December 27, 2004

Irish on the Rebound?

Tom Hundley of the Chicago Tribune reports some good news about Irish, a language that has long been giving way to English. Although Irish is a required subject in Irish schools and since 1922 has been the national language of Ireland, outside of the small area known as the Gaeltacht, whose population is only 83,000 (1991 census), few people actually used Irish in their daily lives. Even in the Gaeltacht over two-thirds of Irish speakers use the language less than once a week according to the Central Statistics Office. However, the number of people reporting themselves as Irish speakers rose 9.8% from 1.43 million to 1.57 million between 1996 and 2002, and over the last twenty years, the number of Irish-medium schools has increased tenfold. According to Padhraic O Ciarda, an executive at Irish-language television station TG4, over the past decade it has become cool to speak Irish. Irish has gone from being the language of the poor, rural, and backward, to being a symbol of the new, modern, prosperous Ireland. Indeed, here's a website promoting cultural tourism in the Gaeltacht. In addition to the usual sorts of tourist activity, they offer Irish language instruction.

I've learned to be skeptical of reports of good news about endangered languages, but Irish may be recovering.

Posted by Bill Poser at December 27, 2004 12:14 AM