Monday, 2 March 2015

Eiffel Advice

A work colleague recently commented to the Blether Region on the strength of some people's rejection of Irish, having watched a particularly animated television discussion on the subject the previous evening. Overall the Blether Region got the impression that the colleague's antipathy to Unionists — or at least the shouty, grandstanding kind — was greater than his love of Gaeilge.

That view was confirmed when he added that he would rather learn French himself.

The obvious response to such comments is "Well, why don't you, then?"

After all, listing random speech varieties whose cultivation might profit the common weal more than Irish is a favourite pastime of politicians and journalists, often — as with Lindy McDowell's call for teenagers to learn Mandarin — with little appreciation of the hurdles that the more exotic tongues might present to learners.

But of course, if those same people were themselves linguists, they would have rather more of an idea about all that.

The disturbing corollary of this is that the Blether Region's love of minority languages may to some extent be down to its being a good practical linguist itself. Indeed, the more one thinks about it, the plainer it becomes. Perhaps it is merely boring the cloth-eared majority with its attempts to universalise a niche interest.

What we can be sure about, however, is that many of today's Irish-speakers are such because they attended Irish-medium education, regardless of any innate linguistic ability or otherwise.

At the moment there are 5,000 children attending such schools. And yes, some of them might even be learning French.

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