As I am in my final term of university, my language learning has taken a much bigger dip that I anticipated. However, that doesn’t mean that I have abandoned language learning entirely. I have often been reading vast amounts of foreign literature and practising my conversational skills with my multilingual friends. After a particularly stressful term, I decided to visit a friend in Dublin for a few days and I encountered something I never thought possible.
Often when someone mentions that Ireland has it’s own language, most people assume one they’re talking about the accent. This is simply not true. Ireland in fact has two official languages; English and Irish, otherwise known Gaeilge. The Irish language is the first official language of the Republic of Ireland and is also the only Celtic language that is an official language of the European Union. It has been a part of Ireland’s history for centuries and despite some decline, it is making quite a comeback. The Irish language started to go into some decline over the century; resulting in a severe decline in the number of speakers. Most speakers ere confined to the west coast of Ireland which came to be known as the Gaeltacht due to the high number of Irish speakers. Despite this decline however, the Irish has made a surprising comeback in recent years and now more and more people in Ireland are becoming bilingual.
My trip to Dublin showed me that Irish is all around you, wherever you go. As one walks through Dublin airport, one is greeted by signs such as Railu Pasana, or passport control, which immediately give the impression that Irish is as prominent today as it ever was. Walking through the high street I heard various conversations in Irish, as well as in Coffee shops, restaurants and even Tesco! Nearly every sign I encountered was either bilingual or simply in Irish. A particular time I shan’t forget was during a visit to an establishment called the Gaelchulter, which is an establishment in Dublin which offers lessons in the Irish language as well as a vast array of language learning resources.
As soon as I had entered the establishment I greeted the receptionist with a simple ‘Dia dhuit’ to which she naturally responded ‘dia is muire dhuit’. This is of course the standard greeting in Irish and whilst I have some conversational skills in Irish, I was mostly at a loss as to what to say as the staff refused to speak English. Suddenly a miracle happened as I found out that the staff also spoke German which meant that we could easily converse without the need for English! This experience made me wonder as to whether Irish really is on the rise.
Though there an increasing number of Gaelscoileanna (Irish-medium schools), students in English-medium schools are also required to study Gaeilge right through to the end of their Leaving Certificate. This of course means that even if you ask someone ‘An bhfuil Gaeilge agat?’ which literally translates to ‘do you have Irish?’, it is now rather unlikely that there will be anyone who won’t be able to at least speak a little bit of Irish. I have high hopes for this beautiful and mysterious language and I truly believe that the number of speakers will continue to increase, despite the years of decline.