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Duolingo provides encouragement when Irish faces prejudice

Last week a columnist with one of Ireland's major newspapers wrote a frankly patronising and insulting article advocating the cutting of what little government support exists for Irish speakers because an individual got out of a drink-driving charge on a technicality relating to the Irish language (bizarrely his breath test results weren't given bilingually even though breathalysers are usually programmed to print in both languages). Arguing that you cannot revive a language "by an Act of Parliament", the columnist offered some fuzzy waffle about "our beautiful language" before having this to say:

The guardians of “language rights” as prescribed in the Official Languages Act have gone at the language like the Taliban went at Islam and left nothing except lumpen duty and legal threat.

Sadly in Ireland human rights apparently require scare quotes and people asking to be treated as equal citizens are compared to autocratic regimes. Before this gets you all depressed, you should know that many, many people have responded, calling out the columnist about her nonsense. For example, here, here, here, here and here.

In the last response, by Julian de Spáinn, Ard-Rúnaí of Conradh na Gaeilge, the popularity of Duolingo was specifically mentioned as something that gives hope to Irish language-rights activists:

Phenomenal progress is being made by those learning and relearning Irish, at home and abroad, by the thousands of students who invigorate college life with their participation in third-level Irish societies, the 20,000 students who took part in Conradh na Gaeilge’s #Gaeilge24 campaign last year, the tens of thousands of daily speakers of Irish, the hundreds of thousands who participate in Seachtain na Gaeilge events all over the world each year, the million plus who are learning Irish on DuoLingo as I write.

I thought it might interest some people here to see the hostility Irish often faces in our Anglophone media and to know that by learning the language, here or elsewhere, all of you are countering foolish bullies like our friend above.

2 years ago