Méid an Téacs

Irish and ‘language snobs’

Márta 31, 2014

Sir , – A language lives by being spoken. There was a time when Latin was a common school and university subject. In its study, grammar and literature were emphasised, but at the end of the process few, if indeed any, could communicate in a functional way in the language.

Too much of this method was transferred to the learning of Irish, and it produced similar results. In my mid-50s,while working in Vienna, I attended German language courses for a mere two hours a week over a four-year period. German literature was not touched on and from the start, with students of various linguistic backgrounds, German was the only language spoken in class. Tests included comprehension questions on oral recorded passages, usually spoken in strong local accents. At the end of this short period of study I was functional in communicating in normal situations such as shopping, in restaurants, and staying in B&Bs throughout Austria and Germany where, in many cases, the owners spoke no English.

Incidentally I was also able to read with pleasure several German novels and English-language novels in translation. Illiterates can and have throughout the centuries kept languages alive. Study of literature is important but if we are to use Irish as a spoken language the ability to communicate comfortably has to take precedence.

Yours, etc,

Bishopscourt Road,

A Chara, – While it is apparent that there are diverse opinions on the Irish language, it is clear that Irish-speakers are demanding parity of esteem, and what is wrong with that? What is striking is the negative attitude of some letter-writers towards the language. Daniel Stanford (March 27th) proclaims to all and sundry that he could not read a letter by another reader because “it was in Irish” and that if this practice became widespread he would have to stop reading The Irish Times .

Why would someone bother to take the time to write to a newspaper to announce his ignorance of another language? It would also seem unlikely that The Irish Times has any plans to launch as an Irish language newspaper. I think Mr Stanford and any other anxious readers can rest assured that their preferred monolingual world of journalism is unlikely to be disturbed.

Is mise le meas,

Dublin 18