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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: January 6, 2010 @ 11:15 am

    No native speakers here

    Pól Ó Muirí

    Guest writing today’s Tuarascáil, journalist Seán Tadhg Ó Gairbhí, casts his eye over the Government’s 20 year draft strategy for Irish – and is not that impressed by the way in which it leaves the native speaker in the half penny place. Giving his own analysis of the draft strategy, citing work by academics Conchúr Ó Giollagáin and Brian Ó Curnáin, published in The Irish Times, and also drawing on John Walsh’s analysis in this month’s Beo!, Ó Gairbhí wonders whether the native speaker is to be sacrificed in order to create a new order of bilingual learners.

    Ó Gairbhí argues that such a move would be detrimental for the long term survival and well-being of the language: “Mar nuair a iompaíonn teanga ina teanga d’fhoghlaimeoirí amháin ní fada go dtosaíonn líon na bhfoghlaimeoirí ag dul i léig. I ndiaidh tamaill eile ní bhíonn fágtha mar fhoghlaimeoirí ach an scoláire agus an staraí. Ná fágaimis fúthu siúd breithiúnas a thabhairt ar Straitéis 20 Bliain na Gaeilge. Táimid ag ground zero na Gaeilge arís.”/["When a language turns into a language for learners only, it is not long until the number of learners declines. After another while, the only learners left are the scholar and the historian. Let us not leave the judgment of the 20 year strategy to them. We are at ground zero for Irish again."]

    • Catherine says:

      My father was raised in the Gaelteacht, I was not – although I did spend a few summers there. For the most part, I acquired my Gaeilge in the classroom. These days, if I want to speak in Irish, I need to do the translation from English in my head before I open my mouth. And I don’t think that I’m alone in that.

      On the other hand, my father spoke in his native tongue with grace and fluency. I can never acquire that innate skill and knowledge. He was the native speaker and I am not. Therein lies the huge difference between the native speaker and the bilingual learner.

      Conchúr Ó Giollagáin, Brian Ó Curnáin agus Seán Tadhg Ó Gairbhí are correct. If Gaeilge becomes a language for learners only, it will become a dead language. This must never be allowed to happen because, if it does, we will lose an integral part of our identity and we won’t be able to retrieve it. I pray that the government will consider and adopt the suggestions raised by the above-mentioned individuals.


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