We Are Doing It To Ourselves - 10 Ways to Kill A Language
Languages are rarely killed off by the policies of an oppressor alone – instead, while languages try to recover from a life threatening injury, it is a death-by-a-thousands cuts inflicted by the native population themselves that properly ensures a language is extinguished.
Here are just a sample of the thousands of little nicks, grazes, cuts and bruises that keep the Irish language from regaining it’s strength:
Phasing out the fada
When creating websites and databases it is not difficult to allow customers to include letters with accents on them. Since redesigning their website a number of years ago, Aer Lingus has refused to allow passengers with Irish language names to submit them with fadas. This means that people called Seán must submit their name as ‘Sean’ – the Irish word for ‘old’.
|Aer Lingus do not allow the fada, unlike most airlines. Ryanair don't even charge for it!|
Sack Someone for Speaking Irish
Businesses can set the tone for all workers who like to use a bit of Irish by firing a staff member for using the cúpla focal. When it is suggested that doing so might be hypocritical given that the national language is actually Irish, critics can be simply dismissed as self-serving cultural bigots living in the past.
|Don't give us riddles: The absolute arrogance of Michael O'Sullivan not giving his name in English. (click here for the full clip)|
Ah but what’s that in English?
For a real dig at the soul of Irishness ask someone with an Irish language surname what their name “really means” – the implication being the Anglicised version of it has been deliberately obscured by a veil of impenetrable, anti-English code as a statement of petty political defiance. Even though it has been the family name for 1000 years.
Remove Irish signage from all your stores
Curious as to why a supposedly proud Irish store like Woodies removed Irish from signage in all its stores two years ago, we were told that it was “part of a broader strategy to have a more streamlined and decluttered look and design for all of our communications - opting for a 'less is more' approach. Our objective is to make things easier for customers.”
Less Irish language is more at Woodies, it seems. Not so with their British rivals B&Q though, their customers still don’t seem to have any issue with An Ghaeilge cluttering their signage.
|Le gean ar Ghaeil, chun báis nó saoil..LEG IT!|
Run away before the National Anthem is finished
If you tried to make up a way to grossly insult another country during a ceremony or sporting occasion walking away before the end of their national anthem would be a very good start. Imagine the hysteria if, say, the English team had jogged off during Amhrán na bhFiann before the infamous six-nations showdown in Croke Park in 2007?
We’d berate foreign teams for doing it but we’re fine about doing it ourselves. Even in Páirc Uí Rinn last Sunday both Tipp and Cork hurlers were running to their positions just as the pathetically weak tannoy hit ‘the cannons roar’. Is the artillery or the language we are running from?
Don’t bother with signage in GAA Stadia
For all the millions of Irish tax payers money poured into Croke Park, Páirc Uí Chaoimh and other GAA stadiums, why would you bother doing bilingual signage? It’s not like it was an official objective of the Gaelic Athletic Association when they were founded, right?
Forget Irish! Let’s sort out the health system first!
For some it’s not possible to address multiple national issues with different levels of importance at the same time. On the surface it seems reasonable to say let’s wait until we have a decent health system until we properly get behind Irish language revival but this leads to resistance to publicly funding less “urgent” initiatives from culture to environment.
Unfortunately, they were saying that too in 1918 when the average life expectancy was just 54, a quarter of all children died before they were one and tuberculosis was rife. So, what are we waiting for? Ever-lasting life?
Keep visibility low
When Cork City Council issued a new batch of high visibility vests to their hard working street cleaners a few years ago, only the Irish language version of the council’s name didn’t make the cut unlike previous bibs.
Keep saying it’s too difficult to learn
Do you know those peculiar parents, who on seeing their little ones accidentally walk into a chair say ‘oh that bold, naughty chair hurting you like that!’ instead of telling them to be careful around the kitchen?
Well, pretending Irish is too difficult to learn because it’s a bit different to English is the equivalent of that. It really is quite offensive that a language could be structured differently to English.
Turn off the nuacht the second it comes on
Ensure everyone around you, especially children, get the message that any hint of the Irish language is to be muted without question. Tutt loudly and declare that “nobody” watches TG4, listens to Irish language radio shows or the myriad of Irish language podcasts out there – especially not you. Throw on the Celtic match, now that’s proper Irish on TV!
|Say my name, say my name.|
Come up with a hilarious joke
Go on, say Blathnaid Ní Chofaidh’s name again like it’s being said in Arabic by someone living in your stomach. Even if you’re the two hundredth Irish comedian or Irish media personality to repeat the same joke in the last five years, it’s still absolutely hilarious, isn’t it? Things that aren't English are just so LULZ!
Let’s beat it out of ourselves
Not that long ago children in Cork were beaten with the bata scóir for speaking Irish in school (with the full approval of their parents). Now as children of those unfortunate children, we claim that Irish is, using that uniquely awful national metaphor, being “shoved down our throats” – as if a discussion about a public service being made available in the national language (in line with the law) is in some way equivalent to gross physical abuse of the oesophagus. A classy hat tip to the memories of all the children that were beaten into speaking English.
But, we’ve nobody else to blame. We are doing it to ourselves.
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