Former Munster player Duncan Casey, now at Grenoble, has an excellent piece in The Irish Examiner this week about how being abroad has made him appreciate the Irish language more. He describes his experiences with his Pacific Island team-mates at Grenoble, some of whom grew up in New Zealand, but all of whom are fluent in their respective island languages. He talks about how impressive it is that the culture of those islands are upheld and treasured as their people move around the world.
This leads to the question of why the Irish aren't the same. We all become more Irish when we leave, and speak the cúpla focal ar ár laethanta saoire, but a lot of us don't treasure our native Gaeilge. Duncan poses the question about how it is taught in schools, or rather why we all end up hating it in school. Having lived in Wales for the past few years, I find it inspiring to hear a lot of people speaking bi-lingually in Welsh and English. Granted, Welsh is stronger in some areas and not every Welsh person speaks Welsh, but it is much more wide spread, and the areas much bigger, than Irish is in Ireland. We are so lucky to have such a beautiful native language, and being taught it as children has distinct benefits. It has inspired me to want to re-learn Irish and I started using Duolingo in the same way as Duncan describes in his piece. I started listening to the excellent Motherfoclóir podcast. I watch Munster matches on TG4 when I can, and by watching more of TG4 whenever I'm in Ireland, I discovered Beidh Mé Ar Ais!
As it is with all new endeavours, you have to commit time and ideally make it into a habit. This is where I've faltered so far, but reading Duncan's piece, and seeing the news of the Russian professor who is working to save Irish in the Kerry Gaeltacht this week has re-energised me. DCU offer a free 4 week online course in learning Irish which might focus the mind, and between that and Duolingo, in the words of Sinéad agus Osgur, beidh mé ar ais!