Learning a minority language

Today I had an Irish lesson through italki. It’s my third or fourth; I can’t afford to do it too often, but when I can I jump in. Aside from my lessons I also spend between 5 minutes and 90 minutes studying Irish on my own which I very rarely skip.

It’s not the language I focus on the most, but I love it dearly and I’m excited every time I talk about it. Yet what’s the point? Hardly anyone speaks it any more, and certainly very few people in Canada. What’s the point of learning a language that I’ll rarely (if ever) get to use to communicate with people in real life?

For me, that’s not my priority. My priority is learning a language my grandparents rejected because it was the early 1900s and seen as something only old people did thanks to the impact of British imperialism. My priority is helping, even in this tiny way, the language survive against opposing forces. Finally, my priority is having fun, because this is a very entertaining language!

I love language for themselves rather than their practical use. I certainly don’t care about language from the point of view of furthering my career or being more successful (unless you count me wanting to become a full time language teacher!). I care because languages are fascinating; a verbal and visual documentation of the history and culture and progress of a people as well as a mundane tool used to ask for more salt.

Though I hope to visit the Gaeltacht one day, I’ll be happy to have learned Irish even if I never get to use it in its native areas. It’s a beautiful, strange language and learning it is the fun part.

Image by Martin Pociecha from Pixabay

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