Saving the Irish language is easy

By Brendan Patrick Keane at Irish Central

In three years we could have as many Irish speakers as Iceland’s population. If the 800,000 Irish school kids had a choice, more than half would go to a Gaelscoil – voluntarily.

Demand is simply not met. There are toddlers picking up the language in three years. It won’t take long to turn this around.

Irish immersion schools, Gaelscoils, get top grades, because bilingual education is good for the brain. The waiting lists are a mile long.

Once we recognize how easy it is to save the language, through the successful Gaelscoils, we can all get behind them. Learning Irish may be daunting to some of us adults, but there’s no reason we can’t be wise and embrace our language and ensure the next generation has their right to an Irish-medium education.

Nasty anti-Irish talk is a symptom of an unhealthy complex. We need to get over it. No one should be guilty or made feel guilty for the historical circumstances that beat Irish up to give us English. That’s no excuse though for glib talk about how their spoken, living and literary native language is dead. We can be European for real, and love our language.

Ireland gained independence to be a sanctuary for Irish. It makes some of us anxious to think we have to learn Irish. To do our bit, we just have to be positive, and put pressure on the government in Dublin to support what most of us want – a thriving culture. We may not become Irish speakers, but our children can be. That means we tell politicians we want our Irish-medium schools supported. There’s no better way to assert our future, or ensure our rights to Ireland as our homeland.

Gaelscoils have 45,000 students right now. The waiting lists are a mile long.  If only half the Irish school kids got the access they want, Ireland would have an unquestionably strong 500,000 daily speakers. It already has more speakers than cold statistics convey.

Icelandic has only 330,000 speakers, but none of the unhealthy bickering about the language’s death. We all wish the old educational system hadn’t had its mean teaching monopoly for so long. Hebrew was luckier and went from a few rabbis speaking it to 9,000,000 in a generation.

Irish is getting it right now. It just needs Dublin to meet demand and let kids go to Gaelscoils.If you can’t learn Irish then help the kids who do to do so. There should be no Gaelscoil waiting lists. If an adult doesn’t have time to learn the language, he or she does have time to support Irish-medium schools, the highly successful – but wrongly curtailed – Gaelscoileanna.

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