Really, we have to face it: we are failing at teaching Irish. We have a few passionate teachers who can teach it well, but overall, there’s something very wrong when most people come out of 14 years of education unable to string a sentence in Irish together, yet can almost be fluent in some European language.
There are loads of reasons for this, I’m sure and we could argue it forever, but the reality is Irish is not a growing language. It is now the 3rd most spoken language in the country behind English and Polish and it’s slipping further and further behind. Every attempt is failing.
However, rather than learning from other countries where the native language was resurrected, cf Israel, Wales, Isle of Man, etc. we hopelessly plod along in denial that we’re doing a grand job. We need to learn from these countries and I nominate Wales as our first step – the specialised Irish teacher that will strike passion into any child.
It’s fairly self explanatory. Specialised Irish teachers would teach in different classes a couple of times a week and make good, enjoyable experiences for the class. The class teacher should be able to use these throughout the week informally.
While all that’s happening, there should be proper professional development for teachers to learn Irish again and get them to become those passionate Irish teachers. The long term aim, for me, would be the ability for schools to be run completely through the medium of Irish.
It’s likely to take a couple of generations for this to fully work but it may become an extremely powerful way to make Ireland truly bilingual.
Another advantage of this, is that it might help support the diversification of the teaching profession. Having fluency in the language would no longer be a barrier to becoming a primary school teacher. For anyone that has a non-Irish speaking teacher on their staff in mainstream class, one can see very quickly how this works very nicely.