Have we been romanticising for too long about our 'native' tongue? Has it seen it's day? And do we need to look at it's current place in our education system?
A language such as Spanish, for example, would be much more beneficial to the youth of Ireland if taught from an early age. In a world that is now more close knit through the exponentially developing world of technology, there will ultimately be more opportunities for those with a foreign language in their arsenal. There are in excess of 450 million Spanish speakers on the planet, whereas a mere 1.77 million people in this country claim to be able to speak as Gaelige. A healthy percent of our own population, but a drop in the ocean internationally. Also interesting was the admission in the 2011 census of one in three 10-19 year olds being unable to speak the language.
I'm not saying that my command of Irish was ever fantastic, nor do I have any grudge against anything to do with the language, all I suggest is that the time it takes to teach the language be used in a more practical and strategical way. Also, the excuse we so often hear, that we will lose our culture if we lose our language to me is BS. It seems to be an excuse conjured by those who can't see the benefit of moving on or by ones who are afraid to do so.
A Brave New World
The borders that surround us as we move further into what Alvin Tofler once described as The Third Wave are no longer completely geographical, IP addresses now transcend what appears on maps and borders in the western world are now of less importance than during an industrial age that has been and gone. These current borders for some represent more of a comfort zone than anything else, but in order to progress we need to push our boundaries and expand.
I do not want the main point that comes from this article to be that I wish to condemn the Irish language to room 101, it is something that I personally wouldn't like to see disappear but it is my opinion that way too much emphasis is put on it in our schools. I feel one must recognise that replacing it with a relevant language or subject can be of massive benefit to our youth and to our growth internationally.
I used Spanish as an example earlier, but I could have easily chosen any language at random, an alternative that should be considered to replace Irish is computer coding. Not a traditional language in the sense but with technology growth rife, it represents a modern language nonetheless. It is a discipline that every teenager should look to have within their skill-set, whereas Irish necessarily is not.
Enda Kenny has, over the past few years celebrated the success of events such as the Web Summit and all that has developed from it, as well as setting this country on a path to become a hub for digital start ups. If nurtured from a young age there is no reason our children and children's children can't reinforce what is currently being developed here, but we need to keep pushing the boat out in order to continuously evolve and innovate. I don't think we can innovate with the Irish language.
There Must Be A Choice
At the very least there should be an option for secondary school students to ditch the Irish language, by placing it on a level pegging with your sciences and other languages, where you at least have a choice. It's time to stop force feeding it down kids throats. Does it really make sense to have a language as a pillar of our education system just because its always been that way? Times change, and the powers that be must now put the choice in the hands of the students. Perhaps I'll be proved wrong. That's what opinions are for after all.
After you've read this, take a minute and just think of the benefits a secondary school student will gain in an employment sense by replacing his weekly Irish classes with the Spanish and Computer Coding disciplines mentioned. Does that students CV go to the top of a pile that otherwise consists of Irish speakers? In my book it does!