Thursday, April 22, 2010


The actions proposed in the area of family transmission of the language are of critical importance. The 2006 Statement on the Irish Language contains the following objective in this area:

Objective 3: The Irish language community inside and outside the Gaeltacht will be given encouragement and support to transmit Irish to the next generation as a living household language. Towards this end, a wide range of services in Irish will be provided.

Language transmission in the family is a crucial element in the language planning process, and a vital building block in the efforts to increase the number of fluent speakers.

Language transmission within the family is increasingly being recognised world wide as one of the key issues which need to be explored if lesser-used languages are to survive. Families where parents speak Irish need advice and guidance on how to raise their children as balanced bilinguals, especially if only one parent speaks the language.

The home, family and neighbourhood - this stage of daily, informal, oral interaction between grandparents, parents and children - is crucial to the maintenance of Irish as a living language. The family is the building block of such transmission. Above all, it is in the family that a deep bond with language and language activities is fostered, shared and fashioned into personal and social as well as cultural and linguistic identity.

Parents may not fully understand the economic, employment and educational advantages of speaking Irish to their children.

Therefore, the proposed interventions in this area are partly about encouraging and supporting parents to raise their children bilingually, and partly about providing factual information and raising awareness of the inherent advantages to the child’s development of speaking more than one language.

The aim of State supports in the promotion of language transmission in the family will therefore be to:
  • provide advice, guidance and support for families where Irish is spoken in the home; and
  • promote a greater understanding of practical bilingualism in a family environment.

In practical terms this will entail:

  • · raising awareness amongst parents, prospective parents and the public at large of the advantages of bilingualism;
  • · supporting the changing of language patterns of families where one parent speaks Irish, in order to increase the number of children who speak both Irish and English in the home; and
  • · bringing the message of the advantages of bilingualism into the mainstream work of the health and social services who provide advice to new parents.

There is considerable experience in other jurisdictions, including Wales and the Basque Country, in supporting families raising children with two languages. Building on experience in Ireland, particularly in supporting networks of Irish speaking families and providing language support for children in Gaeltacht schools, and on international best practice, a range of practical measures will be put in place to support the transmission of Irish in the family.

  • · The cúntóirí teanga scheme operating in Gaeltacht schools will be extended to all Irish-medium schools.
  • · Enhanced support for networks of Irish-speaking families at local level will be provided.
  • · Programmes to assist grandparents and other older people to pass the language on to the new generation will be supported.
  • · Targeted language learning opportunities will be put in place to assist families where only one parent speaks Irish.
  • · The Gaeltacht Summer Colleges will place more emphasis on family language learning experiences so that networks of natural use of Irish can be promoted with mechanisms for their continuation post-Summer College in families and among friendship groupings.
  • · Awareness of the advantages of bilingualism in the mainstream work of health and social care professionals that work with young families will be raised.
  • · The functions of county childcare committees for the Irish language crèche/playschool sector throughout the State will be discharged in future through the new Údarás na Gaeilge.

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