Monday, March 28, 2005

Irish Alzheimers: You Get Lost Because You Can't Read Your Own Signs

The ongoing grudge match between the Irish and English finds the Celts biting off their nose to spite their tourist face:

DUBLIN, Ireland — Tourists, beware: Your guide book may tell you the way to Dingle in County Kerry, but all the road signs will be pointing you toward An Daingean in Contae an Ciarrai instead.

In an age where many people bemoan English's growing global influence, advocates of local languages scored a small victory Monday when Ireland enacted a law outlawing English in road signs and official maps on much of the nation's western coast, where many people speak Gaelic.

....In all, more than 2,300 towns, villages, fields and crossroads that traditionally had both English and Gaelic names have had their previously bilingual road signs changed to Irish only.

....Ever since Ireland won independence in 1922, successive governments have pursued a policy of mandatory Gaelic in schools and made it a requirement for many jobs, even though just 55,000 native Gaelic speakers remain in this country of 3.9 million.

....English, in practice, permeates even government-funded projects to promote Gaelic.

The state-run Gaelic radio network recently decided to begin broadcasting popular music in English, while the state's Gaelic TV station runs English-language films, often American cowboy movies. Other programs include such distinctly non-Gaelic offerings as "SpongeBob SquarePants."

....the government and opposition lawmakers, though almost entirely pro-Gaelic in policy, were demonstrably pro-English in practice - less than 1 percent of parliamentary debates are conducted in Gaelic.

At least the French language snobs can speak French.

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