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Irish speakers in the Irish Freestate

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  • #2


    Were there more native Irish speakers in the Irish Freestate than there are today?

    Of course.


  • #2


    Rodin wrote: »
    Of course.


    Of course? Not!

    In 1926 a total of 543,511 asserted that they could speak Irish.
    In 2016 the figure was more than three times that number, at 1,774,437. Whether or not the people behind the 2016 figure actually could speak Irish (beyond lá brea and Jams O'Donnell is ainm dom) is open to question.


  • #2


    Mick Tator wrote: »
    Of course? Not!

    In 1926 a total of 543,511 asserted that they could speak Irish.
    In 2016 the figure was more than three times that number, at 1,774,437. Whether or not the people behind the 2016 figure actually could speak Irish (beyond lá brea and Jams O'Donnell is ainm dom) is open to question.




    The 2016 figure is blatant rubbish.


  • #2


    Del.Monte wrote: »
    The 2016 figure is blatant rubbish.


    The figures are from the CSO Census Returns. So if rubbish they are official rubbish. However, I agree with you. Same for French – in my experience of job interviews almost all those who claim to speak ‘fluent French’ on their CVs have a very poor level of school French, very basic at best.


    The number of Irish speakers counted in the census includes schoolchildren so 14 intake years of (+/-) 70,000 pupils = 1 million and about 200k in Third Level.All would have a level of Irish (because its necessary for NUI college entry.) That brings it back to the Free State figure. Within ten years a big majority of today's speakers could not hold a basic conversation in Irish. A staggeringly amazing result when one looks at the massive amount of time and money poured into teaching a language that is about as relevant as veganism.


  • #2


    Mick Tator wrote: »
    The figures are from the CSO Census Returns. So if rubbish they are official rubbish. However, I agree with you. Same for French – in my experience of job interviews almost all those who claim to speak ‘fluent French’ on their CVs have a very poor level of school French, very basic at best.


    The number of Irish speakers counted in the census includes schoolchildren so 14 intake years of (+/-) 70,000 pupils = 1 million and about 200k in Third Level.All would have a level of Irish (because its necessary for NUI college entry.) That brings it back to the Free State figure. Within ten years a big majority of today's speakers could not hold a basic conversation in Irish. A staggeringly amazing result when one looks at the massive amount of time and money poured into teaching a language that is about as relevant as veganism.

    I was trying to find out what the justification was for making it an official language and I was told there were more native speakers in the Irish freestate than there are native speakers today.


  • #2


    I was trying to find out what the justification was for making it an official language and I was told there were more native speakers in the Irish freestate than there are native speakers today.
    ‘Today’ has nothing to do with it being an official language. Its official status is ‘enshrined’ in our Constitution. Prior to 1937 if you wanted any sort of civil service job you had to speak Irish and if you wanted to progress in it you had to be seen to speak Irish. Any taint of Britishness - like being an ex-serviceman/WW1 veteran put you on the heap. That grew out of a need to forge an identity of the ‘National’ Irish type and was – bizarrely – promoted by a bunch of foreigners/Anglo-Irish/Castle Catholics from the late 1800’s. Think of the Abbey. In the early days of the Free State they even were proposals to call judges ‘Breitheamhs’ and have them wear Celtic garb to distance them from the wigs and gowns of the law courts in London.
    All politicians do not want to upset a vocal electorate, even if it is small– that is why the pubs were open at Christmas and Irish as a compulsory subject is not tackled.


  • #2


    I really recommend RV Comerford's Ireland: Inventing the Nation.

    He has an excellent chapter on language.

    Genealogy Forum Mod



  • #2


    That 2016 figure is rubbish. Many people might think they can speak Irish just because they learned it in school but they could not converse in it at all. They might have a few words or phrases, that's about it.
    I guarantee if the question was asked in Irish the number of answers would be a lot smaller!
    It's an embarrassment that after going through school where we studied Irish for about 12-14 years very few are actually fluent in it after all that time.
    So little emphasis is put on speaking the language throughout our schooling, rather the focus is on learning poetry and trying to read Irish prose while only have only a rudimentary grasp of the language, these things would be much easier if we were taught how to speak the language properly first.
    I've seen students studying languages in schools abroad who are much more fluent in their chosen language after 5-6 years of study than any Irish person I know is after going through the Irish schooling system 'learning' Irish.
    Mosts students can barely get through the basic conversation in the Oral in the Leaving Cert, you only have to see the panic and stress it causes, with students trying to learn answers to questions they think might be asked. If we were fluent by that stage the Oral should be a breeze and as normal as having a conversation with a stranger in English.
    I wish I could speak fluently but the reality is that I remember very little despite taking Higher Level to LC. I've lived abroad most of my adult life and when this comes up in conversation people are shocked to hear that most people can barely speak the language despite learning it for so long.
    If it was done properly Irish children should basically grow up being bilingual.


  • #2


    That 2016 figure is rubbish. Many people might think they can speak Irish just because they learned it in school but they could not converse in it at all.

    It's not rubbish, it's simply a badly phrased, unqualified question.

    If the question is "Can you speak irish?"
    Then even somebody with very basic irish, a couple of words or phrases only, should answer, technically they can speak (some) irish.

    If they want to survey the fluent speakers or the conversatioal speakers, they should specify.



    In 1926, people probably assume they were asking about being reasonably fluent.


  • #2


    Mellor wrote: »
    It's not rubbish, it's simply a badly phrased, unqualified question.

    If the question is "Can you speak irish?"
    Then even somebody with very basic irish, a couple of words or phrases only, should answer, technically they can speak (some) irish.

    If they want to survey the fluent speakers or the conversatioal speakers, they should specify.



    In 1926, people probably assume they were asking about being reasonably fluent.

    I think this, I would say that I can speak Irish but my level would be A1 maybe A2 at best how as ever, I would speak French at a C1 level and German maybe B2 level. People lie about how well they speak a language and unfortunately it is all subjective.

    I would assume that there were more native speakers in the 1920s as it was a common language in the 19th century, and it has declined since.

    Just to clarify A1/C1 etc... The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages divides language proficiency into 6 categories with A1 as the most basic level and C2 being mother tongue (A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2).


  • #2


    The language was in decline before the Famine.

    If you compare:

    1901:
    Monolingual Irish: 44276
    Bilingual:589394

    1911:
    Monolingual Irish: 33539
    Bilingual: 522714

    Actual stats from the 1926 on language decline:
    https://www.cso.ie/en/media/csoie/census/census1926results/volume8/C_1926_VOL_8_T3,4.pdf

    Says 18% of the Free State could speak Irish (no definition on how well) in 1926.

    Genealogy Forum Mod



  • #2


    Mick Tator wrote: »
    The figures are from the CSO Census Returns. So if rubbish they are official rubbish. However, I agree with you. Same for French – in my experience of job interviews almost all those who claim to speak ‘fluent French’ on their CVs have a very poor level of school French, very basic at best.


    The number of Irish speakers counted in the census includes schoolchildren so 14 intake years of (+/-) 70,000 pupils = 1 million and about 200k in Third Level.All would have a level of Irish (because its necessary for NUI college entry.) That brings it back to the Free State figure. Within ten years a big majority of today's speakers could not hold a basic conversation in Irish. A staggeringly amazing result when one looks at the massive amount of time and money poured into teaching a language that is about as relevant as veganism.

    A more telling statistic would be how many completed their Census forms in Irish, not parrot a few half remembered fragments of schoolboy Irish.

    "8,068 Irish language forms were completed in Census 2016 compared with 8,676 in Census 2011."


  • #2


    And to those like Newstalk's, Shane Coleman, who would have all our primary schools teach through Irish because it's 'our' national language I call bs. In case he hasn't noticed the population demographic is changing radically and the 'new' Irish along with many of us who are not bona fide Celts do not regard Irish as 'our' national language.

    Build an Interpretative Centre and stick it in a glass case; there's been more money wasted on promoting the Irish language than on bovine TB eradication and that's truly saying something.


  • #2


    Del.Monte wrote: »
    And to those like Newstalk's, Shane Coleman, who would have all our primary schools teach through Irish because it's 'our' national language

    It never ceases to amuse me the way some Irish adults' way of reviving a language is to get others, i.e. children, to do the work, and every excuse under the sun why they can't, or won't, be bothered themselves. :D


  • #2


    pinkypinky wrote: »
    . . . Says 18% of the Free State could speak Irish (no definition on how well) in 1926.
    It's hard to compare the census figures from 1926 with those of today. In 1926, almost everyone who could speak Irish had learned in in the home/in the community. Up to that point national schools generally didn't teach it or, at best, did so in a very limited way.

    So people who identified as Irish speakers in 1926 didnt' have a cúpla focal dimly remembered from a primary school Irish class; most of them were people who spoke, or had spoken, the language in a domestic environment. And that makes for a much higher degree of competence.

    It's true, there were people who had taken Gaelic League classes for ideological/political reasons (or because someone they fancied was taking the classes, or whatever). And even after a couple of years of Gaelic League classes you might have very limited command of the language. But Gaelic League classes had a limited reach; certainly nothing like 18% of the population.

    So my guess is that the great bulk of the 18% who recorded themselves as speaking Irish in 1926 probably could speak reasonably good Irish, and did speak it or at least had actively spoken it at some time in their lives. Whereas now we have a very large class of people who studied Irish academically at school but have never used it at home or in the community, and who have pretty limited Irish.

    I suspect that the truth is that the proportion of the population that knows some Irish is much larger than it was in 1926, but the proportion of the population that has functional Irish - that could engage in a simple conversation, say, or read a newspaper article in Irish - is probably smaller than in 1926.


  • #2


    I agree that their level would be better than now. Those stats pages that I posted do differentiate between people in Gaeltacht areas and otherwise though.

    Very hard to quantify and qualify people who did Gaelic League classes.

    Afaik, children were learning Irish in school from the foundation of the state.

    Genealogy Forum Mod



  • #2


    pinkypinky wrote: »
    I agree that their level would be better than now. Those stats pages that I posted do differentiate between people in Gaeltacht areas and otherwise though.

    Very hard to quantify and qualify people who did Gaelic League classes.

    Afaik, children were learning Irish in school from the foundation of the state.
    Almost everybody recorded in the census in 1926 had been to school before the foundation of the state.

    (Plus, if only because of the need first of all to train teachers to speak Irish, it was quite some time after the foundation of the state before all national schools were teaching Irish.)


  • #2


    Peregrinus wrote: »
    Almost everybody recorded in the census in 1926 had been to school before the foundation of the state.

    (Plus, if only because of the need first of all to train teachers to speak Irish, it was quite some time after the foundation of the state before all national schools were teaching Irish.)
    The Irish language was very much a minority tongue by 1850, chiefly found on the western seaboard. In much of Munster, the less educated spoke a type of English influenced by the Irish of their forebears, hiberno-english, so perhaps could be deemed bilingual.
    In the early 20th century, many people learned Irish at Gaelic league classes, they may have been small in numbers but passionate about the language and would have passed this onto the children. By 1922 every child under 11 was obliged to learn Irish, some schools started teaching it even earlier.
    As compliance with the new national agenda was essential for progress especially in the public service, people would have emphasized their knowledge of and willingness to use Irish. Not withstanding the supposed secrecy of the census, nobody could be certain of it, so tended to claim a knowledge of Irish, just in case.


  • #2


    Mick Tator wrote: »
    The figures are from the CSO Census Returns. So if rubbish they are official rubbish. However, I agree with you. Same for French – in my experience of job interviews almost all those who claim to speak ‘fluent French’ on their CVs have a very poor level of school French, very basic at best.


    The number of Irish speakers counted in the census includes schoolchildren so 14 intake years of (+/-) 70,000 pupils = 1 million and about 200k in Third Level.All would have a level of Irish (because its necessary for NUI college entry.) That brings it back to the Free State figure. Within ten years a big majority of today's speakers could not hold a basic conversation in Irish. A staggeringly amazing result when one looks at the massive amount of time and money poured into teaching a language that is about as relevant as veganism.

    The Irish language is not about as relevant as veganism. It was very important for putting everyone on an equal footing after independence and it still has value today. Even today, Irish citizens here have a distinct advantage in employment over people from English speaking countries given the fact it's official here. If it wasn't the case, employment opportunities may not be so easy to come by. The language needs to be even more heavily enforced now that Ireland has so many foreign workers.


  • #2


    The Irish language is not about as relevant as veganism. It was very important for putting everyone on an equal footing after independence and it still has value today. Even today, Irish citizens here have a distinct advantage in employment over people from English speaking countries given the fact it's compulsory here. If it wasn't the case, employment opportunities may not be so easy to come by. The language needs to be even more heavily enforced now that Ireland has so many foreign workers.

    I think you are looking for an argument for the sake of one?

    Irish citizens have a distinct advantage in employment because (a) they have a more diverse education than many other English speakers (six subjects in L.Cert compared to 2-3 A-Levels); (b) they are citizens of the EU; (c) they are more adaptable and do not have colonial baggage. Speaking Irish is meaningless in the scheme of international business. Irish has been 'enforced' for a hundred years and it is still moribund. Big sticks do not work. It would be far better and more useful for students to spend the time on another EU language

    Your comments above also are totally illogical – particularly when you read your admission that you have not even used Irish for 16 years.
    I've studied Irish for thirteen years yet I haven't spoken a word of it since about 2005. I finished a course on Scottish Gaelic last Christmas, it took me about two months. I would say Scottish Gaelic or Gaidhlig as they call it is about 85-90 % similar to Irish. I would go as far as saying that it is the same language however it is spelled differently.

    I'll give you an example; the word for sausage in Irish is ispín and the word for sausage in Scottish Gaelic is isbean. These seem like two different words however they are pronounced the same.
    You need to do some research on PIE languages and how they branched.....


  • #2


    Mick Tator wrote: »
    I think you are looking for an argument for the sake of one?

    Irish citizens have a distinct advantage in employment because (a) they have a more diverse education than many other English speakers (six subjects in L.Cert compared to 2-3 A-Levels); (b) they are citizens of the EU; (c) they are more adaptable and do not have colonial baggage. Speaking Irish is meaningless in the scheme of international business. Irish has been 'enforced' for a hundred years and it is still moribund. Big sticks do not work. It would be far better and more useful for students to spend the time on another EU language

    Your comments above also are totally illogical – particularly when you read your admission that you have not even used Irish for 16 years.


    You need to do some research on PIE languages and how they branched.....

    Learning a language in school isn't going to make you fluent in it. Fluency comes through immersion and if someone wants to learn a language they can go wherever and learn it.

    Enforcing French or German on the student population of Ireland is not going to benefit the vast majority since they are unlikely to move to those countries ever in their lifetime.


  • #2


    Thought so.


  • #2


    This is before the period in question, but I highly recommend Margaret Kelleher's "Maamtrasna Murders: Language, Life and Death in 19thC Ireland". Really fascinating insights into the Irish language and its speakers, and the impact of that in an English-run bureaucracy.


  • #2


    Mick Tator wrote: »
    I think you are looking for an argument for the sake of one?

    Irish citizens have a distinct advantage in employment because (a) they have a more diverse education than many other English speakers (six subjects in L.Cert compared to 2-3 A-Levels); (b) they are citizens of the EU; (c) they are more adaptable and do not have colonial baggage. Speaking Irish is meaningless in the scheme of international business. Irish has been 'enforced' for a hundred years and it is still moribund. Big sticks do not work. It would be far better and more useful for students to spend the time on another EU language

    Your comments above also are totally illogical – particularly when you read your admission that you have not even used Irish for 16 years.


    You need to do some research on PIE languages and how they branched.....

    PIE is not really relevant in this case as these two languages split far more recently. They would have been part of a language continuum that stretched from the South of Kerry to the far North of Scotland up until the 1600s.


  • #2


    Mimon wrote: »
    PIE is not really relevant in this case as these two languages split far more recently. They would have been part of a language continuum that stretched from the South of Kerry to the far North of Scotland up until the 1600s.


    The Celtic split occurred about 3000 years ago. Scots Gaelic developed out of Old Irish about 1500 years ago.That's far back enough for most people to agree that my reference to PIE languages is acceptable.


  • #2


    Mick Tator wrote: »
    The Celtic split occurred about 3000 years ago. Scots Gaelic developed out of Old Irish about 1500 years ago. That's far back enough for most people to agree that my reference to PIE languages is acceptable.

    Irish , and Celtic languages in general, share quite a few features with Semitic languages. Perhaps the PIE is not as relevant as previously thought.

    Visited Scotland about 10 years ago and was pleasantly surprised how much I understood in reading signs etc. I occasionally watch BBC Alba and can understand a little of the language. And I am not fluent, I have school Irish , learned about 50 -60 years ago, and mostly forgotten now.


  • #2


    I'm not going down that rabbit hole! This is an interesting article if you want to go there
    The Question of a Hamito‐Semitic Substratum in Insular Celtic
    https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1749-818X.2009.00141.x


  • #2


    Mick Tator wrote: »
    The Celtic split occurred about 3000 years ago. Scots Gaelic developed out of Old Irish about 1500 years ago.That's far back enough for most people to agree that my reference to PIE languages is acceptable.

    It was the same language 1500 hundred years ago, albeit from what would have been the Northern dialect of Irish at the time. There would have been continuous contact between the two groups up until the 1600s so it's not as if they developed in isolation for the last 1500 years.

    They are the same branch of PIE languages so hence my point about PIE divergence which happened far earlier not really being relevant.


  • #2


    Mick Tator wrote: »
    ..
    You need to do some research on PIE languages and how they branched.....


    Mick Tator wrote: »
    I'm not going down that rabbit hole! ..
    .]

    I was simple responding to you going down the rabbit hole of PIE and how they branched.

    Up to 400 years ago there was little difference between Irish and Scottish . Even today speakers of one would have a good understanding of the other.

    The original OP is seeking information as to why Irish is an official language. Surely it was simply a matter of choice.


  • #2


    rock22 wrote: »
    The original OP is seeking information as to why Irish is an official language. Surely it was simply a matter of choice.


    The OP clarified his question and got a response from me here .


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