Irish Language on the Rise, but not in Ireland

There is evidence that the Irish language has been under attack since the fourteenth century. Since then, Ireland has been flooded with the English language, suffered diasporas, famines, civil war, and economic instability. Now, austerity measures are cutting funds that were allocated to Irish language preservation. Although the Irish public overwhelmingly supports language and cultural preservation, the economic situation is preventing a powerful movement from taking off.

While the Irish language survives in Ireland, heritage speakers in the U.S. are picking up the language. In addition to formal courses in a handful of universities, informal conversation clubs and private lessons are taking place all over the country. The University of Montana boasts the largest Irish language program with nearly 190 students. Many students explain that they chose Irish because it is a part of their heritage.

The Irish language currently has more language learners than native speakers. Language activists in Ireland question whether foreign speakers can help keep the language alive. Many see hope in language learners playing a role in promoting Irish by using it online. Giving Irish a stronger web presence, internauts can use the language to communicate among each other and raise awareness. Facebook recently came out with an Irish language app.

Whether language learners will have an affect over the use and diffusion of the Irish language around the world is yet to be seen. However, most Irish language enthusiasts would like to see Irish have equal footing with English in Ireland. In order to achieve a shift in language use in Ireland, activists warn that there must be more emphasis placed on those who live there and speak Irish over international heritage learners.