‘I am the circumflex’– language rules, language purity, and language rage

by Nicola McLelland

My earliest memory of learning French, aged about seven, is being told to learn the verb ‘to be’ in a particular order, starting with Je suis [‘I am’], and working through to ‘they are’. When I was given a list of vocabulary to learn, I assumed, logically, that these words must also be memorized in the exact order in which they appeared in my book: la table, la chaise, la femme [the table, the chair, the woman] … and there were bitter tears when my mother tried to explain otherwise. It’s a trivial example, but the point is that language learning for me began with rules.

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No Irish, please, we’re Europeans!

by Mícheál Ó Mainnín

A week ago (on 31 October), the Irish-language channel, TG4, celebrated its first twenty years in existence; its advent had been greeted with scepticism by many and the cost of establishing and running the station had been resented by some. While Irish as the ‘national language’ has the status of first official language in the Irish Republic (English being the second), Irish speakers are in a minority; of a total population of around 4.5 million people, some 1.77 million answered ‘yes’ to the question ‘Can you speak Irish’ in the 2011 Census. However, as few as 1% of the population may be habitual speakers of the language, i.e. those for whom Irish is the main home, work and/or community language.

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