1. We all know that Irish is a great way to talk about other people when you’re abroad, although there is many an apocryphal story about two friends using pidgin Irish to slag off the swarthy stranger next to them, only to be flummoxed when he spins around and responds in fluent Gaeilge. As students march into the Irish exam today, some will do so with joy and happiness. Others will carry bitter resentment at a subject they feel corralled into.
2. Also when you’re talking Irish abroad, confused staff always pause before they hand you a menu with a union jack on it.
3. The notion that you could be doing something better with your time: well, the more languages your brain is exposed to, the easier it is to learn even more languages.
4. Irish is not a relic: it is a living language and is in daily use throughout different parts of Ireland.
5. There are 10 beautiful, evocative and tongue-in-cheek ways to say something in Irish that the English language only offers up one for.
6. It is a rhythmical and musical language. Take an expression like: “Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine,” which (loosely) translates as “people live in each other’s shadows.”
7. Again and again, we see that young children genuinely love Irish, but it’s their parent’s negativity towards the language, coupled with an uninspiring secondary curriculum, that does the damage. Irish is not limiting children’s learning opportunities; it actually opens up the world to them.
8. Irish gives you the keys to a treasure trove. One of the shiniest pieces of gold is the National Folklore Collection at UCD, a working archive that contains millions of pages of information on Irish legends and epic stories, customs and huge parts of our social history. Guess what? Loads of this material is in Irish.
9. Peig: Yes,Peig: because no article about Irish, timed to coincide with the Leaving Cert, would be complete without banging on about her, even though no Irish person under the age of 35 has ever been forced to study her story. Put aside her oft-misrepresented tales of woe, and you’re left with arguably one of the most extraordinarily lyrical and gifted storytellers the world has ever known.
Peter McGuire ~ Irish Times