Speaking Irish in England brings me home
Seachtain na Gaeilge: Speaking Irish in… Nottingham
For many Irish people abroad, a familiar face or accent can be a major comfort. When I hear an Irish accent here in England, there’s a certain comfort in its familiarity, and I might be curious to know more about the person speaking. But when I hear the Irish language, or see it in print, that’s when I feel properly at home, despite being hundreds of kilometres away.
In my new home of Nottingham, it might be surprising to think that I use my Irish almost as much as I did when I was back in Dublin. I’ve blogged in Irish, however infrequently, since I was 15, initially starting as a way to practise my writing skills outside of my obair bhaile. Fast forward to my late 20s, and I’ll not only blog in Irish, but also tweet as Gaeilge whenever the mood hits me.
Sometimes, I browse online magazines such as Nós, or listen to the occasional media clip or podcast from the likes of TG4 or Raidió na Gaeltachta. In other words, despite being in England’s East Midlands, táim sáite i lár na Gaeltachta arlíne (I’m immersed in the middle of the online Gaeltacht).
Of course, while reading and writing in a language is important, and it’s certain that the internet has helped minority language speakers dramatically with that, it still needs to be spoken to be kept up to scratch. During my college years, half of my time (if not more) was spent conversing with my friends through Irish. Today, while the vast majority of my socialising is done through English, I’ll still catch up with my two best friends from college trí Ghaeilge. We never speak to each other in English, and yet funnily enough, we’ve all moved to the UK; one is in Glasgow, now teaching Scottish Gaelic, while the other studying down in London.
When we catch up - whether on the phone or when we’re back in Ireland for a few days - we only speak in Irish. We do this not out of romantic or nationalist ideals (I may be the former, but certainly not the latter) but simply because it’s more natural for us to chat and relax with each other in Irish, because that’s what we were used to when we were at college.
For me, growing up, the Irish language became something to be passionate about. Others loved their football, or rugby, or films, or whatever else. I loved the language, and everything about it. I was, unashamedly, a Gaelic geek at heart. After college, the Gaeilgeoir in me took a step back to allow my other interests round out my personality, but using Irish nowadays still brings me back to a warm, safe place that is more comforting than any other Irish cultural trait I may come across in Britain or elsewhere. I couldn’t care less about Gaelic football, or traditional music, or where to find the best pint of Guinness. But once someone is able to say “’bhFuil tú go maith?”, that’s when I know I’m home.
Scott De Buitléir is from Clontarf in Dublin, and studied Irish & Welsh at University College Dublin. He now lives in Nottingham with his partner. He tweets at @scottdebuitleir. This article is part of a daily series for Seachtain na Gaeilge about keeping a love for Irish alive in foreign places. For more see http://bit.ly/1QS42SS