The Irish Language in the Technological Age

30 Oct

My favorite part of the study weekend to the west was visiting Inis Mor. The island was rich with history, beautiful landscapes, and of course culture. Perhaps one of most apparent cultural markers was the fact that this is a Gaeltacht, an area where Irish is spoken as the primary language. I witnessed this first-hand, with our bus driver conversing with Donal and also with local teenagers riding around on their bikes and speaking loudly.

The big issue with Irish is that it’s a dying language. I’ve learned in my linguistics class that there are two different kinds of death a language can go through: murder and suicide. In Irish, originally it seemed to be much more of a language murder from the English, but more recently it’s own people are killing the language, so it has become a suicide.

The amount of daily speakers hovers around 35% of the Irish population, depending on which statistic you look at. There has been an increase in the amount of speakers, due to organizations such as the Conradh na Gaeilge. This one in particular aims at awareness and education within the country to bring about more Irish speakers.

I talked to a girl I know from Donegal about being from a Gaeltacht region. She said that most people speak Irish in their homes, but kids and teenagers only use English to text, email, Facebook, etc. I found this really surprising. We are living in a technological age, but it seems as though the language hasn’t caught up.

I’ve looked online trying to find games or videos that would be fun for kids to use to facilitate them in learning the language, but what I found was surprisingly sparse. Is technology aiding in the suicide of the language by the Irish? There are videos for everything online, but the ones aimed at Irish are poorly done or not in the right level for children. I really believe that the best way to continue the growth of the language is to aim it at the youth, and there is no better way to do that than have it fun and interactive. I know, I’m 20 years old and I’ve found myself watching a Netflix series on sign language because they make it fun.

We’re living in a technological world and it seems as though Irish hasn’t caught up to that. In order for the language to continue spreading, there needs to be a greater focus in selling it in a way that kids are going to want to learn it. If kids are resorting to English to in Gaeltachts, where the language is the mostly widely used, then kids around other areas of the country aren’t going to want to use it in any form of speech.

It would be really interesting to see where the language is in twenty years time. Will technology continue to derail it, or will there be an initiative to promote it more to the younger generations using the technology they are interested in?

-Grace McDavid

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