At the end of yesterday’s ride, I got caught in a Connemara squally downpour, and arrived at my Warmshowers stopover completely drenched. Kate, my host, totally unperturbed by my sodden state, greeted me with a hot drink and chocolate biscuit, introduced me to Valentin, her German AirB&B guest, and showed me the shower. In the heartland of Gaelic-speaking Ireland, I listened to Kate chatting to her 3 year old daughter in Irish, a language that had been her only toungue growing up on a remote Connemara island. She had only learned English when she started going to school at the age of 7. Now she is fluent in several languages.
Many of the roadsigns and advertising boards are written only in Irish in these parts, and the people I mixed with in shops and pubs were all speaking their native tongue…..but it is threatened by the invasiveness of English. Simply teaching it in schools is not going preserve Irish as a working language. As few as 77,000 (2% of the population) speak the language, mostly in remote corners of the west, but importantly, non of them are monoglot….meaning they all speak fluent English as well. This could spell disaster for the local vernacular. Ireland seems to be the only country in Europe where they have adopted a foreign language as their lingua franca.
and curious about the sheep auction at Maam Cross, where farmers were everywhere with their Land rovers and trailers, a local farmer tried to sell me a couple of his lambs left over from the auction….tie ’em to the back of the boike, he suggested. ‘Tis good Oirish lamb after all.