Why Choose the Irish Language?
Since beginning my journey learning the Irish language (Gaeilge), the most common question people ask me is “why?” This question has especially rolled off the lips of people born and bred in Ireland. They wonder why I would want to learn a language that they see has little use and promptly advise me to learn German or French. At first I felt disappointed and even a little disheartened but these reactions soon motivated me to look deeper within myself…
Reason number one…
My initial attraction to Gaeilge was its ancient Celtic roots, Irish mythology and folklore. Being a fantasy writer, the stories of Morrígan and Cú Chulainn from 500BC enchanted me. This was the age of druids (nó druidh as Gaeilge… or druid in Irish), Sovereign Goddesses and Gods. It was a time where honour was everything, the spoken word was sacred and magic was normal. It was the time of the Tuatha Dé Danann (pronounced “Tu-ah-ah jay dun-nan”). We no longer have direct records of their language – if it was ever written in the first place – but we have scriptures written by Irish priests in the early hundreds AD and folklore pasted down through generations. Stories in old Ireland were very special. Traditionally, bards had an important place in society; they were the holders of wisdom. Stories were not just entertainment like they are today, they held enormous power – much like modern day media and ‘knowledge’. But Gaeilge, and perhaps the other Celtic languages such as Scottish Gaelic, Welsh and Breton, have maintained old styles of thinking with strong roots in Celtic traditions. So as a writer, it is little wonder I am attracted to Gaeilge. I long for the opportunity to read and understand poetry and literature written in Gaeilge … stories from the Gaeltacht regions of Ireland written by native speakers that are immersed in a style of writing that echoes fragments of the old ways of thought.
So why learn Gaeilge, they asked?
My first answer is because Gaeilge, or Irish, expresses a unique meaning that will never be found anywhere else.
Slán go fóill agus tugaigí aire daoibh féin
(Bye for now and take care)