Sunday, March 17, 2013

Irish and Saint Patrick's Day

Dia duit! Although we have a language profile once each week, we decided that the best way to select languages would be by starting with the language with the most native speakers and working our way down the list. This means that we may never get to some minority languages and that's just wrong!

Since today is St. Patrick's Day, one of the most popular, if not the most popular saint's day in the world, we're going to take a brief look at the holiday itself as well as the Irish language. Thanks to Guinness and the popularity of being Irish, the day is celebrated worldwide and, in particular, in the US.

In Chicago they go so far as to dye the Chicago River green!
It's clear Americans are very fond of their heritage and those who have the tiniest bit of "Irish blood" in them love to use this fact as an excuse for alcoholism on the 17th of March each year, though celebrations are often moved to another day when it falls on Sunday, such as this year.

Though St. Patrick's Day is technically a religious holiday, it has long since been observed thus and most consider it an excuse to pretend to be Irish and get drunk on Guinness or anything they than colour green, the Chicago River included.

Something that isn't too often observed, much to our disappointment, is the promotion of the Irish language! Many Irish descendants are happy to drink their Guinness, wear green and generally make a mess of things. They are not, however, very interested in celebrating a huge part of Irish culture, the language.

Irish is one of the oldest languages in Europe and has around 133,000 native speakers, most of which, unsurprisingly, live in Ireland. It's the official language of Ireland and is recognised as a minority language in the UK, mainly thanks to Northern Ireland's inclusion as part of the union.

Despite its small number of native speakers, Irish is also recognised as an official language of the EU. The translation of EU documentation into Irish has an estimated cost of €3.5 million which we would imagine is probably the most expensive per capita.

So today or tomorrow when you don your green attire and raise your glass to celebrate Irish culture and heritage, don't forget the language! Sláinte!