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Monolingual? September 13, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Years back I was at a conference where – of all things, road and place signs were being discussed. The point was made that given the numbers of people from the EU entering the state it would be necessary to reflect this in the signs, ushering in a new era of bilingualism. I had to point out that we are already a bilingual state.

And so we come to this story here, that of a bar man in Cork, from Kerry whose first language was Irish, apparently told he was not to speak in Irish because the place was ‘an English speaking business’. If an accurate account – and the rationale put forward by the business is entertainingly, to an extent, though tellingly, wrapped in HR speak – one would have to wonder. It doesn’t seem difficult to accommodate both languages and apply as appropriate.

The protests seen over the weekend are understandable, to me at least.
But it goes deeper than that in regard to how this state and society accommodates the reality of two languages that have an official status and – some of us might think – should have a broader usage.

Comments»

1. EWI - September 13, 2016

I’ve considered changing over entirely to the Irish version of my name for a year, and keeping a diary of what happens (an idea I’m giving away here, if anyone fancies adopting it to write in a good cause).

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sonofstan - September 13, 2016

I’ve thought of doing that in England just to watch the horror as they try to pronounce it…

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2. LeftAtTheCross - September 13, 2016

I’m not a huge fan of the Irish language myself, mostly due to the way it was drummed into us at school, but I do find it somewhat ridiculous that bilingual signs often display a knowledge of the language that is somewhere south of kindergarten level. A recent one, seen while out cycling in north Meath, was “No Road Markings, Níl Marcail Bothar”. Or maybe that’s perfect Gaeilge, I really don’t know. Perhaps Joe could clarify?

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Joe - September 13, 2016

Nah, not good Latc but certainly not the worst I’ve seen. Bóthar gan mharcáil might render it better.

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gendjinn - September 13, 2016

Gaeilgelisation, as it were.

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3. sonofstan - September 13, 2016

I’m in the Pay de L’Aude at the moment and over the past few years, bilingual roadsigns have begun to be posted in French and Oc. According to people here, they didn’t really realise that what they spoke was ‘Oc’ – it was just the local argot. It was relatively recently that a sense of linguistic identity began to become something people were conscious of – and conscious of how widespread it is. It’s complicated by the fact that Catalen is also spoken – and now the Catalans want a piece of the regional identity and are asking for the region to be named in a way that recognises this.
I arrived in Perpignan on Saturday to a sea of Catalan flags – 10,000 people marching. Language has significance beyond mere communication – even if you don’t use much, a distinctive linguistic competence is of more than symbolic import.

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FergusD - September 14, 2016

sonofstan – the French govt is changing the size of France’s regions, reducing their numbers and changing their names. Languedoc-Rousillon (which includes Aude) and the Midi-Pyrenees become “Pays Catalan-Occitan”. Quite a lot of scepticism about it there, supposed to be a money saving exercise. The new name is interesting though and would reflect what you saw.

We visit the Aude a lot and have French friends in L’ Herault. One of their grandchildren goes to a school that teaches in the medium of Occitan. A bit of a revival of interest in the language and culture, maybe mixed up with some resentment at the influence of Paris and an orientation amongst some to the other Mediterranean countries (rather than Northern France and Northern Europe generally). Many in the area now are, of course, incomers from the rest of France.

We were told that back in the day kids would be punished for speaking Occitan in school. France is very diverse, or was, and the govt pushed for a long time to get French as the dominant language. I read a good book (forget the name) about that whole process, strongly driven by the Revolution.

The Aude is famous as a hotbed of the Cathar heresy. Nowadays there is a lot of sympathy for them and they are a major tourist attraction (Pays Cathar, so-called “Cathar Castles” etc). A bit weird that their brutal, bloody suppression is now a euro earner!

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sonofstan - September 14, 2016

Thanks Fergus – yes, spent today in Carcassonne and the Cathars are being bled again for all they’re worth!

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4. lamentreat - September 13, 2016

The story of the barman does seem both outrageous and absurd on the face of it, though I am always a bit wary of those stories, there often turns out to be elements left out.

The logic of the people cited in the opening point on bilingualism seems both curious and familiar though. It suggests, in effect, that the arrival of large numbers of people from the E.U. demanded a kind of public performance of bilingualism for their benefit. (Seeing as very few of them would speak Irish, the bilingual signs were hardly to give them extra information.) Which is a kind of curious desire, if you think about it.

More generally, it was noticeable that the demand for a very public bilingualism (around 20-25 years ago: before then you would never have seen “bread | arán” in a Dublin supermarket) coincided with an acceleration in the country’s participation in an internationalized culture of commerce, travel, etc. Not sure what to make of that.

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gendjinn - September 13, 2016

It was literally the cheapest pandering commercial outlets could provide to the fact that people had a few punts in their pockets and a bit of national pride, for the first time in a very long time.

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lamentreat - September 13, 2016

I’m not sure that really explains it fully though. Why this particular kind of bilingualism—suddenly widespread but ultimately a bit shallow and tokenistic—in 1995, and not in 1967, or in 1938?

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gendjinn - September 14, 2016

Why not? Where else did it occur? Pretty much nowhere else.

Hostility to the Irish language went underground for a bit, but they’ve certainly been making their presence felt the last few years.

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5. botheredbarney - September 13, 2016

In Irish media, discussions about Gaelic are held in English and sometimes in Irish. English speakers will ‘defend’ Gaelic when there is a symbolical issue at stake i.e. the barman in a Cork pub being constructively dismissed when his boss didn’t want him chatting in the language to a co-worker. Such speakers will not use Gaelic as a tool of communication among their mates.I never see posts about music, current affairs and anti-water charges events on CLR in Gaelic.

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WorldbyStorm - September 13, 2016

That’s a fair point. But for some of us speaking it, even infrequently (and I’d use it a bit in work at least a few times a week – bilingually, using Irish and English in a conversation – I’m no great shakes but I make the effort) the story does resonate. My written Irish is, as the word has it, ufásach. I wouldn’t be able to put a post together. But I think speaking it is more than half the battle.

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Joe - September 13, 2016

Provided I don’t get banned as I foam at the mouth over on the Paisley/McGuinness thread… Would I do a weekly “An tseachtain seo pléimís…” to promote CLR’s bilingual and revivalist relevance?
(Nóta: It’s quite possible that my Irish sentences will be less ciotach than my English…)

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botheredbarney - September 14, 2016

Ar aghaidh leat…

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sonofstan - September 14, 2016

Plus a hAon

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WorldbyStorm - September 15, 2016

Go h-iontach, a chara.

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6. sonofstan - September 13, 2016

I thought this was good and thought provoking – rather than beat ourselves up about the failure of the ‘revival’ we might have some cause for congratulation. Warning – it’s long.

http://ohlone.ucsc.edu/~jim/PDF/notre-dame.pdf

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WorldbyStorm - September 13, 2016

Thanks for that, it looks very interesting. Just on the point you raise I’ve always thought this was a great quote about the challenges faced and the reality of matters. It’s from a very interesting work by M.A.G. Ó Tuathaigh:

“..it is clear that state policy for the revival of the Irish language seriously underestimated the difficulty and complexity of the task of bringing about a major language change among the bulk of the population in an ‘open’ democratic society. The complex relationship between attitude and practice, the need for systematic planning, the link between language-learning at school and the use of that language in other spheres of life, the ideological context with which a successful language restoration/revival policy can be formulated – those and many other aspects of the language revival policy were only imperfectly or tardily understood, even by those most fervently committed to the policy of national cultural revival.”

But the thing is that Irish isn’t dead and that’s no small thing.

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lamentreat - September 15, 2016

thanks for posting this, it is a refreshing way of thinking about Irish, gave me a lot of food for thought.

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7. CL - September 13, 2016

“Yiddish has been dying for a thousand years, and I’m sure it will go on dying for another thousand.”-
Isaac Bashevis Singer.
http://www.momentmag.com/the-death-of-yiddish/

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8. botheredbarney - September 13, 2016

Yiddish and Hebrew are mentioned in this kind of discussion. What chance a group of strong-willed people, representing many vital skills like electrician, garage mechanic, plumber and doctor among others, prepared to found a Gaelic-speaking kibbutz in a suburb or in the countryside?

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ar scáth a chéile - September 14, 2016

Ná déan dearmad ar na dlíodóirí – bheadh siad ag teastáil nuair a thiocfadh an scoilt

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botheredbarney - September 14, 2016

In easpa na dlíodóirí is fearr rith maith na droch sheasamh!

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GW - September 14, 2016

I’m on for improving my Irish and learning Yiddish!

When I retire🙂

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botheredbarney - September 14, 2016

Zol zayn mit mazel! !זאָל זײַן מיט מזל

(Look it up in the Yiddish dictionary.)

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9. GW - September 14, 2016

More generally, monolingualism is a disability.

You meet ordinary ‘uneducated’ people in Africa who think nothing of speaking four languages as a matter of course. And not particularly closely related languages either.

Fair play to the demonstrators mentioned above.

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GW - September 14, 2016

Our brains are evolved to be polylingual – not to use that capacity is a shame, to say the least.

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10. sonofstan - September 15, 2016

One thing puzzles me about the story though: who was he speaking Irish to? If it was other staff members then they should be scked too surely? And if it were customers, then will they be barred?

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