en fy eu mk sl ga

Karen Bies

2018-08-07 12:01 — Dublin, Ireland

Belmullet # 8 Alí Ní Chiaráin

A dog was on the beach, alone. I looked all Shore Road, but there was no one. The dog came to me and he shook off the seawater at his ease. I said, ‘Hee hûntsje, by wa hearsto?’ (Hey doggy, who do you belong to?). It pricked his ears and looked around, as if it was wondering the same thing. I meet a labrador in Belmullet and I speak Frisian. I couldn’t speak another language. Speaking Dutch or English to an animal, it would feel like I am acting. 

Language is a theme on my journey. Not in my own writing, because actually I don’t care what language the characters in my story speak, when they finally understand each other. But I'm here for ‘Other Words’ as well, so I hear a lot about the official Irish language. 

I meet Ali Carey, she is an Irish teacher at Our Lady's Secondary School in Belmullet. English is the majority language, but she prefers to speak Irish. 'I just love it,' she says. ‘Only we have the language, it makes us different. It's our unique selling point. It’s our heritage and I want us to keep it.’ That’s why she always uses her Irish name: Alí Ní Chiaráin. 

Out of more than 4 million Irish people, only 70 thousand have Irish as their mother tongue. Most of them live in the Gaeltacht in the west of the country. But every Irish child has Irish at school, every day, on every primary school and secondary school in Ireland. 

It is important that it’s compulsory, Alí says, because otherwise it would quickly deteriorate. And a revival is going on. More and more parents begin to love the Irish language for themselves and their children. In Dublin it is even ‘kind of posh’ to send your child to Gaelscoil.  

Alí and her friends use Irish words in their English talks, for example: cailín = girl, buachaill = boy, grá = love and glic = clever. When teaching Alí does not mind errors. She simply wants the kids to be engaged with it and make an effort, ‘just to give them a positive experience of Irish’.

The dog and I have exchanged some more language experiences on the beach. I threw a stick into the water and the dog understood that very well.