An tAos óg agus an Ghaeilge

Bhog Donncha Ó hÉallaithe ó Bhaile Átha Cliath go Conamara 40 bliain ó shin. ‘B’í an Ghaeilge a mheall mé le bogadh amach as Baile Átha Cliath,’ a deir sé san eagrán

reatha de beo.ie. Ach téann sé ar aghaidh: ‘Tá creimeadh mór tarlaithe ar an Ghaeilge ó shin… Tá cuid mhaith de na daoine óga ag diúltú an Ghaeilge a labhairt mar gnáth- theanga eatarthu féin…Is meascán aisteach de Bhéarla agus Gaeilge atá acu’. Agus ag an deireadh cuireann sé ceist: ‘Cad is fiú a bheith ag iarraidh teanga a tharrtháil ón

bhás atá chomh truaillithe i mbéal na gcainteoirí dúchais deireanacha?’

Is léir nach bhfuil Gaeilge na gcainteoirí Gaeilge sa lá atá inniu ann chomh saibhir is a bhí Gaeilge na glúine a chuaigh rompu. Ach is féidir sin a rá faoi theanga ar bith.

Fiafraigh de Bhéarlóir óg cad is ‘replenishment’ ann. Fiafraigh de cad is ‘wireless’ ann. Tá stór focal coitianta an Bhéarla an-teoranta anois. Deirtear go bhfuil tú ábalta teacht slán le 600 focal sa Bhéarla. Agus sílim nach bhfuil ach thart fá chéad focal de dhíth má úsáideann tú an focal ‘f-’.

Ach cad chuige a dtréigeann daoine óga an Ghaeilge? Creideann cuid mhaith acu nach fíortheanga í. Níl páipéar laethúil againn i nGaeilge fiú. Thig leat post a fháil sa státseirbhís, nó post mar mhúinteoir nó post mar gharda gan Ghaeilge nó le Gaeilge nach bhfuil thar mholadh beirte. Nach féidir an Ghaeilge a dhéanamh réadúil? Nach féidir leis an rialtas i mBaile Átha Cliath lipéid agus fógraí dátheangacha a dhéanamh riachtanach i siopaí? Déantar seo i dtíortha eile.

Ach os a choinne sin, caithfimid ár ndóchas a choinneáil. Tá a lán páistí ag foghlaim Gaeilge taobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht. Úsáideann siad an teanga agus tá siad ag baint suilt aisti. Tá an Ghaelscolaíocht ag dul ó neart go neart ar fud na tíre ach amháin i gCathair an Chultúir agus in Inis Eoghain, de réir cosúlachta. Tá na huimhreacha íseal sna trí bhunscoil i nDoire agus tá an Ghaelscoil i mBun Cranncha i mbaol. Ba chóir do mhuintir na háite ceist a chur orthu féin.

Donncha Ó hÉallaithe moved from Dublin to Conamara 40 years ago. ‘It was Irish that lured me away from Dublin,’ he says in the current edition of beo.ie. But he continues: ‘But Irish has been greatly eroded since then …. Many young people are refusing to use Irish as their everyday language … They speak a strange mixture of English and Irish.’ And at the end of his article he asks: ‘What is the good of trying to save a language that has become so corrupted in the mouths of the last native speakers?’

It is obvious that the Irish of today’s speakers is not as rich as the Irish of the previous generation. But that can be said of any language. Ask a young English speaker what ‘replenishment’ means. Ask him what a wireless is. Everyday English vocabulary is now very limited. It is said that you can survive with 600 words in English. And I think you need only about one hundred words if you use the ‘f -’ word.

But why do young people give up Irish? Many don’t see it as a real language. We don’t even have a daily newspaper in Irish. You can get a job in the Civil Service, or a job as a teacher or as a guard with no Irish or with Irish that is not worth a damn.

Can Irish not be made realistic? Can the Dublin government not make bilingual labels and notices in shops compulsory, for instance? This is done in other countries. But on the other hand, we must remain hopeful.

Many children outside of the Gaeltacht are learning Irish. They use the language and they enjoy it. Education through Irish is going from strength to strength throughout the country except in the City of Culture and in Inis Eoghain, apparently. Numbers are low in the three Irish medium primary schools in Derry and the Gaelscoil in Buncrana is in danger. People around here should be asking themselves questions.