- 06 Mar 09
A full-blown Irish language revolution is underway. And with DJ Ian Dempsey and Afternoon Show presenter Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh as the new faces of Seachtain na Gaelige, our mother tongue looks set to go from strength to strength.
As Irish language and culture continue to grow in popularity, many events have sprung up around the country celebrating our unique heritage. One such event is Seachtain na Gaeilge, the two-week festival promoting Irish language and culture at home and abroad, which this year takes place in the run-up to St. Patrick’s Day, from March 2–17. As in previous years, a staggering range of events is on offer, from conversational evenings to street céilís. There will also be gigs, DJ competitions, speed-dating and wine tasting – all designed to give everyone a chance to experience Irish, whatever their level of competence. (Check out full listings of events worldwide on www.snag.ie.)
One of the popular features of Seachtain na Gaeilge is the appointment each year of “public faces” of the festival – these are well-known personalities, usually strongly associated with the Irish language. Their task is to help promote the festival. This year, Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh from RTÉ’s Afternoon Show and Today FM’s Ian Dempsey have been chosen as the ambassadors. While Bláthnaid is a well-known native Irish speaker who uses the language on a daily basis, Ian is something of a surprise choice.
“To be completely honest I’m far from a great Irish speaker but I’m willing to have a go at it,” he says. “I think one of the reasons they wanted me on board is I did have that quintessential image of the typical Dublin guy who never bothered all that much with Irish. When I was in school it was kind of force fed to us. But I think what’s happened for the last five or six years is that a great many immigrants have come in speaking all sorts of languages. Irish people want to find ways to express their own identity and doing it through Irish is the obvious way.”
Blathnaid says that having someone like Dempsey involved sends an important message about Irish and the fact that not everyone needs to be a fluent speaker to take part in the festival. “I’m the most obvious choice, as Irish was my first language. But I was very anxious that we would get someone that you wouldn’t expect to be an Irish speaker,” she explains. “It’s like any campaign – it’s important bringing in an outsider. It’s almost like the UN sending George Clooney to Darfur to highlight the issues rather than getting someone from Darfur to do it. You’ve got to look at it the way Coca Cola would market it.”
For Ian Dempsey, it’s all having a bit of fun through the medium of Irish. “I think Blathnaid and myself have sparked off each other pretty well. We’ve done TV ads, radio ads, and a photoshoot and it’s been a laugh. She’ll be coming onto my show and I’ll be doing The Afternoon Show. I’m just a little bit afraid that I’ll be caught out by something I won’t understand but it doesn’t really matter in the end. Having a go is what it’s all about.”
As a native speaker Blathnaid feels the language is coping well with the challenges of globalisation. “I think Irish is changing all the time but it will survive,” she opines. “Irish speakers are a minority and if we didn’t have the help of the European Union or even our Taoiseach speaking Irish at public engagements – which has been motivating for a lot of us – things would be a lot worse. In a recession people are going to prioritise things and that’s a fact of life, but I think Irish will come through it all.”
Another Irish language and culture event returning this year is GaelSpraoi in association with Foras na Gaeilge. This popular event is run in conjunction with the St. Patrick's Festival, and highlights include Cabaret Craicéailte, as authentic a Gaeltacht experience as you will get in the city, with sean-nós and nua-nós singing. Other events include city tours, a social evening, treasure hunt, music, art workshops, film workshops and even an Irish language rapper: Muipeid and Bubba Shakespeare!
In addition, you can celebrate Seachtain by tuning into the country's first all-Irish FM pop station, Raidió X. Launched on-line last year, the service will, come March, go live to radio in Cork, Dublin, Limerick and Galway. Listeners have an opportunity each day to win a Samsung mobile phone and can contact presenters by texting 085 132800. Special classroom features may also be downloaded via podcast. Plus, there's a non-stop diet of hits!
The use of Irish via modern communications methods such as the internet is just one way of promoting the language, especially among younger people – the fact that you can now Google as gaeilge shows just how far the language has come in recent times. Téacs is a new application from Vodafone that allows you to write Irish text messages on your phone using Irish predictive text. It includes the most commonly used words in Irish, names, place-names, counties, towns etc. The application contains a comprehensive Irish language database which contains over 25,000 Irish language words and phrases. It provides full grammatical support for all common Irish words, including those with apostrophes such as verbs in the past tense as well as words including hyphens. The application is available to all mobile users through a simple and intuitive process by visiting http://wap.teacs.ie and following the step instructions provided. Once installed, the customer can open Téacs on their phone and ‘téacs trí Ghaeilge’.
Ferdie Mac an Fhailigh, chief executive of Foras na Gaeilge, says the service is aimed at both fluent Irish speakers and people who occasionally use the language, “This initiative is really about empowering more people to use the cúpla focal in the communication age. As the Irish language is becoming increasingly visible in all aspects of life, this service offers Irish language texting at your fingertips.”
How are you? = Conas atá tú?
Please call = Glaoigh orm.
Talk later = Labhróidh mé leat níos déanaí.
In a meeting = I gcruinniú.
Happy Birthday = Lá Breithe Sona Duit.
See you at... = Feicfidh mé tú ag...
See you later = Feicfidh mé tú níos déanaí.
Happy Valentines Day! = Lá Fhéile Vailintín Sona Duit!
Lots of love = Le grá mór.
I love you = Tá grá agam duit.
Miss you = Braithim uaim tú.
Call me when you're free = Glaoigh orm nuair atá tú réidh.
I will be arriving at... = Beidh mé ann ag...
I’m at home. Please call = Táim sa bhaile. Glaoigh orm.
Meeting is cancelled = Tá an cruinniú ar ceal
Any plans for the weekend? = Aon phleananna don deireadh seachtaine?
I’m running late = Beidh mé déanach.
Good night = Oíche mhaith.
I will call you later = Cuirfidh mé glaoch ort níos déanaí.
Good luck! = Go n-éirí leat!
Any news? = Aon scéal?
Are you serious?! = An bhfuil tú i ndáiríre?!