is the first official language.
2. The English language is recognised as a second official language.
3. Provision may, however, be made by law for the exclusive use of either of
the said languages for any one or more official purposes, either
throughout the State or in any part thereof.
North
1. St Andrews Agreement: the British government has agreed to introduce
an Irish language Bill which could see Irish becoming an official
language.
Europe
1st January 2007:
Irish was recognised as an official language of the European Union.
All legislation and documents of major public importance or interest are now
produced in Irish.
Education
South
North
The Media
10.000 Readers
Publishes Daily on World Wide Web
Daily Podcasts
Foinse: 7.000 readers.
Broadcasts Nationally on FM.
Has recently begun to broadcast on
Internet.
Broadcasts 24 hrs a day.
20.000 daily in Dublin alone.
Broadcasts on Internet.
RTÉ
BBC Northern Ireland
A selection of Programmes on
Television and Radio.
30 minutes radio every weekday
Ionad na Gaeilge Labhartha
The Centre for Oral Irish
University College Cork
10 Full-time Permanent Staff
Ionad na Gaeilge Labhartha
An Ghaeltacht
1 Fulltime Permanent Staff
&
1 Part-time Permanent Staff
Ionad na Gaeilge Labhartha
2005 - 2006
1289 learners
Classes
Learning Support
Schemes
An Ghaeltacht
Ionad na Gaeilge Labhartha
Non-Irish Learners
GA1120/1
MX1004
Evening Classes
La Universidad de La Coruña
Ruhr-Universität Bochum
Krakow
Ionad na Gaeilge Labhartha
La Universidad de La Coruña
5 Credit Module in Taught PhD Programme in Irish Studies
2006
15
2007
5
Ionad na Gaeilge Labhartha
Ruhr-Universität Bochum
5 Credit Module in
Der Optional Bereich
2000
60
2001
75
2002
60
2003
65
2004
50
2005
150
2006
13
2007
88
2000-7
561
Ionad na Gaeilge Labhartha
Krakow
2007
12
Ionad na Gaeilge Labhartha
Evening Class
2002 - 7
Buntosnaitheoirí 1
20 students two nights a week
2003 - 7
Buntosnaitheoirí 2
15-20 students one night a week
Ionad na Gaeilge Labhartha
GA1120
2000/1
160
2001/2
158
2002/3
197
2003/4
157
2004/5
245
2005/6
270
2006/7
296
2000-7
1483
Ionad na Gaeilge Labhartha
MX 1004
2006/7
8
The Survey
Focused on Teaching Abroad
How do learners become aware of Irish?
Why do learners want to learn Irish?
What are their expectations of Irish?
How did you hear about Irish?
Literature
5
Music
4
Education
4
Media
3
Bilingual Signage
2
From a Friend
2
How did you first hear about Irish?
Irish was always mentioned related to
Galician … I remember that I studied the
status of Irish in Ireland, concerning TV,
radio, institutions and other details at high
school.
How did you first hear about Irish?
I think it was when I started to be interested
in Celtic culture and I heard some Irish
songs performed by “Clannad”.
How did you first hear about Irish?
I don’t remember but probably it was
connected with listening to folk and Celtic
music.
How did you first hear about Irish?
About Irish classes at the university I was
informed by my friend.
How did you first hear about Irish?
In reading German renderings of Irish Fairy
Tales.
How did you first hear about Irish?
In a book I read about Celtic Stories.
How did you first hear about Irish?
I’m interested in music… Furthermore Irish
culture is very very popular in Germany.
How did you first hear about Irish?
television, internet etc
How did you first hear about Irish?
In a song. (I guess it was sung by Enya or
someone…)
How did you first hear about Irish?
The Three Investigators, my favourite stories
as a child (10) have workers from Ireland who
speak Irish with each other.
How did you first hear about Irish?
Roadsign in a pub.
How did you first hear about Irish?
When I became interested in sci-fi
literature.
Why do you want to learn Irish?
Celtic Culture
12
Unique nature of Irish
5
Interest in Languages
4
Liked the sound of Irish
4
Part of Education
3
Access to Literature
3
Connection with other minority languages
1
Just ‘Hooked’ on it
1
Why do you want to learn Irish?
I am studying a PhD on Irish
Studies, so I think it is important to
know the language of Ireland.
Why do you want to learn Irish?
I like the sound of Irish so I was
more encouraged to learn it.
Why do you want to learn Irish?
The status of that language reminds
me in many senses to that of the
Galician language.
Why do you want to learn Irish?
I wanted to learn a language that
some might consider “unnecessary”.
Why do you want to learn Irish?
Because I felt in love with Irish
culture and I like learning anything
which is connected with it.
Why do you want to learn Irish?
Because of the very unique sound of
this language - it is beautiful and
exotic for me.
Why do you want to learn Irish?
I’m fascinated by the Irish culture
and I believe that its easier to
understand the nation’s culture when
one knows its history and language.
Why do you want to learn Irish?
It is something special - usually
people know English, German,
French or Spanish.
Why do you want to learn Irish?
Knowing a little bit of Irish I’ll know
something more about Irish culture.
Why do you want to learn Irish?
I love the way the language sounds
in poetry and songs.
Why do you want to learn Irish?
It is a wonderful and peculiar
language remote from my field of
classical languages.
Why do you want to learn Irish?
I am interested in the culture and
history of the country.
Why do you want to learn Irish?
My plan is to become a teacher of
English and Geography. Therefore
Irish and the Irish culture are
excellent additions.
Why do you want to learn Irish?
Because of the Celtic origin (instead
of Roman or Germanic)
Why do you want to learn Irish?
Out of a general interest in Ireland
and its culture, oringinally stirred by
the poetry of Yeats, more practically
out of a desire to study in Ireland for
a period of time.
Why do you want to learn Irish?
I am interested in Ireland’s history
and culture, especially theatre, poets
playwrights.
Why do you want to learn Irish?
I like languages but only when it
seems to be extraordinary.
Why do you want to learn Irish?
I got hooked (after I got over the
slender/broad thing the books for learners
seem to use to keep people away).
Why do you want to learn Irish?
In my opinion we should learn not
only the most popular ones but also
others - to protect them against
disappearing.
What level of Irish would you be satisfied with?
1 = basic level
5 = native speaker level
1
-
2
Coruña ()
Krakow (1)
Bochum (1)
2
-
0
Coruña ()
Krakow ()
Bochum ()
3
-
11
Coruña (2) Krakow (3)
Bochum (6)
4
-
4
Coruña (1) Krakow (2)
Bochum (2)
5
-
1
Coruña ()
Bochum ()
Krakow (1)
Implications
For promotion of language
Perception abroad of Irish as integral to understanding Ireland, its
culture and its literature.
Others are attracted to Irish because of its perception as being on
the outer limits.
Others like the sound of Irish and are attracted to its music and
poetry.
Users of other minority languages find common cause with Irish.
Implications
For the teaching of Irish
While Irish people generally aim to reach native-speaker or near
native-speaker level with Irish, people from abroad are
generally satisfied to become average users of the language.
While there is an obvious need to cater for the nature of the
demand, it is also necessary to create the conditions in which
learners will be motivated to aspire to the highest level of
language skills.
Further Research
What are the particular challenges learning Irish poses to speakers
of languages other than English.
What is the experience of other Minority Languages in this area?
How much of a motivating factor can this interest from abroad be
for Irish people to learn their own language?
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