As a secondary school teacher, I have taught international students who are not actually obliged to learn Irish (once they move here after eleven years of age), but actually start to learn the language… why? Because they are actually INTERESTED! Wow! And I don’t often see such enthusiasm. When they pass out the Irish students in language acquisition (which generally doesn’t take too long) the resentment among the others becomes very apparent.
One student recently informed me: “Irish is our language. They (i.e. immigrants) shouldn’t be allowed to speak it.” A case of misguided nationalism (and thinly disguised racism), I think. Believe me, if an international student wants to learn Irish and speak it, I am more than happy to help out. The Irish refuse to speak it and use it. The aforementioned student seems to come without all the emotional “baggage” that the Irish-born student is usually laden-down with. Why should I object? I’d quite happily swap a couple of disgruntled Irish students for a dozen ‘immigrant’ students, who are eager, enthusiastic and seem to take a pride in acquisition of the language that I rarely see elsewhere. If Irish-born students have an objection to this, that’s their problem. With each passing day, I am more and more convinced that the future of the Irish language lies increasingly in the hands of ‘immigrants’ settling in Ireland and their young children who will study Irish here in school.