Sunday 18 February 2018

Rewards of learning Irish

Sir -- I read with interest two recent items in your newspaper on the Irish language. In last Sunday's prize letter, Mick Kenny lamented that Irish was of no use to him in trying to secure a well-paid job in New York in 1957 which required knowledge of languages. He regrets he lost the job because he hadn't learned a "living language" in school.

The second item, an article the previous Sunday by Emer O'Kelly, is also very dismissive of Irish. Emer is very critical of the fact that the Irish language receives state financial support. She also refers disparagingly to the successful campaign which saw Irish being recognised in 2007 as an official EU working language. She attaches little importance to this and dismisses the campaign which preceded it as "a piece of patriotic endeavour".

I have a different experience of Irish, however. Last November, in a cold and windswept Kildare, deep in economic recession, I received an email from the Council of the European Union offering me a job as an Irish language translator in Brussels. Due to the new status of Irish in the EU, many job opportunities are now opening up there for Irish people with a competency in the language, most notably in the council, the commission and the parliament. Thirteen Irish language translators, myself included, have recently been employed. Young and not so young, we come from all parts of Ireland, from Donegal to Kerry. Due to Irish, we now have the chance to work in a dynamic environment and pursue an exciting career at the heart of multicultural Europe.

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