Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Farce of Irish


Irish is the original language of Ireland, a language that sets us apart from the English, but it is also a language that we can neither seem to completely embrace nor completely discard.   Irish is an official language of the EU but it is clearly not a working language in Ireland.

The farce of Irish comes to the fore when you try to do your business in the ‘country’s first official language’. My most recent experience with Irish as a farce was with the NCT, the authority responsible for maintaining road safety of motor vehicles. When booking the appointment online, you can choose between Irish and English, both official languages in Ireland. The NCT inspector will duly inspect your car but when it comes to printing out the report, often cannot hide their disdain when they realise the document they printed out is in Irish, a foreign language in places like Dublin. This is not a problem if you pass, but if you fail, you have to come back and show the inspector the report in Irish. They cannot read their own document and cannot access it in English. You can ring their customer service team and receive blasts of hot air. You can also contact the Irish language commissioner’s office, a watchdog on such breaches of the official language act, which though well meaning, will do the same.
Tourists like to see signs in Irish, even though the Irish written on the sign often makes no sense and whoever translated it obviously used google translate. Dublin airport has produced some dismal examples of this.  Signage in Irish is more often than not for decorative purposes only and serves no purpose for Irish speakers. Even in Galway city, the so-called the bilingual capital. I remember dining in a restaurant in the Bohemian Latin Quarter. The menu was bilingual but when I ordered in Irish, it quickly became clear that the Irish on it was just for show.

The Celtic culture of this land is being pushed to the fringes of society and Irish speakers are becoming strangers in their own country and even mocked for cultivating it. 
I believe a bilingual society is a more open society and it is lamentable that Ireland's attempt is nothing more than farce.



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