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Irish Language Endangerment Essay

1590 words - 7 pages



UNESCO classified Irish as a definitely endangered language even though the government of Ireland

has made numerous efforts to revive the language. This report demonstrates the causes of the Irish

language endangerment and offers proper recommendations to Irish Preservation Organization,

IPO. First of all, Irish language is still endangered because the base of Irish language weakened in

Gaeltacht. Secondly it is due to inherent problems of education system. Thirdly, more globalized

environment lower the Irish language status. Therefore, appropriate measures to vitalize Irish

language are essential. They include ...view middle of the document...


1) Gaeltacht

Gaeltacht is an Irish word that means the Irish-speaking regions. It was firstly defined by ‘The

Gaeltacht Areas Orders 1956-1982’, includes areas where the majority of inhabitants are active Irish

speakers. Statutory Gaeltacht status of these areas enhances the cultural identity and works as a

strong incentive to develop Irish as a community language. Thus, Gaeltacht preservation is highly

significant to Irish language conservation. However, Gaeltacht areas are extremely limited (refer to

figure 1) and even the people living in Gaeltacht do not speak Irish much on a daily basis.

Category | Daily Irish speakers |
A | More than 67% of the total population |
B | Between 44%-66% of the total population |
C | Less than 44% of the total population |

Figure 1: Map of Gaeltacht categorized by 3 groups
(The Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs 2007)
Only 2.1% of the whole population lives in Gaeltacht and just 24% of them are daily Irish speakers.

(CSO, 2011) This resulted from language shift toward English driven by various social dynamics.

Gaeltacht regions are physically attractive for suburban settlement because they are close enough to

developing urban areas. In addition, they are also appealing as tourist destinations since they have

spectacular natural beauty. Therefore, there was a huge influx of non-Irish language speakers and

non-Gaeltacht origins. As a result, linguistic composition of Gaeltacht community shifted to English.

2) Education system

For several decades, Ireland government has executed various policies to revitalize the Irish language.

Most of the policies were educational measures such as prescribing Irish as an obligatory subject

from primary to Leaving Certificate level, and continuous support to Irish-medium schools called

Gaelscoil. Consequently, the percentage of Irish speakers has increased about 20% since 1926 (CSO,

2011) and the number of Irish-medium schools also increased massively. (Gaelscoileanna,

2013) Explicitly, it looks like Irish revived quite successfully. However, this is not the case when it

comes to speaking Irish outside the education system.

Figure 2: Population of Irish speakers by age and frequency of speaking Irish (CSO, 2011)
From age 6 to 18, there are a large amount of daily Irish speakers. However, the point is that these

young people speak Irish only within education system. As people get older, the proportion of

speaking Irish ‘less often’ and ‘never’ increases remarkably. Thus, overall only 1.8% of the whole

population speaks Irish on a daily basis outside of education. In addition, education system does not

ensure basic fluency in Irish to all students who graduate. They may well have enough fluency to pass

the Irish exam in schools, but they lack sufficient ability to speak Irish in real life communications.

(Seán Ó Cuirreáin, 2008)...

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