Bhí Pádraig agus Michéal sa teach tabhairne
June 25, 2004 4:22 PM   Subscribe

Should Gaelic be an official EU language? As a happy member of the SCA I promise to revise all my past snarkiness and negative thinking about the EU if this happens. I will read (ploddingly and with a dictionary) all those speeches by Chirac and Schroder--as soon as they're translated into Gaelic. If Maltese can be an EU language of diplomacy, why not Gaelic? While the world around us rages, we'll return to the Middle Ages. (From crookedtimber)
posted by jfuller (27 comments total)
Hey hey easy on the Maltese - people actually DO still speak it (unfortunately the last one in my family to do so just died a couple of years ago in her late nineties)...
posted by cadence at 4:26 PM on June 25, 2004

Irish or Scots?
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:32 PM on June 25, 2004

I've never heard an Irish person refer to Irish Gaelic as anything except "Irish". ("He spoke Irish at a time when it was neither popular nor profitable...")
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:33 PM on June 25, 2004

posted by homunculus at 4:50 PM on June 25, 2004

I think download times of splash pages of EU websites are going to be a limiting factor soon.
posted by lazy-ville at 4:53 PM on June 25, 2004

Isn't Gaelic split into Irish, Welsh and Scots? I speak about 4 words of welsh (and hopefully more soon, I promise Nain!)

That having been said, Gaelic is a pretty sexy language when spoken. It's not all phlegm. Remember that, boys.
posted by Salmonberry at 5:03 PM on June 25, 2004

Isn't Gaelic split into Irish, Welsh and Scots?

No. there are two branches of celtic, Goidelic (Irish and its relatives) and Brythonic (Welsh and its relatives). Goidelic languages are Irish, Scots and Manx (extinct) and Brythonic languages are Welsh, Breton and Cornish (effectively extinct).

Making Irish an EU language is a dumb waste of money. Everyone (meaning EVERYONE) who speaks it also speaks English and they're likely to be an elderly farmer who will never read an EU document anyway.

But then again, lack of pride (deserved or foolish) has never been an Irish trait. Expect someone to press the issue and talk about "400 years of oppression" to waste money.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:14 PM on June 25, 2004

It'd be largely pointless and it would cost a bloody fortune, let's not bother.
posted by biffa at 5:32 PM on June 25, 2004

> It'd be largely pointless and it would cost a bloody fortune

Honestly, I thought the EU would consider both of those recommendations...
posted by jfuller at 5:36 PM on June 25, 2004

I want to mention that I'm astonished by the efficiency of the google ads. Gaelic language, Gaelic books, Gaelic singbooks and CDs. Must be no great international market for Malta stuff, huh?
posted by jfuller at 6:49 PM on June 25, 2004

Irish is, technically, the first official language of Ireland. It's also in danger of becoming extinct within a few generations. If making it an official language of the EU will help preserve it, then I think it's worth the expense.
posted by Ruki at 7:05 PM on June 25, 2004

Also, bonus points for putting in pictures of Pennsic in a post about the EU.
posted by Ruki at 7:17 PM on June 25, 2004


> Pennsic

Fuller tips hard hat. Antient history is antient history.
posted by jfuller at 7:26 PM on June 25, 2004

Note that Maria Farrell of Crooked Timber is very Irish and also a super-duper nice person with whom I've occsionally corresponded. I think it's interesting she doesn't support the initiative.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:21 PM on June 25, 2004

I do like having Irish (and it's Irish, not Gaelic) in my passport, because it reminds me of the joke that the spelling and pronunciation committees met in separate rooms and never compared notes.

But on the substantive issue, there's surely a compromise whereby you can have 'official status', but the government has the option to determine whether that entails having the full whack of translators. The UN has, I think, six 'working languages' when it comes to full-scale translation, and while it's more difficult to pare down the 'working languages' in the EU, because there only a few countries with shared languages (the UK and Ireland; and the France-Belgium-Netherlands thing).

But looking at the linked thread, I think Maria has a good point about the ebbs and flows of the relationship between the language and the state. My Irish expat friends just wrinkle their noses when asked about Leaving Cert Irish lessons.

As for the Google ads: well, I imagine there's not that great a constituency of fourth-generation Maltese-Americans who feel some desparate need to assert their roots in spite of the fact that they're only now manifested in having watched 'The Maltese Falcon' or eaten a packet of Maltesers.
posted by riviera at 9:52 PM on June 25, 2004

The problem with including languages limited to smaller regions is that there are too many of them. In Spain the nationalist parties have been pushing for recognition of their languages in Galicia (Galego), the Basque Country (Euskera) and Cataluña (Català). Of course they are beautiful and culturally significant and should be preserved, but to make them official EU languages would be far too costly.
posted by sic at 12:56 AM on June 26, 2004

Of course, should all these languages be made official the EU would have to find translators fluent in, for example, both Irish and Basque. I'll bet there aren't many people who could do that job.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 1:26 AM on June 26, 2004

That is probably the biggest problem. I saw a report on Euronews talking about the logistical problems regarding translators in the UE parliament with all of the new countries coming in. Space was a bigissue, as is finding fluent translators.
posted by sic at 3:11 AM on June 26, 2004

Do they have "straight" translations for all official languages? Like straight from swedish to polish, not swedish->english->polish?

IMO the use of official languages should be limited. Most important documents should be translated to all languages, but the vast bulk of documents (that no one will ever read in all 20 languages) should be translated only on request.

Of course such limitations would be a huge nationalistic issue that would fuel the anti-EU crowd. Thus, although it would be the wise thing to do, it is also a mission impossible.
posted by hoskala at 4:20 AM on June 26, 2004

Er, from a certain point of view Gaelic already is an official community language.

European Court of Justice jurisprudence in the 1989 Groener v Minister for Education case indicated that for reasons of cultural protection it’s legitimate for teachers in Ireland to be required to speak Gaelic thus recognising the language’s privileged status and allowing a form of discrimination in employment which the ECJ is ordinarily loath to do.

As for being one of the working languages there is a legitimate argument to be made as there are a vanishingly small number of people who speak only Gaelic and not English. Given however that that number is as small as it is the most appropriate way of servicing their needs would be to provide translated documents on a bespoke basis rather than translating all of the EU’s prodigious output – practically speaking, what would be the point?
posted by dmt at 4:34 AM on June 26, 2004

"I've never heard an Irish person refer to Irish Gaelic as anything except "Irish"."

Except when you are speaking Irish and refer to it as 'Gaeilge'... An bhfuil Gaeilge agat? (Do you have Irish?)

Three summer courses and I only remember a few words. No one to practise with, unfortunately.
posted by prolific at 5:12 AM on June 26, 2004

sic: the difference between Irish and Catalan, Basque (and Welsh, for that matter) is that the former is the primary official language of an EU member. Article 8.1 of the Irish constitution: 'The Irish language as the national language is the first official language.' Or, rather: 'Ós í an Ghaeilge an teanga náisiúnta is í an phríomhtheanga oifigiúil í.' Quite.

(And there's a tale: the simultaneous drafting of Irish and English versions back in the 30s created discrepancies that are constitutionally resolved in favour of the less legally-tight Irish version.)

Oh, and Sidhedevil: nice Flann O'Brien reference. Is your moniker also a homage to the Cruiskeen Lawn pieces written in what looks like Irish, but when pronounced accordingly, turns out to be Irish-accented English?
posted by riviera at 5:56 AM on June 26, 2004

They sell Gaelic language tapes at my local Barnes and Noble (I'm in North Carolina.) I know because my daughter bought a set.
posted by konolia at 6:55 AM on June 26, 2004

Rivieria, I am delighted. Delighted. Yes, indeed.

(But I should point out that it is, strictly speaking, a Myles na gCopaleen reference, or a Brian O'Nolan reference, but not a Flann O'Brien reference...)
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:15 PM on June 26, 2004

Of probably more effect on the Irish language is this new Irish law. If you've ever been to Ireland you'll know that things like roadsigns are in Irish and English, but this law is the most determined effort yet/waste of money to pull Irish from the brink of extinction.
And sorry, I have to say this: "An bhfuil cead agam dul amach go dtí an leithreas?"
posted by Celery at 3:07 PM on June 26, 2004

Riviera: that is a big difference and also very interesting. I had no idea that Irish was the primary language. Article 3.2 of the Spanish Constitution does recognize that "las demás lenguas españolas serán también oficiales en las respectivas Comunidades Autónomas de acuerdo con sus Estatutos" (the other spanish languages (read: Galego, Euskera and Català) will also be official in their respective autonomous communities according to their Statutes). And in the Basque Country and Cataluña they definitely are the primary languages.

The real issue at hand is whether the European Union is going to be a union primarily defined by the different states that it is made out of or between the different regions. There is a strong push from the Nationalist movements (at least here in Spain) to place the emphasis on regions rather than on the states. As well as making these languages official, this also implicates an expanded role for the Committee of the Regions (the organ of the UE government that represents the different European regions in the UE), which I think is the true goal of these movements.
posted by sic at 5:02 PM on June 26, 2004

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