I have a guilty pleasure – Hello Magazine! I got into the habit of buying it to read on the train journey home from Dublin to Kerry in the 1990s and I’ve been buying it ever since. These days I buy it for work – our Hummingbird mum & dads love to sit down and have a flick though it while they wait. As I explain to my hummingbirds, my Hello magazines are research for when I win the Euromillions, so that I can be ready to live the lifestyle!
So what has Hello got to do with being bi-lingual? Well firstly it started life as Spanish publication Hola and it was so successful that they brought out an English version. The British royal family is frequently on the front page and last week little Princess Charlotte was the on the cover of many UK magazines & newspapers as the little tot started her first day at playschool.
The photos were adorable but one article really caught my attention. Apparently, the little princess chats to her nanny in Spanish. Her nanny is Spanish and even though one day it will be Charlotte’s dad & brother that people will be referring to when they say ‘speaking the King’s English’, Charlotte is growing up bi-lingual, even though she really doesn’t need to!
Being bi-lingual has many benefits including:
So isn’t it time that we recognise the benefits of being bilingual in Irish? 2018 is Bliain na Gaeilge, celebrating 125 years of the Irish Language Revival movement through action on five themes: the revival of the language over the last 125 years; the creativity of the language; the vibrancy of the language; the participation of the community; and the value of our Gaeltachtaí.
Currently, I think that too much emphasis is placed in school on reading and writing at an early age, irrespective of what language it is. It becomes a subject to be endured rather than a medium of communication. Like Princess Charlotte, our kids should be able to blabber away in English & Irish (& other languages if possible), seamlessly able to switch from one language to another.
Why do we have this need to have our children reading so early, way before they have mastered communicating in a language? We are forcing reading on them, to the extent that many children never read for pleasure.
Once a child is fluent in the spoken word, the written word will be much easier. Being fluent in more than one language means that there are great opportunities to be exposed to other cultures and ideas. Understanding other cultures is the first step to tolerance and acceptance of differences. That is why education is so powerful.
You might read this and agree with me that being bilingual brings many advantages but still ask why we should learn Irish? And I agree, it’s the ‘should’ be that turns people off. Instead I would say, we are Irish so why wouldn’t we want to be able to speak, read & write in our own unique language? After all, oftentimes our language patterns in English mirror the structure of Irish so why not become bi-lingual? Anyway isn’t it impossible not to fall in love with a language that has existed for millennia without having any word for Yes or No!!!