Features

My GPS (Gaelic Positioning System)

... I wonder if Triple A knows about this.

by Joe Sullivan

We are in the part of Ireland where they are striving to preserve the culture. From what I can see keeping the language is a big part of it. High school kids are brought in for immersion programs. For two weeks they can speak only Irish, English is forbidden. If any one of them speaks English he will be sent home, or so the story goes.

We don't know that we’re at one of those places when we stop to buy gas in Connemara. I’m stretching my legs when I see a bunch of kids sitting at a picnic table. I smile at them and say something like, “Hi guys, how are you doing?” They look very uncomfortable until a proctor says, “Sorry sor, they’re not allowed to speak English.” I give them another smile and a gotcha wave and get back into the car.

The locals really get on my case when I refer to the language as Gaelic. "Wrong", they say. The language is, "Irish, not Gaelic 'atall", they insist. Gaelic is the generic language of which Irish is a part. Okay, Irish it is then.

I wonder if the Irish know. I’ll give you ten to one that my old grandmother went to her grave thinking she was speaking Gaelic and not Irish. She was born just down the road in Cork.

The language thing doesn’t mean too much to me until it comes to road signs.  In Ireland the signs you find at road junctures are always printed in both English and Irish. Not so, unfortunately for me, in this part of Connemara where the culture is being preserved. Here the signs are in Irish only.

So then, when we are lost the only solution is to , A. ask someone, or B. keep on going until you run into the bilingual signs again.

It’s not only Tipperary, that it’s a long way to.

January 3, 2014    


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