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The progress of Irish as an EU language

It seems that, as predicted back in August here, and despite the protestations of Sean Ó Neáchtain here, there have been difficulties in implementing the decision to make Irish an official EU language. In fact, I hear from a friend who works in the European Commission (and is a fluent Irish speaker) that the EU has failed to recruit anything like the number of sufficiently qualified Irish-language interpreters it needs. Not to worry though, they have identified some candidates who can be trained up to do the job and are at this very moment doing an EU-funded course in simultaneous Irish-language translation. In what part of Ireland, you may ask, is this very useful course taught? Why, it is taught here. Don't laugh too loud.

Of course, this bears out my observation that the Irish language, in the last 150 years at least, has not done badly under British rule: Conradh na Gaeilge's hey-day was over long before independence, apart from the revival of recent decades in Belfast. The language's worst enemies have been Irish nationalists, such as those who ousted Douglas Hyde from the organisation he had founded. Daniel O'Connell, a native speaker himself, said rather shockingly that "the superior utility of the English tongue, as the medium of all modern communication, is so great that I can witness without a sigh the gradual disuse of Irish." Not, of course, that he was ever in a position to implement any policies about it.

The real killer blow was dealt by the Rev Timothy Corcoran, the leading educational theorist in the early years of the Irish Free State, whose absurd ideas about enforced rote-learning and countering the fiendish modern notions of Montessori, when implemented on a state-wide level, turned the Irish language into an object of terror and incomprehension for generations of schoolchildren. (I went through Corcoran's archives in UCD for my doctoral research - fascinating stuff, particularly his unsuccessful attempt to destroy the Royal Irish Academy.)

Well, come the end of the year I shall see if I can get a friendly MEP to ask a parliamentary question about just how often Irish translation services have been required since it became an official language on 1 January.

Comments

( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
leedy
Jan. 19th, 2007 05:53 pm (UTC)
The real killer blow was dealt by the Rev Timothy Corcoran, the leading educational theorist in the early years of the Irish Free State

That's really interesting. Do you know where I can find out more about him?
nwhyte
Jan. 19th, 2007 06:10 pm (UTC)
Yes, Brian Titley's book - I found it completely convincing!
brightglance
Jan. 19th, 2007 06:14 pm (UTC)
It is amusing, but it doesn't surprise me that there are no courses here in simultaneous Irish/other language translation and therefore no people of native-speaker fluency with the appropriate qualification to be interpreters. There wouldn't have been one single job in this field before. Also I don't think there are any courses here for this type of translating in any language and I imagine it's easier to add another language on to an existing course than to establish the whole set-up from scratch.

As regards translators per se (for written documents etc.) some new courses have been set up in the last year or two and by now would have some graduates. Again there wouldn't have been many people with a formal qualification in this area. A friend of mine who's a qualified barrister and native speaker just finished one of these recently. (I imagine she might be thinking of going for one of the lawyer-linguist posts whenever they come up again but I don't know what her French is like.)

I got the impression from some of the MEP newspaper interviews that they have been asked not to tax the interpretation service too much until it is more up to speed. So the answer to your question may not be all that revealing.
nwhyte
Jan. 19th, 2007 08:47 pm (UTC)
There wouldn't have been one single job in this field before.

Does the Dáil not have any interpreters? I know that the Assembly in Stormont does.

I imagine it's easier to add another language on to an existing course than to establish the whole set-up from scratch.

That's certainly true. Looking at the University of Westminster prospectus it seems that this fits into their programme of courses for translation to and from your own unspecified "Native Language".

they have been asked not to tax the interpretation service too much until it is more up to speed

Well, I'll try and find out anyway!
brightglance
Jan. 23rd, 2007 10:34 am (UTC)
Does the Dáil not have any interpreters?

You're right, it does have some level of interpretation service. Rannóg Aistriúcháin an Oireachtais , the Parliament Translation Section (22 employees in 2003) translates new legislation and prepares the Irish version of the Dail Order of Business, apparently it also provide an interpretation service to the Dail and Seanad. This according to this report (in Irish) on the Irish translation sector. I know a couple of people who work there and don't think anyone there is working full time as an interpreter but I must ask just to satisfy my own curiosity.

It also appears that there are several diplomas and MA courses available in translation with Irish as an option (including one in Queens specifically in Irish) but no indication of any modules on interpretation/simultaneous translation.

Well, I'll try and find out anyway!

I'd be interested in the answer myself, if it seems a bit feeble I might send Sean Ó Neachtáin an e-mail query. (He's "my" MEP as my vote was still in Ulster/Connacht last time out - I stayed on the register in Cavan-Monaghan in order to vote all my preferences for everyone but Sinn Fein. At this stage though there's no hope of keeping them out there and I ought to switch my vote to Dublin.)

Sorry for the length of this comment!
(Anonymous)
Jan. 26th, 2007 10:26 pm (UTC)
Ah the old Rannóg. I gather they mainly translate things rather doing simultanaeous interpretation. I have heard anecdotally that they notionally provide simultanaeous Irish-English translation when the Gaelgeoirs are speaking in the chambers, but none of the Members avail of this facility as it does not look good to not be fluent in Irish. I don't think anyone looks for simultanaeous interpretation English-Irish because that really would be taking the piss.
nwhyte
Jan. 27th, 2007 07:20 am (UTC)
Apparently the Northern Ireland Assembly does have a simultaneous translator on standby to interpret for the Speaker, so that she can rule properly on any remarks made in the language (she does have some Irish but I think it is a bit rusty).
brightglance
Jan. 31st, 2007 07:52 pm (UTC)
Further to all this I discovered in the meantime that said friend has actually been appointed as a lawyer-linguist (not sure if it's permanent or temporary) and has been in Brussels for about 2 months.
pgmcc
Jan. 19th, 2007 06:32 pm (UTC)
On a trip to Ghana in 1988 my local colleague congratulated me on my English. He was shocked to hear that English was my first language and that people in Ireland mostly had to go to school to learn Irish.

He told me that in Ghana, while English is the official language, everyone grows up with their tribal language and then goes to school to learn English.

wyvernfriend
Jan. 19th, 2007 07:37 pm (UTC)
I have to say that I came out of primary school, which was taught bi-lingually, with a better facility in Irish than I had when I finished secondary school. Poor teaching in secondary school was mostly responsible for that.

I have to admit that one of the thing that killed my willingness to speak on a regular basis in Irish was the combination of two gael-nazi's. One of whom lectured me on the fact that I was a disgrace because I didn't know the irish for "wafer", having thrown that word in as the one english word in a conversation. The other one corrected my grammar in a very ignorant way trying to make me repeat the correct pronounciation as if I was 5.

These experiences have also made me wary about speaking several other languges, combined with the fact that I get occasionally confused with which romance language I'm currently speaking.
inulro
Jan. 19th, 2007 10:35 pm (UTC)
I get occasionally confused with which romance language I'm currently speaking.

I have that problem. Or more accurately, whatever Romance language I'm trying to speak comes out as French, no matter how precisely I know what I want to say.
slovobooks
Jan. 19th, 2007 07:47 pm (UTC)
I'm afraid I'm very much of the same opinion as Dan o'Connell, as I'm sure I've said before.
inuitmonster
Jan. 26th, 2007 10:35 pm (UTC)
It is funny how people go all sadface about languages dying out, but it is still so hard to see why in practice it would not be so much handier if everyone spoke the same language all the time.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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