Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Irish translation 'extravagance'

Letters in the Irish Times and Irish Independent!

This letter appeared in both papers


May I commend the National Museum of Ireland and the HSE for both their “lack of will” and “lack of co-operation” with regard to recommendations issued by the Irish Language Commissioner. (“State bodies reported over failures on Irish”, July 8th).

The following response was also sent but not (as yet) published!

I was interested to read Mr Doody's letter (Irish translation 'extravagance') in Mondays issue.
Where I live the daily language is Irish and each time specific services through Irish are refused here or indeed anywhere in the country, there is little doubt it 'furthers the drive towards “compulsory English” in state affairs.' to quote a recent report.
Mr Doody's support of the flauting of the law as enacted by Dáil Éireann, Seanad Éireann and promulgated by the President of Ireland, by two state entities was surely not intentional.
The costs incurred by their adherence to the law, which, from the tone of his letter he seems to think might be astronomical, would be negligible if previous recomendations by the statutarily appointed Language Commisioner were acted upon.
In the case of the HSE his directions to them were to assist in the comfort and well being and good health of the patient, something which, had he thought of it, would be strongly supported by Mr Doody.

Yours etc

Eoin Ó Riain,
Caorán na gCearc,
Baile na hAbhann
Co na Gaillimhe

• Another letter sent to the Irish Independent was however published on 14th July 2011 under the somewhat patronising heading, "Gaeilgeoirs compelled to speak in English!"
Given the bad press that many of our State-funded bodies receive, I am delighted to see that at least some of our public servants are unwilling to waste taxpayers’ money on unnecessary extravagances. According to the article, among the complaints made to the Commissioner was one that the HSE had not posted swine flu warnings in Irish. Surely, the vast majority of taxpayers would wish to see HSE funds being spent on improving conditions for patients rather than using scarce resources to translate and produce publications and notices in Irish?

Although I have an enormous amount of respect for the Irish language, I urge the Government to act to change legislation in order to ensure that public funds are not being used to please the small minority of citizens who are Irish- language fanatics. - Yours, etc,

Milltown, Dublin 6. 11/7/2011

A chara,

Dermot Doody (July 11th) wants legislative change to ensure that our public funds are not used to please the small minority of citizens who are “Irish-language fanatics”.

Can I make a similar plea: that the even smaller minority of “anti-Irish language fanatics” are not accommodated in their extremist demand that when it comes to Irish State-funded publications, the rule is compulsory English for everyone? – Is mise,

Na Forbacha,
Co na Gaillimhe. 12/7/2011

This letter appeared in the Irish Independent:

The exclusion of a language from public life is a tried and tested method of hastening that language's demise. Practical steps toward official bilingualism in Canada and Wales in order to encourage the use of French and Welsh respectively have borne fruit. Because Irish has had a low social status for centuries, bilingual signs and announcements annoy people like Stephen Lane (Letters, Irish Independent, July 9), who feel uncomfortable seeing or hearing Irish.

For people who speak Irish habitually or at home (fanatics, as Mr Doody calls us) public bilingualism assures us that we are an accepted part of this society. Diversity and tolerance for our linguist minority can also benefit the Anglophone majority by opening up to them the primary language spoken in Ireland for most of its history and which gives every hill and stream here its name.

DáithíMac CArthaigh, BL
An Leabharlann Dlí,
Na Ceithre Cúirteanna,
Baile Átha Cliath 7 12/7/2011

These in the Irish Times

A chara,

I read Dermot Doody’s letter (July 11th) regarding Irish translation “extravagance” and I was not at all surprised that he listed misconception after blatant misconception to support absolute wanton flouting of the law.

I am a professional Irish translator who on an average day will translate anything from a simple two-word sign to a full-blown annual report or policy document. I receive some of this work from public bodies, which are required under the Official Languages Act to offer documents bilingually, and some from private companies who see the obvious advantage of serving customers in whichever language they personally prefer.

I found the HSE swine flu sign in question on its website and analysed it as I would any document I receive for translation – it was 62 words in length. This would have cost the HSE about €8 (probably less) in total to translate. Mr Doody’s nonsensical apprehension that this €8 could somehow be turned into “improved conditions for patients” is beyond my comprehension. Even the overall annual cost of translation for the HSE would pale in comparison to any of the various and often reported inefficiencies of the HSE.

According to Census 2006, Irish speakers number about 400,000 people in the Republic of Ireland alone (even excluding people who state they have it but never speak it, and those who speak it only within the education system). I am constantly surprised by people like Mr Doody who would consider any one of these number who wishes to carry out business with the State through the first language of the State on the most basic of levels as a “fanatic”.

Perhaps Mr Doody would be correct to brand me an Irish language fanatic if I were to write in to The Irish Times and advocate the removal of all English from signs around the country or the publication of official documents in Irish only. But what would that make him? An English language fanatic?

Is mise,
Snasta Translation Solutions,
Bóthar Ghort na Mara,
Cill Iníon Léinín,
Co Átha Cliath. (13/7/2011)


I take exception to Páid O’Donnchú’s reference (July 12th) to “fanatics” and “extremist” to refer to those who despair at the waste involved in producing official documents in both English and Irish.
There is nothing radical in wishing to see public money saved by the simple expedience of using half as much ink and, in many cases, half as much paper, not to mention the savings that can be made in postage costs.

On the other hand it is definitely extreme to insist that the vast majority of citizens receive documentation and correspondence half of which is in a language that they do not understand, just to appease the minority who, while understanding the main language of this State fluently, have a desire to be mollycoddled by instantly seeing the same message in their language of choice.

This is not to say that anyone wishing to receive correspondence in Irish hasn’t got a perfect right to do so, but they can surely be provided with cost-effective ways of indicating their preference rather than imposing unnecessary waste on taxpayers as a whole.

Yours, etc,

The Cloisters,
Clane, Co Kildare. (13/7/2011)

And this in the Irish Independent!

Fanatical Gaeilgeoirs killed love of language

I doubt that the man in the street gives much thought to bilingualism, or multilingualism for that matter (Letters, Irish Independent, July 12). After all, there is far more Polish spoken in this country than Irish these days.

What singles Irish out for harsh criticism is the manner in which it is foisted upon the public by a state quango which appears to have powers well beyond its original remit.

It is precisely this do-as-we-say, Stasi-like compulsion, at the behest of fanatical Gaeilgeoirs, which choked off a love of the language in the first place.

It didn't work then and it won't wash now. We are a wholly English-speaking nation and will continue to communicate in an ever-evolving English language.

It is simply the way of the world and it has been this way throughout history.

Niall Ginty
Dublin 5 (13/7/2011)

The assertion that "We are a wholly English-speaking nation and will continue to communicate in an ever-evolving English language", made by your correspondent, Niall Ginty (Letters, July 13), came as some surprise to the people of my district who have been communicating, playing games, sitting on committees, rearing families, praying and working in Irish for as long as anyone can remember and for over a thousand years prior to that.

The only linguistic compulsion they feel is the fact that the State, local authority and state-funded organisations (like the HSE) mostly insist on using English.

They know that the Comisineir (sic) Teanga was right when he said "Irish will not remain as a living, community language in Gaeltacht areas if the State continues to compel Gaeltacht communities to use English in their official dealings."

Where is the "Stasi-like compulsion?"

Eoin O(sic) Riain
Baile na hAbhann, Co na Gaillimhe (14/7/2011)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Epoch making recognition for Gaeltacht schools

The Minister for Education, Ruairí Quinn, launched The National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy in Dublin today.  For the first time in the history iof the State, the Strategy formally recognises that Gaeltacht schools have specific requirements in relation to the national curriculum and that native Irish speakers and learners of Irish who attend Gaelscolieanna and Gaeltacht schools have distinct linguistic needs.   The full report is available on the Department of Education website in pdf format!

From the Irish language perspective, here are two of the most important passages:

Page12  This literacy and numeracy  strategy recognises that the learners in Irish-medium schools and settings have very varied learning needs and that they need to develop literacy skills in both Irish (as their first language or as the first language of the school) and in English.

page 50
  * Students in Irish-medium schools who learn through Irish, including pupils whose home language is Irish, have specific literacy needs that are not fully addressed in the current primary(and secondary p52) school curriculum. We need to address these specific needs by ensuring that the Irish L1* curriculum (for Irish-medium schools) provides for the development of literacy skills in a manner comparable to that provided for in the English curriculum, including the development of children's cognitive and higher-order thinking skills.

*Irish as L1 refers to the teaching of Irish as a first language or in Irish-medium schools. Irish as L2 refers to the teaching of Irish as a second language, i.e. the teaching of Irish in schools where the main language of instruction is English.

Many thanks to the various Irish language organisations who made representations to the Department of Education during the consultation process, including amongst others COGG,  Gaelscoileanna, Forbairt Naíonraí Teoranta, An Foras Patrúnachta and  Eagraíocht na Scoileanna Gaeltachta .

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Review of the Official Languages Act

A commentary on the practical application and operation of provisions of the Official Languages Act 2003 has been published by the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga in anticipation of a review of that legislation to be undertaken as part of the programme for Government. The Act’s provisions came into effect fully five years ago.

Seán Ó Cuireáin
An Coimisinéir Teanga, Seán Ó Cuirreáin, said he hoped that the outcome of the review will be an Act fit for purpose which serves the wishes of the Irish language community in an appropriate manner and ensures that meaning is given to the constitutional provision that Irish is the first official language as it is the national language.

Seán Ó Cuirreáin was speaking at the launch of his commentary report in An Spidéal, Co. Galway today (July 5th 2011).

Amendments to the legislation suggested by An Coimisinéir Teanga’s Office include the recommendation that public bodies be classified into different catagories (A, B, C, etc.) in accordance with their range of functions and their level of interaction with the public in general, including the Irish language and Gaeltacht communities, and that the level of service through Irish to be provided by public bodies should depend on that classification.

It also recommends that public bodies be obliged by statute to provide their services through Irish in Gaeltacht regions and that such services should be of a standard equal to those provided elsewhere through English.

A renewed effort to ensure the proper implementation of the Act’s language schemes system on a strategic and consistent basis is also recommended or, as a possible alternative, that a new “standards” system based on statutory regulations be developed, as is planned for the Welsh language in Wales. With regard to official publications provided through the Irish language, An Coimisinéir Teanga’s Office recommends that priority be given to those publications for which there is the greatest demand from the public, the Irish speaking and Gaeltacht communities included.

The report also calls for the lack of staff in the public sector competent in the two official languages of the State to be addressed whenever the current recruitment embargo is relaxed. An Coimisinéir Teanga describes this problem as the “the most fundamental difficulty with the provision of state services through Irish”. The report also suggests that statutory provision be made to ensure that members of the public have the right to use their names and addresses in their choice of official language when dealing with public bodies.

“No additional spending should result from these recommendations and if expenditure is not reduced then, at the very least, the amendments should be cost neutral” said Mr Ó Cuirreáin.

An Coimisinéir Teanga also announced that he had in recent days placed two special reports before the Houses of the Oireachtas detailing cases where public bodies had been found in breach of statutory language provisions but had failed to implement recommendations to ensure compliance. The organisations involved, the Health Service Executive and the National Museum of Ireland, had not opted to appeal to the High Court the findings that they were in breach of legislation but had nevertheless not implemented his recommendations. “It falls to the Houses of the Oireachtas now to take whatever additional measures they deem appropriate” he said.

The review  and the two depositions laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas may be downloaded from this page on the Commissioner's website.