Can Irish People Speak Irish?
Funny little video I found with street interviews, showing the Irish public's knowledge of their country's original language :) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXhDlYREJyo
Yes, roughly 80,000 daily speakers in the last census, so even if you try to measure the number of more irregular speakers, you're looking at a maximum of 150,000 between Gaeltacht residents and people who have it as a second language. We're fairly schizophrenic in our relationship with the language - on the one hand, daily usage is up according to stats, yet a recent report says Irish is dying in the Gaeltacht, but second-language speakers will naturally be less attached to Irish, so every side of the discussion can pick something to suit their viewpoint!
I'm actually rather surprised they did as well as they did. Of course most of the people she talked to are relatively young and would have done their leaving cert exam comparatively recently, so they should still remember something. And it's possible they dropped some really embarrassing ones.
Outside of the Gaeltacht, the number of Gaelscoileanna and Gaelcholáiste is creeping up, with around 10% of primary schools being Gaelscoileanna outside of the Gaeltacht as far as I know. Being close to fluent in Irish myself, I can confirm that the vast majority of Irish people have a fairly poor knowledge of the language thanks to the system, but the younger generation seem to be much better. I've seen more young kids nowadays play with Irish cards with cúpla focal, and know more than a few cases of children who speak Irish with friends outside of school. Heck, one of my friends prefers to count in Irish since it takes her longer to count in English than Irish. Irish is beaten into children in English-medium schools (I know from experience) where as in the Gaelscoileanna the approach is much more pleasant and not as harsh on anyone. Thanks to the amount of non-Irish learners, the Gaeltacht in Canada, and the lovely group here on duolingo, I expect the number of Irish speakers to grow, maybe not too high, but to a better standard than what is here now.
I live in Portumna which is on the edge of the Gaeltacht. They can tell I am not local just by looking. And certainly some of the older irish here are proud of their heritage but very few speak more than cupla focal. Occasionally someone might ask me because they know I like trying to learn languages to try and learn their language an Gaelige. But if I say pretty much anything in response conas ata tu, is maith liom an gaelige. It turns out they like the idea that they have their own language but as another irishman commented. They are a lazy nation when it comes to any language so if they speak English they 'aren't going to learn any more Irish. But as another pointed out. Some of the younger better educated kids not too far away from leaving cert will have a go at correcting my pronunciation. But aint no way they are gonna give me lessons now they don't have to speak oirish no more. I've switched to esperanto here for a bit. hey i like learning not just talking about learning.