Raising Children with Irish Outside the Gaeltacht
This information has been compiled by Comhluadar. Glór na nGael are the lead organisation tasked with the promotion of Irish in the family. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is generally recognised that there is a close link between language exposure and language proficiency. Therefore, the primary aim of parents who are raising a child through Irish should be to provide as many opportunities as possible for the child to hear, speak and use Irish. Because the opportunities for children to speak and hear spoken Irish in the wider community are limited, Comhluadar maintains that the best way to bring up an Irish-speaking family is for both parents to speak Irish to the children all the time.
One can extend this by:
- Encouraging friends and relations of the family who have knowledge of Irish to speak Irish to them
- Tuning in to radio and television programmes in Irish and making use of books, websites and other media in Irish as often as possible
- Creating opportunities for the children to hear and speak Irish outside the home by attending Irish language events, visiting the Gaeltacht etc.
Children will inevitably hear more and more English as they grow older. Therefore, it is advisable to speak as much Irish as possible to them in the early years. From the moment that a child comes into the world, they are listening to sounds and acquiring language. Parents should ensure from the beginning that Irish is the language their children hear from the radio, television and internet, that songs in Irish are played in the car, and most importantly, that the language spoken by the parents to the child and to each other is Irish.
When one becomes accustomed to speaking in a particular language to certain individuals, even children, it is difficult to change. It is easier, therefore, to establish the habit of speaking Irish in the family by speaking to the children in Irish from the beginning. For that reason, the decision to make Irish the medium of communication in the family should be made, if possible, before the birth of the first child. Parents should have some knowledge of the vocabulary and terminology required for dealing with a new-born baby. Not every family has the same opportunities. In some cases only one parent speaks Irish. Some families are one-parent families, and there are families who seldom have contact with people who speak Irish. It is necessary, therefore, to look at the various options available, and having done so, to choose the one that gives the best opportunity to your child to hear and to speak Irish. Below are some available options:
It is also important that both parents support the decision to have an Irish-speaking family and that the parent who has no Irish, or only a little, is comfortable with the decision and willing to support it. He or she can support it by continually showing a positive attitude to Irish, by attending Irish language events with the children, watching Irish language programmes on television with them and by encouraging them to use Irish as often as possible. If possible the parent with only a little Irish should attend an Irish class and try to learn with the child. He, or she, could learn enough to understand the conversation between the other parent and the child, and to carry a simple conversation with him/her. A good idea would be for both parents to use a little Irish together at set times when the child is present. For example, they could make a habit of speaking only Irish at dinner time.