October 11, 2007

I talk, therefore I am

I’ve been going to lectures given by my friend Sean at the Public Library on Wednesdays at noon. He teaches Irish Studies at St. Mary’s University in Halifax. The lectures are part of his classes and also open to the public. So it is a mixture of the young the old and the curious. He’s talking about the culture and society of Ireland. It’s been fascinating. I’m learning about history, how it changes from different perspectives, how many different views there are of the same “event”, how “events” have many layers.

Yesterday he was talking about language: how the Irish are trying to establish identity (as distinct from the English) through the Irish language but it hasn’t taken root. He was required to study the Irish language in school but it was never spoken in his daily life. Sean read a poem in Irish to us. Then he read the translation. The Irish language is very beautiful to hear, very lyrical.

At this time, it is more the upper classes who are pushing the language, making it a more elitist experience. There are some writers who write only in Irish. Some allow translations, others don’t. But they don’t have the broad audience as not many people actually speak the language. There is even a town in Ireland that is only Irish speaking. As a result, tourists can’t find it from a map because the English name is still in print.

It made me think of Israel. How the Israelis resurrected Hebrew, once dead, now the national language. But in that situation, they were people coming from many countries to a new land. Bringing their disparate cultures and histories to form a new one.

When Aaron and I first moved to Canada, we lived a half an hour from Halifax where he was going to high school. We would spend much of the car ride into town practicing our “Canadian”. There are differences, however subtle, between Canada an the U.S. Some I’ve been able to adopt, some not. I am, after all, “from away”. Yet I do feel very Canadian, most of the time. Language is a powerful identifying marker.

Posted by leya at October 11, 2007 03:41 PM | TrackBack