Irish As a Dying Language

by Siobhán Donovan
Class of 2016

Irish, as the Irish call it, or Gaelic, as Americans call it, was once widely spoken across Ireland, but today it is only spoken, daily, in remote areas on Ireland’s west coast. These Irish-speaking areas are called Gaeltacht and the people living in these areas who speak Irish in their day to day lives only make up two percent of Ireland’s population. And that number is decreasing, even though Irish is taught in schools in Ireland. Irish is a dying language and I would hate to see it disappear completely.

My mom was born and raised in a village on the west coast of Ireland where they still speak Irish daily. She grew up speaking the language in her daily life and still speaks it whenever we visit Ireland or when she is talking to one of her siblings on the phone. When we visit Ireland, all of our family over there speaks Irish to one another. Even our youngest cousins learned Irish before they learned English. We also have an uncle who always asks us how our Irish is coming along, and I regret to say that I only know a few words and phrases, but I hope to change that soon. Speaking Irish is a huge part of my mom’s family, so much so that when I was younger I believed that everyone in Ireland spoke Irish daily, but that is far from the truth.

The majority of the Irish population speaks English in their daily life because when the English ruled Ireland they enforced speaking English. This enforcement meant business interactions were to be in English and this spread to other aspects of daily life, until Irish was only spoken in rural west coast areas far from the British reach. Even after Ireland gained independence, English remained the more widely spoken language since it helped to speak the same language as international partners such as Britain and America.

It may seem as if Irish will soon completely die out, but hope is not completely lost. Recently, there has been a reemergence of Irish in cities across Ireland, specifically Galway. So there is still hope that Irish will survive, and as someone who is extremely proud to be Irish, I hope that the language will stick around.

Siobhán Donovan is a student in Advanced Placement English Language and Composition