Gaeilge: Do We Need to Recognise the Privilege of Proficiency?

Jessica Ene

You can’t really say you sat your Leaving Cert if you didn’t also sit through, or partake in, countless objections against having to learn Gaeilge. It’s not uncommon to hear assertions to the language’s inutility, with many describing it as a dead language.

Of course, this can’t be the case, with thousands of fluent speakers nationwide. But is it time we finally recognise the unequal playing field regarding Irish proficiency?

Access to linguistic immersion is a huge advantage in learning Irish. There is a reason that primary teaching students are required to spend time in the Gaeltacht to improve their linguistic skills. Many point to the manner in which Irish is taught in secondary schools as the reason to why students don’t graduate as fluent speakers.
This is true, but only to an extent; it takes learning outside of a classroom environment to reach fluency truly.

So, who gets to benefit from Gaeltacht trips? The answer is clear – those who can afford it. Access to grinds are, of course, another clear leg-up. In Dublin, these prices can range from 25 to 60 euros an hour.

The state of the Irish language is often a fraught topic. Arguments from either side can be lacking in nuance. It is crucial to understand the factors that can affect a leaving cert student’s performance in Irish exams. The playing field here is not equal, with finances playing a significant role. This is something that must be recognised.

Deputy Opinions Editor, Jessica Ene