From The Guardian:
There is something absurd and rather tragic about setting out on a journey around a country, knowing that if you speak the language of that country you will not be understood. It is even more absurd when the country is your native one and you are speaking its native language.
Irish (Gaelic) is the first official language of Ireland, spoken for at least 2,500 years until the British outlawed the use of Gaelic in schools in the 19th centuries.
The death of any language is heartbreaking, as recounted in the NPR article What Happens When A Language’s Last Monolingual Speaker Dies?
“She [Emily Johnson Dickerson, last monolingual Chickasaw speaker] lived like our ancestors did a long time ago,” Hinson says. “What’s important in Chickasaw is quite different than [what’s important] in English. … For her, she saw a world from a Chickasaw worldview, without the interference of English at all.”
Note that there are still plenty Irish speakers left, but very few whose only language is Irish, so the language isn’t actually dead, but will these speakers teach Gaelic to their own children? Looking at America, where native tongues have historically been lost to a family with the grandchildren of immigrants, it takes a special effort to make sure a language is preserved. As noted by the author of the Guardian article, it’s very difficult to travel around Ireland speaking only Gaelic — most people don’t speak it.
Listen to this man, one of the last monolingual speakers of the melodic Irish language.
Featured image screengrab via YouTube