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21 Nov 2017 20:57
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  •   Home > News > Education

    Students re-create pop music videos to keep Irish language alive

    In Ireland, English is easily the dominant language and has been for a very long time. One remote college is hoping recreations of popular music videos will help stop the county's native tongue dying out.

    Every summer on Ireland's west coast, hundreds of teenagers travel to a remote college to spend weeks recreating popular music videos in Irish.

    They do it hoping the production process will make them fluent in their nation's native tongue — a language Australians usually call Gaelic.

    The college, Colaiste Lurgan, is in a windswept coastal area west of Galway, known as a Gaeltacht.

    It's one of the last remaining places in Ireland where Irish is still spoken as a first language.

    "I am bilingual but I am more comfortable in the Irish language," teacher Fiona Ni Churraoin says.

    "Everyone I know speaks Irish, so I speak Irish probably 80 per cent of the time."

    Students from across the country are forced to learn Irish at school as part of a national policy aimed at keeping the country's first official language alive.

    Many come to camps and colleges ahead of final exams to cram — a number need Irish for university.

    "Most people in Ireland, the vast majority, have an affinity towards the language, they care about the language, they would love to be able to speak and use the language," Micheal O Foighil from Colaiste Lurgan says.

    "But we're a bit like the last of the Mohicans out here. The language, among the people who use it all the time, is dying.

    "What the Government is doing isn't working."

    English dominates in Ireland

    One problem is few students ever use Irish once they graduate and then they become rusty, or forget it altogether.

    In Ireland, English is easily the dominant language and has been for a very long time.

    Many young people often feel Irish is forced down their throat and some don't really see the point in mastering it.

    "There's definitely not normal scenarios where you'd be speaking Irish outside of a Gaeltacht area," student Jack Conneely says.

    "I really like it and worry about what will happen to it."

    Language surveys paint a complex picture.

    Some suggest interest in the language across the country and in the Irish diaspora around the globe could be increasing — more than 1.7 million people said they could speak Irish in the 2016 census.

    But despite enormous investment from successive governments over decades, only 20,000 use it daily inside the Gaeltacht.

    Students hopeful music videos will inspire Irish

    The few Irish speaking areas are shrinking.

    At a music night in a nearby pub, many are deeply worried by the trend.

    "I would like to see it spoken by younger people a lot more," one man says.

    "It could end up an academic language, not a real living one if people don't use it every day, for everyday things."

    At the college, the students aren't quite so pessimistic.

    They're praying more of their musical productions will be seen across the globe and encourage more people with Irish blood to explore the language.

    They want to make sure Irish, if it is to die out, won't fade from view without a big fight.

    © 2017 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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