September 5, 2012 at 3:37 pm #42528Séril BáicéirParticipant
Considering the heavy emigration to the US from Gaeltacht areas, that figure (although based on self reporting) of 26,000 could well be accurate.
Not sure there is any benefit to people fibbing on the US census.
I don’t think it’s all that far fetched to say that this number may be correct. There might be a bit of exageration for maybe 1,000 of those people, and the language in the US may be used a little differently or more infrequently than in Ireland. But I feel from knowing that there are many “closet Irish speakers” here in the city where I live, that those numbers are probably close.
I can think of at least one. In my experience, Americans (and I say this as an American who’s lived in America his whole life) love to feel more cultured than they actually are. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met someone who claims to “speak” a language, but if you actually engage them in that language, it quickly becomes obvious they don’t actually have much functional ability in it. I don’t know if this is a phenomenon that is so common outside of the U.S., but I suspect it is because most people who really only speak English want to believe they aren’t just monolingual even if that is the inconvenient truth.
This is probably also true somewhat. Complete fluency in Gaeilge might not be true of a good many people who claim to speak it, but even intermediate fluency is still counted as speaking. I myself can say I speak it, but I do not have to claim to be completely fluent. I think anything beyond “cupla focal” can probably be counted as a level of speaking, especially if what they know they use on a regular basis. To expect 100% fluency out of anyone for a second language or a co-language is probably unrealistic. Even native speakers of English have trouble speaking and writing their own tongue, so the same could be said of any language. The frequency of usage and levels of understanding are probably something the census should take into account if they don’t already do so, but I’d say the language is doing pretty good to have aproximately 26,000 (in the US) people using it from an intermediate level and up.September 5, 2012 at 6:18 pm #42533
That’s true. I guess usually in my mind when I think of true speakers, I am only counting fluent and native speakers. I have personally never met anyone in the US who speaks Irish as well as I do, and I even hesitate to call myself a “speaker” because I am not fluent. Studying for many years, I still have a hard time understanding native-speed colloquial Irish, so that probably also contributes to my skepticism – I have a hard time imagining that most people with Irish ability in the US actually can understand and speak it as well as they can read and write it. But again, this might be a personal bias based on my own limited experience. There are probably other areas of the country where you actually do hear Irish, for all I know. I know that there is a place in Ontario that has Gaeltacht status, though, so there may be enclaves that boost that figure.September 5, 2012 at 6:21 pm #42534
One often hears emigrants from the Gaeltacht on Raidió na Gaeltachta.
I have met several Americans whom I would call fluent. But I can’t extrapolate from that to concrete numbers.September 5, 2012 at 11:22 pm #42536Bríd MhórParticipant
That’s true. I guess usually in my mind when I think of true speakers, I am only counting fluent and native speakers. I have personally never met anyone in the US who speaks Irish as well as I do, and I even hesitate to call myself a “speaker” because I am not fluent. Studying for many years, I still have a hard time understanding native-speed colloquial Irish, so that probably also contributes to my skepticism – I have a hard time imagining that most people with Irish ability in the US actually can understand and speak it as well as they can read and write it. But again, this might be a personal bias based on my own limited experience. There are probably other areas of the country where you actually do hear Irish, for all I know. I know that there is a place in Ontario that has Gaeltacht status, though, so there may be enclaves that boost that figure.
There would be a lot of native Irish speakers in America.
Most of them are found in the Irish districts of St. Paul, Milwaukee, New York, Boston and other cities.
And some of those native speakers have taught it to their children.
Most of the emergrants are probably older middle age, and older now.
But young Gaeltacht people are still leaving this country, not just to America but to Australia, England etc.September 5, 2012 at 11:51 pm #42537
Never been to those other cities, but any figures claiming large numbers of native speakers in the Boston area should be looked at skeptically. I have lived in the Boston area and never encountered anyone who spoke the language. If there are areas where people actually speak it, they must number in the hundreds, if that.September 6, 2012 at 1:18 am #42540Séril BáicéirParticipant
Well, I have heard people speaking it here in SC, so its a shame that all the classes for it are in the north or other states. Unfortunately, I wouldnt be able to go to NC where there is a small group that meets. Its still too far, but the Irish club I recently joined is reconviening this month. Perhaps something here can get started for the speakers and learners here. I’ll just have to convince a group of people who are somewhat set in there ways as I am the youngest member by at least 25-30 years…September 6, 2012 at 3:36 am #42545AntaineParticipant
My brother encountered a group of three mid-twenty-somethings conversing in Irish on a street in Cambridge…they were immigrants from a Gaeltacht (and not related to each other), so the Boston area does indeed have some native speakers, if you know where to look and are lucky enough to hear them using it in public.September 6, 2012 at 8:01 am #42546
I’d expect that speakers in the US have the same problem as speakers here outside the Gaeltacht.
Unless one has met a person in an Irish speaking context – which are few and far between – one will have no idea that a person speaks Irish.
For example, I have often heard it said that “no one speaks Irish in Dublin”.
I have had several conversations on the DART this week in Irish. One with a person I knew having met her in an Irish speaking context. Another couple with a complete stranger. But I spoke to him, seeing he was perusing a copy of the new CO. (From there we quickly moved to a discussion of Larry Wall, the traits of programmers and the evils of PHP. Far more interesting!)
This was what the Fáinne was supposed to address, but jackets with lapels have gone out of fashion.September 6, 2012 at 8:36 am #42547
You all make great points. I guess I am partially jaded due to my own small experience finding speakers and also my general experience with language. It’s also a question of how you define a speaker, and I’m gathering my definition is slightly less forgiving than some here – which isn’t a good or bad thing, I believe. I tend to think that unless someone uses a language daily for a significant percentage of their communication (ideally at least 50%), I have a hard time imagining their command of the language being all that masterful. I don’t have anywhere near the data to quantify whether that’s a realistic or a pessimistic attitude though. I feel like, without large enclaves that are nearly self-sufficient where a language can really breath, it is destined to die or at best to have a persistent culture who speaks marginally more than the cupla focal but is just a pale reflection of what it should be. I worry that the Irish have scattered themselves a bit too far, in that regard. Time may prove me wrong, but I won’t know either way in my lifetime.September 6, 2012 at 8:42 am #42548
But I tend to agree with you although 50% is a bit high.
Context and opportunity matters too.
I have a German colleague who finds it difficult to discuss work matters in German. (His education was not in programming, he learnt on the job) Having worked in Germany for 10 years I have no problem discussing programming in German.September 7, 2012 at 5:36 am #42553
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