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an béal bocht

Grrrr. In today's Grauniad, Manchán Magan (whom I have interviewed, and who is extremely nice) writes about his attempt to travel around our native land speaking only as Gaeilge, to the general confusion and, surprisingly, wrath of his (and my) compatriots. No, this isn't what has provoked my growling. What annoyed me was the subhead, in which, despite the fact that Magan refers to the language as 'Irish' throughout the piece, our supposed native language is refered to thus:
Gaelic is the first official language of Ireland, with 25% of the population claiming to speak it. But can that true? To put it to the test, Manchán Magan set off round the country with one self-imposed handicap - to never utter a word of English

Except of course Gaelic isn't the first official language - Irish is. God! I know that lots of people in Britain think that the language is called Gaelic, but they're not going to learn anything by being given inaccurate information.

Interesting piece, though. I was surprised by how hostile people apparently were to Magan's Irish-speaking - it seems very odd that people would get so aggressive when asked for a drink as Gaeilge, and I don't really think it's becasue they're so ashamed of their lack of Irish. But I have no idea whether these reactions are typical or not, as, like most of us, I've never spoken Irish to strangers outside of the Gaeltacht.

Comments

barsine
Jan. 5th, 2007 07:56 pm (UTC)
Re: A Pain in the Erse
I think the hostility to being spoken to in Irish is the belief that someone is trying to make a point about you, rather than their desire to make a point about themselves. After all, if someone insists on speaking to you in Irish, when you know they must know how to speak English, it's pretty obvious they're doing it to make some sort of point, and most people don't like finding themselves in the middle of a situation they don't understand. And of course there's the fact that most Irish people have a love-hate relationship with the language, and get extremely flustered (and there fore agitated, and defensive) when actually forced to demonstrate their complete and utter inability to put two words together.

I was thinking this too while I read the article. In work we sometimes have to deal with Irish-language bodies, and their complete refusal to speak in English, or supply relatively complex forms in English, gets really frustrating. I think I find it so enraging because I KNOW they can speak English and are just making a point ... maybe I am guilty and ashamed of my lack of language proficiency though, because I never get as agitated about dealing with French companies etc etc

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