Duolingo is the most popular way to learn languages in the world. Best of all, it's 100% free!

https://www.duolingo.com/aindriu80

Opinion: How to rescue the Irish language

aindriu80
  • 25
  • 25
  • 25
  • 12
  • 9
  • 9
  • 8
  • 1412

How often do we hear people say that they wish they could speak their native language?

http://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/opinion-how-to-rescue-the-irish-language-1.2515093

Despite 14 years of learning Irish, the majority of people are unable to speak their native language with confidence. In a recent survey carried out by the Irish Primary Principals’ Network (IPPN) of our members, over half of the respondents stated that the strategy for Gaeilge is not clear and that they favour a “radical overhaul” of the Gaeilge curriculum.

With the many 1916 commemorative events taking place this year, the time is ripe to discuss the curriculum of our native language and how we can revive it among our children for generations to come. A considerable amount of energy has been put into the teaching of Irish. Most teachers would agree that the teaching methodologies used to date have not been effective in developing fluency in the Irish language. Language competency is normally acquired through listening, speaking, reading and writing – in that order. However, rote learning is still a feature in preparation for exams and some teachers are over-reliant on the use of work books.

Too many children say they “don’t like Irish”. We have to ask the question why. The answer lies in differentiating between learning Irish as a living language through conversation and communication as opposed to learning Irish as an academic subject.

The new Primary Language Curriculum goes some way towards addressing these challenges. I am, however, proposing a radically different approach to the Irish curriculum across all primary and post-primary schools.

Early speaking I propose that the focus at primary level, from junior infants to sixth class, should be on conversational Irish. This would be taught to all children in the Irish education system, with no exemptions and no assessment.

Throughout primary level, the emphasis will continue to be on aural and oral language skills. We need to focus on teaching the language through fun and games, including drama, songs, stories, proverbs, humour and jokes, etc. Every school could be a bilingual school. Second-language learning does not have to be a burden. More than half of primary school principals who responded to the recent IPPN survey said that they wanted the time for Gaeilge to be increased but not if it is just more of the same failed methodologies. In the same survey, principals said that they would like to see more time given on the curriculum to physical education. This is the perfect opportunity to integrate the two subjects – by teaching PE through the medium of Irish. This allows for interactive conversation in the present tense as opposed to language which reports events using the past tense.

In debates about the Irish language and the primary curriculum, there is often reference to a lack of competency of some teachers regarding their ability to teach Irish. Rather than blame teachers, we need to look at how they are being taught to teach Irish. The training of teachers and the focus on Irish in teacher-training college also needs to be reviewed in conjunction with these changes and all colleges need to work to the same standards.

At post-primary level, conversational Irish will continue to be taught to all students up to the end of the secondary cycle. In addition, Gaeilge will be offered as an academic subject with assessment, for those who wish to study it on the same basis as students taking Spanish or German.

Leaving Cert While this approach would result in a smaller number of students taking Irish to Leaving Cert level, at least those who would choose it as an exam subject would be taking it for the right reasons. In summary, my vision for the future of the language is that conversational Irish would be compulsory for all students, from junior infants to Leaving Cert; academic Irish would be optional and assessed accordingly at post-primary level.

There may be powerful arguments against adopting this as a strategy. However, in the words of Albert Einstein “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.

We can’t blame Peig Sayers anymore.

Seán Cottrell is chief executive of the Irish Primary Principals’ Network

2 years ago

9 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/Knocksedan

Apart from the copyright issues, the problem with posting full articles like this on Duolingo rather than a summary and link to the article is that readers here will not read the feedback/comments on the article at the Irish Times itself.

While the comments on Irish Times articles generally leave a lot to be desired, they will give a flavour of the attitude of the Irish public to topics such as this. The responses will be much more mixed than you will get here in a forum of people who are only here because they have a positive attitude to the Irish Language.

You will find many of the comments annoying, and some of them barely coherent, but if you are interested in this topic, I'd recommend you give it a day, and then follow the link above and read the comments section at the end of the article.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/smhwrd
smhwrd
  • 14
  • 11
  • 5
  • 2
  • 2

As someone who was brought up in the unionist community in Northern Ireland I feel annoyed that I wasn't even given a chance at the language. Both my primary and secondary schools had absolutely no Irish education whatsoever.

I feel that (as usual) politics are to blame here in Northern Ireland and I mean both the unionist and the republican parties. The unionist politicians have made the language somewhat taboo to the protestant/unionist community here by associating it with republicanism and and to some degree terrorism, and its absolutely disgraceful. On the other hand, the republican politicians don't seem to be trying to gather much needed support for Irish education in protestant schools.

Its obvious that the situation we have here has a has a substantially adverse effect on the language on the island. If you look at this diagram of Irish speakers in Ireland you can actually see the border between the republic and the north very clearly: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Irish_speakers_in_2011.png

I just think it's such a shame that half of the population up here don't know a single thing about the native language of this island even though many of our families have lived here for hundreds of years.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SteveLando
SteveLando
  • 24
  • 20
  • 19
  • 18
  • 15
  • 15
  • 13
  • 13
  • 12
  • 11
  • 10
  • 10
  • 9
  • 9
  • 9
  • 8
  • 8
  • 7
  • 7
  • 6
  • 6
  • 6
  • 5
  • 5
  • 5
  • 4
  • 4
  • 3
  • 3

Parents who know Irish just have to start speaking Irish to their children. They do not have to give up English but could preferably speak both languages, one day Irish, the other day English, and so on.

On society base the society must make room for Irish in different circumstations. And also here, people who love Irish and their native toungue should just start talking in it, in the media, in the companies, in the society over all.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/VossBucci
VossBucci
  • 13
  • 11
  • 11
  • 8
  • 8
  • 8
  • 6
  • 5
  • 3

My mother spent part of her childhood in Cork, speaking only Gaelige at home and at school. The problem was that when she was about seven or eight years old, she and my grandparents then went to live in England.... fast forward fifty or so years and they've forgotten how to speak Gaelige. The same thing seems to be happening to Welsh. :-/

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/dquedenfeld16

In large part, it ultimately comes down to not how to teach the language but how to make people use it outside of the education system. I once read that someone proposed the question, "How do you expect children to use Irish outside of school when in school they talk to their friends in English, and when they leave to home they watch TV in English, browse the Internet in English, listen to music with English lyrics and learn Irish with English?"

Many data collections in Ireland have shown that a large portion of the population has knowledge of some degree of Irish. If they had the confidence to actually speak it, they would learn the rest from each other, as if it were a giant immersion project.

If everyone in Ireland spoke Irish, or even attempted to exclusively use Irish for even just a year, you'd probably see a significant difference in the Gaeilgeoiri population, for the better.

So how do we encourage the upcoming generations to use Irish in an English dominated society? If we could achieve it, the linguistic demographics of Ireland would change over the next decade, maybe two, and substantially.

Focusing on conversational Irish is an important first step. If kids are confident to speak it, it increases the odds that they'll use it outside of the classroom.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/doktorkampi
doktorkampi
  • 15
  • 15
  • 11
  • 10
  • 10
  • 10
  • 9
  • 8
  • 6
  • 4
  • 4
  • 3
  • 2
  • 2

Language immersion education. I see no other way for endangered languages preservation.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Knocksedan

Chicken and egg - an endangered language by definition doesn't have enough native speakers to provide a real immersion experience for a significant number of learners. In the case of Irish, even though there's a thriving system of Gaeltacht summer schools, they don't provide the same type of immersion as you would get by living in a town in Italy and learning Italian, for example, while there are people in the Irish Language movement who argue that Gaelscoileanna are actually bad for the language - or at least that the products of Gaelscoileanna don't speak "real Irish".

But I agree with you - competence requires some degree of immersion.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/hpfan5
hpfan5
  • 10
  • 9
  • 7
  • 5
  • 4
  • 3

also a lot of the diaspora who begin to learn Irish don't have anyone to speak to then if they study/practice and get to a level of semi-'conversational' it may sound very robotic and not natural because they have had not humans to interact with and listen to only computers and that is bionic to say the least ... this makes me think of the website lang8.com where people can try to practice writing sentences/paragraphs in their target language and are corrected by natives - if we could only do that with recorded speech and have natives or others comment on our accents or speech patterns that would be great - its not really about speech recognition but comment feed back - record your fav phrase or book passage etc as a side project - just a thought - :)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/hpfan5
hpfan5
  • 10
  • 9
  • 7
  • 5
  • 4
  • 3

also with there being different dialects/accents within Irish - that is ok that there not be just one but maintain different accents while still teaching new students of Irish :)

2 years ago