by Evelyn MacLean
Going back in time, Celtic languages and Irish Gaelic in particular have suffered harshly. In fact, the Irish language itself has been in a more or less steady decline since the fourteenth century, becoming a victim of a "flooding" of the English language into the country, then further hampered by civil wars and finally the extreme famine of the nineteenth century which wiped out a great deal of the population. It's clear that more needs to be done in order to stop this most beautiful of languages going out of use entirely and this year there may be signs that things are about to change, but will it be enough?
It's fair to say that for many people native to Ireland who are speakers of Irish (Gaeilge), their support for the continuation of the language and its continued use hasn't dwindled at all. However, what has gone into a rapid decline is the amount of funding available for the means to teach and preserve. This is partly due to the economic downturn more than anything, but Irish Language groups face a constant battle to preserve any funds they do have which makes things doubly difficult.
One positive is that in the past few years the increase in interest in past-times such as Genealogy and Family History have also rekindled an interest in the language, particularly in the United States, with people deciding to learn to speak the language as they feel it is their duty to not only keep it alive but to learn more about their roots and heritage.
At the present moment, it's believed there are more people learning the language than there are native speakers who have grown up with Irish as a first and English as a second language or the other way round.
Whilst many in Ireland feel that this is a positive step, many others do question the belief as to whether or not so called "foreign" speakers of the language can actually manage to do enough to keep Irish alive and kicking.
It's hoped that the use of social media and technology may also help to spread a new liking for the language amongst youngsters as companies like the Irish broadcasting giant RTE launched their very own iPhone/iPod app which means that youngsters who want to watch their favourite programmes can now do so in Irish on their hand held devices.
It's now possible to take degrees in Irish Studies and the Irish language itself. One of the most comprehensive and instructive courses in Irish in existence at the present time is with the University of Montana, who at the current moment run a large course on the subject which boasts around two hundred students who are keen to keep the language going and the history alive. Again, many who use the course state the reasons for learning it are to do with their family history as they feel it is part of learning about who they are and their cultural identity.
This year, over in Ireland itself, the Irish Language Voluntary Organisations umbrella body, also known as an Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge, is asking the Irish Government to seriously reconsider their commitment to the Irish language in the upcoming budget which is to take place later this year.
They want any existing funding that is already in place to be protected and also for state support and more investment into continuing programs to keep the language taught in schools and also for families who wish to speak the language to be supported in their efforts too. By doing this they hope that interest will be stirred in those native to Ireland who would like to learn the language and also encourage Irish speakers who perhaps don't freely speak Irish to start once again.
As many people, particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom uncover their Irish roots and develop an interest in learning the language, it seems they're also booking their travel policies, flights and accommodation and racing off to explore Celtic travel and different lifestyles as figures for Irish tourism show that overseas trips to Ireland increased greatly during 2012. Travel to the particular areas that speak Irish has increased considerably as people's desire to learn the language and hear it spoken it it's true setting also increases. Hopefully during the course of the next twelve months and with the right funding in place, the language will continue to make its presence felt amongst people from all across the globe and not just in Ireland itself.