Gaeilge or Irish is the first national language of the Republic of Ireland, a status enshrined in the constitution. It is taught as a second language as a compulsory subject in government-funded schools and appears to be making a strong comeback as evidenced by its use in newspapers and broadcasts. While many speakers are proud of their language, there are also many naysayers more concerned about gainful employment where English skills are what count.
In 2006, the Irish government moved forward with a plan to make the nation completely bilingual over a two-decade period, an amazing development in the field of endangered languages.
In the United States, a major destination in the Irish diaspora, people of Irish descent make up twelve percent of the population and Irish pride is common, particularly on St. Patrick’s Day.
Gaeilge classes are offered at many universities in the US, and now there is a weekly hour-long broadcast (archives) offered in New York on WFUV that provides language lessons along with cultural and historical information.
Even social-networking site Facebook is getting into the Gaeilge act. Having translated more than 8000 terms in order to provide a full language experience for users, they have more than twice that to go as of January. Equivalents for such expressions as pizza toppings and (user) profile all must be decided on, and the Facebook approach is to use consensus to select terms, thereby increasing the scope of the Gaeilge vocabulary.
The Internet offers a wealth of resources to learn Gaelige. Here is a selection:
- Daltaí na Gaeilge – grammar, forums, educational materials, class locations
- Ten one-minute lessons – subscription page, blog-style listening page
- YouTube – few of the Irish lesson videos seem useful. The Pimsleur series is an exception.
This article was inspired by the AP article “Radio show leads the way for Gaelic comeback.”