Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Importance of Language

Di’a  Dhuit.  Pronounced “Desh do-it” (as best I can remember), this is Irish Gaelic/Gaeilge  for hello.   We lived in Ireland for several years, with our children in Irish schools.  Our oldest daughter, Erin, was ten years old when school began.  That exempted her from having to gain some fluency in Gaelic.  Our younger children, John (6 yrs.) and Mary (4 yrs.), started into school with the expectation that they would be learning Gaelic.

Every school day, part of the classes would be in English.  For the rest of the day, Gaelic was spoken and taught.  John and Mary’s homework included Gaelic vocabulary and reading, along with homework in English.  As for Erin, she had to learn certain phrases having to do with being excused to go to the bathroom, get a drink.  She never learned them to satisfaction, so she told me she just “held it” until recess. 

Gaelic is an amazing and difficult language. 

It is beautiful to hear, and the poetry it has produced (and fortunately translated into English) is full of depth, revealing the courage and spirit of its people.  All students who are University-bound must pass Irish Language proficiency tests during their university years.  Sections of southwestern and western Ireland, as well as the out-lying islands, are considered native Irish language areas.  Parents send their children to three-week summer camps in those areas for immersion.  Some parents send their students to Irish/Gaelic-only schools, scoil, paying for this connection to their history through its language.

If I haven’t lost any readers by this point, I am telling you about this complex language, because language defines who we are as a people.  All over the world, the many languages and dialects spoken are reflections of the people and their history.  As the native-speaker generations age and pass away, often the language goes with them.  We see it here in America in the Native American populations, where the elders take the original rich language of their history with them.  Some of the following generations are left with only phrases and basic words. 
Language is the basis of our communications, written and oral.  Having a passion for writing leads me to having a passion for language. 
Go raibh mai’the agat .  (‘Thank you’ as best I can remember in Gaelic.) 

1 comment:

  1. A lovely post. As an historian, writing Celtic adventure stories for children, I was very interested.


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