Tuesday 17 September 2019

In the name of the fada: English giving us a lesson in Irish

John Spain Books Editor

IT'S lessons in Irish – from England. After centuries in which the occupiers tried to wipe out the Irish language, that bastion of British education and culture, Oxford University, is making amends.

Oxford University Press (OUP) has launched an Irish-English visual dictionary for children from the age of eight. The aim, according to the OUP, is to support the local language revival and to assist parents, schools and children.

In their publicity for the colourful dictionary the OUP says: "From the reign of Elizabeth the First through to the ravages of the Famine, Ireland's language declined and almost disappeared in the 20th Century.

"However, since 2000 there has been a growing resurgence of interest in maintaining and reviving Irish Gaelic with a growing desire to teach the next generation the language of their forebears. This dictionary is a vibrant and fresh way to help children learn Gaeilge."

Each section of the new dictionary features a brief introduction and then numerous illustrations.

In total, the book provides 1,500 vocabulary items in Irish and English.

Children's dictionaries publisher at the OUP, Vineeta Gupta, says: "Irish people are quite rightly proud of their heritage and want to keep it alive and pass it on for future generations – and part of our OUP mission is about helping to support language learners wherever they are."

The language throws up some quirky surprises, the OUP says: "On a chilly day, you might advise your child to wrap up warm with a scairf (scarf) but be mindful you don't say scairp, because that's a scorpion."

The publisher says it is interesting that there are many similarities: a cat is a cat in both languages, shoes and belts are often made of leathar, whilst a piotsa (pizza) is popular with children everywhere.

"The book is the result of painstaking work with language consultants, teachers, native Irish speakers and children themselves."

But this is the first time Oxford has produced an Irish-English dictionary for children. The OUP's enthusiasm for Irish does not mean they have got everything right, however. The illustration showing the different parts of the body gives the word lámh for arm, instead of géag. Lámh is the Irish for hand, géag is the Irish for arm.

Amach ar on líne!

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News