The Irish language is making a welcome return as thousands of students around the world are choosing to include it as part of their studies.
The language has been seen as a key element of the country’s identity for centuries, particularly in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when nationalism and the fight for independence were at their peak.
National heroes such as William Smith O’Brien and later Douglas Hyde spent years of their lives promoting and maintaining the Irish language, through fear it could disappear forever.
Now, despite decades of hearing that the language is dying out, the number of people studying and speaking Irish is on the rise.
The change has been seen by third level education institutes such as Dublin City University and also colleges further afield in Australia and America.
DCU have seen an active increase in the number of participants in their Fiontar courses. Emer Ní Bhrádaigh, a lecturer at DCU, explained: “Fiontar is an interdisciplinary school established in 1993 to link the Irish language with contemporary finance, computing and enterprise, all taught through the medium of Irish.
“Over the past 22 years we have evolved, so now we also teach journalism and the language itself. But not, as other schools might do, through literature, poetry and the history of the language. We would be looking at applied Irish.”
The courses have been a huge success, with many students choosing to improve their Irish whilst learning other skills aswell.
The interest is not just in Ireland either, with thousands of learners around the world signing up to study online. There are now numerous online colleges developing courses to meet the demand.
Another major factor in the increased interest in Irish has been the success of Irish language television channel TG4 since its launch in the late 1990s. The rise of social media and technology are also influencing the way people behave. Oisín Ó Doinn, a PhD student in the use of technology in the teaching of Irish at DCU, was instrumental in the development of the Irish strand of the Duolingo app, which enables users to translate documents to numerous languages from around the world.
O Doinn told the Irish Times: “We seem to have this thing in our psyche – and it’s reinforced all the time by offhand comments and by the media – that Irish is a dying or a dead language. Well, it’s not a dead language; it’s a growing language. We only launched the Duolingo Irish course six months ago and there are half a million people worldwide learning.
“I think the reason why people are so interested is they’re realising there’s a difference between the curriculum that’s in the schools and what the language actually is. I’m always surprised at people going, ‘Why would anyone want to learn Irish?’ My question would be, ‘Why would they not?’”
The popularity of the Irish language amongst young people was displayed by students at Coláiste Lurgan, a summer school in Co Galway. The students are encouraged to learn the language by singing modern pop songs that have been translated into Irish. They uploaded their videos onto YouTube and immediately developed a cult following.
College perform top modern songs in Irish language