Mother Tongues Stories
Languages are not a privilege
Multilingualism for me has truly been of great benefit as I go through life.
Being able to communicate in more languages than one is special and a benefit. It is something that I feel I hold uniquely to me, having had three core languages in my life and it all started because my family happened to receive a leaflet in the door as we lived down the road from a Gaelscoil. It makes life even more interesting and builds better connections.
I have had Irish, Yoruba and English in my life since the age of 3 years old. People around me assumed I would not be able to cope, but they were very wrong and I am really glad my parents pursued this multilingual life for me as it has really given me a lot of opportunities, I suspect I would not get otherwise. It makes me feel me.
The fact that I get to communicate with lots of different people as Gaeilge and maintain my Yoruba at home is very special to me. It opens up different perspectives for me and insights that you would not have been able to see otherwise.
I value minority languages especially as I believe they very much have a place in our societies and deserve to be given the same attention, treatment and respect as other languages. I realised as I became an adult, the advantages I had to be able to speak multiple languages as it has greatly helped me with my media career in Ireland. I can showcase my talents in two different languages, fluently and I feel it is something that helps me stand out.
In primary school, there were assumptions that my English was not up to scratch due to the other languages I had in my life and that I was not coping.
This ended up not being the case. It is a great tool for kids to start learning various, different languages from a young age as it will help them in later life. I found personally I was able to pick up languages quicker at a younger age and thankfully I still have the languages with me today. There should be more emphasis on learning multiple languages in schools. Although, mostly throughout school I did look at Irish as just a school subject, as well as questioning myself on why I was even in a Gaelscoil; it was in my sixth year at secondary school I realised there was so much more that the language has to offer. We were studying Fill Arís for the Leaving Cert and I fell in love with the passion and meaning behind the poem, a dream for an Ireland pre-colonisation where Irish would be the majority spoken language. He asked us to Fág Gleann na nGealt, the land of the crazies and re-discover Ireland’s rich and beautiful language.
The language has helped with my writing also.
I now write bilingual poetry and I love it as it is something different from the regular English literature poetry a lot of us are taught at school. I find it fun playing with Irish and English words together, while throwing in some pidgin English at times!
Of course, there are people who still claim that the language is of ‘no use’ and that it is ‘dead’. I challenge those people as Irish is very much a living language, especially right here in our capital city, Dublin, with some many social events (pre-Covid) happening all around. It is a really beautiful thing to see the language growing as much as it has recently. People in the wider community have really started to notice its richness.
I am so thankful to have all the languages I do in my life along with some idea of phrases and words in other languages such as French, German and Japanese that I would have learnt at school. Languages are not a privilege and they are open to anyone and everyone.
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