Traditional language of Ireland experiences revival
Dia Dhuit! Sláinte, Lá Fhéile Pádraig!
Saying “God be with you! Cheers, happy St. Patrick's Day!” in Ireland's national language takes more than adopting a corny brogue.
And, careful with that pronunciation — English phonetics don't dictate every word. For example, “dhuit” is pronounced gwitch.
With a revived interest in Irish Gaelic known as Gaeilge (gwayelga) happening both in-country and around the world, more people are learning to speak a language previously associated mainly with the country's past.
At the University of Pittsburgh, Dublin-native Marie Young teaches a six-level course to students interested in learning about Ireland's culture, connecting with their own ancestry or just looking to expand their global awareness.
According to the US Census, there are 34.5 million people with Irish ancestry nationwide. There are more than 244,000 in Allegheny County.
“For the amount of Irish-American connections here, it's an added connection to home,” Young says. “It's an opportunity for a cultural tie to the past.”
All Ireland natives must learn Gaeilge during their schooling. There are 350,000 native speakers, predominantly in Northern Ireland. While the majority of people speak English, as well, there are three regions in the north, west and south of the country where Gaeilge is considered the more-prevalent language.
Interest in the traditional language is growing with a younger generation, Young says.
There is a television channel with programming only in Gaeilge — Teilifis na Gaeilge. The Irish government is providing more funding to better the Gaeilge education students receive in school, and more colleges are increasing their Gaeilge course offerings.
“They don't want to lose it,” Young says. “There's a fear it will be lost.”
To hear real Gaeilge, a tourist in Ireland has to get out of the city, Young says. It's mainly spoken by natives in the country.
Young's goal is to equip her students with enough confidence to be able to pull up a stool next to one of those natives and carry on a conversation.
The students are of varied backgrounds and majors. Some take the class as a language requirement. Others signed up after hearing how much fun a friend had learning Gaeilge.
Alex O'Neill, 20, a senior political science and communications major from Scott, took the class to connect with her family's Irish heritage. She admits the pronunciations were a tad intimidating at first, particularly that tricky “gwitch.”
“At first, we were all so confused and thought we'd never get this,” she says. “But Marie really helped us through. She's a fabulous teacher.”
In a recent class, students chatted about the day's current events — everything from Evgeni Malkin's concussion to Jennifer Lawrence's Oscar tumble — all in Gaeilge, with Young occasionally interjecting to teach them a new word.
When Erin Long, 16, a freshman from Lebanon, Ohio — who skipped a few grades to get to college early — struggled to tell the class about the pottery she painted that weekend, Young helped her learn the phrase “chuir mé peaint ar” — to put paint on.
“This class is one of the reasons I came to Pitt,” Long says. “I love Irish culture, and when I heard about this class, I said, ‘I have to go to Pitt.'”
The students took a minute to learn “Lá Fhéile Pádraig!” in honor of the upcoming holiday.
While Americans tend to reduce St. Patrick's Day to green beer and shamrock shakes, the holiday is a more conservative event in Ireland, Young says. It's a religious holiday commemorating St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, and the arrival of Christianity in the country.
Many Ireland natives are envious of the spectacle Americans produce each year, Young says, but do not appreciate the shortened expression of “St. Paddy's Day.”
“And green eggs and ham?” Young says with a smile. “What's that about?”
Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Allegheny County inmate dies at hospital
- Troopers shoot person inside Somerset grocery store
- Steelers offensive line targeting injury-free performance as key
- New Kensington Megan’s Law offender jailed on new child porn charges
- Feds: Temple professor offered China data on U.S.-made device
- Officials envision reinvigorated Allegheny County Airport
- Wigle Whiskey celebrates anniversary with its first-ever bourbon
- Struggling Pirates SS Mercer finding himself out on infield’s left side
- Pa. sees widespread job gains; jobless rate holds at 5.3%
- Westmoreland used car dealers indicted in fraud
- Police confiscate heroin, phones, cash in North Versailles bust