Will Ireland ever speak Irish again in large amounts?
What do you guys think? And I mean just Native Speakers, not hobby Irish-learners. I hear the gaeltaecht is losing ground.
“Ever” is a long time for which to predict the future, so I’ll restrict the outer limit of my forecasting to 2050 or so. In my view, it is highly unlikely that during the next few decades, a majority of the native English speakers of Ireland will raise their children in an Irish-speaking household so that their children will have Irish as their first language.
While Irish, like other languages worldwide originally spoken by people who bore the brunt of nationalist expansion (in this case the Brits) has been pushed to geographical margins - the Gaeltacht - it's gaining in popularity in Dublin and children in the cities are beginning to be raised bilingual which is probably a sign of how it will survive and be revived in the decades to come, even as it becomes less common in more traditional areas. The same is true of Scots Gaelic, very much a minority language, but the Gaelic high school in Glasgow is the most oversubscribed school in Scotland.
Feel free to find a paper that says it's declining in popularity in Dublin, and share it with us.
I walk on to the train platform in Skerries heading into Dublin, there's a woman huddled on a bench. "Tá sé fuar" I call, "Tá sé an-fhuar" comes the smart reply. And we get into conversation.
I'm downstairs at the back end of a Dublin Bus. A woman in front is "giving out" to each and everyone on the bus, in English, that the WiFi's not working. Her phone rings, it's clearly a friend, as she switches seamlessly into Irish (She sounds like she's from Ráth Cairn, or maybe Baile Ghib) and begins bemoaning her grand kids and the lack of appreciation for their Christmas presents.
I'm no fluent speaker, but there won't be a day go by where I don't speak something to someone in Irish, even if it's only "An bhfuil tú go maith" or "feicfidh mé thú go luath…".. and the language is all around us... even the most anti-Irish language citizen knows what "Seachain an bearna" means when they are waiting for the Dart.
One final observation comes as I live on the east coast and sail from time to time, off to the Isle of Man. Manx is interesting, it's a kind of As Guerlainn with an English phonetic spelling, so it takes a bit of guessing to read it, but you can understand the spoken work well enough. The point here is that it died out completely, and was re-introduced by the schools. So if you go and hang around a chip shop in Peel, of a Friday evening, you'll find most of the kids can chat... A friend of mine thinks they use it as a code when chatting in front of parents and strangers... which is why we picked up on it...