The modern Gaeilgeoir often conjures up one of two images. The first is that of the native speaker from the depths of Connemara, complete with Aran jumper and a talent for sean-nós singing. They grew up on a diet of bacon, cabbage and béaloideas stories and speak in a dialect that more resembles Russian than Gaeilge.
The second is that of the dreaded hipster Gaeilgeoir, who listens non-ironically to Coláiste Lurgan tracks (shudder). They cast a disdainful eye on those who don’t dedicate every spare second to perfecting their modh coinníollach to use with their fellow Gaeilge ‘grammar Nazis’.
Debunking the Stereotypes
I, obviously, am not in either of those categories. I come from Tallaght, a Dublin suburb, where neither of my parents nor most of my close friends can speak a word of Irish. Summers spent at the Gaeltacht and a subsequent degree fostered my love for Gaeilge, though I still don’t speak it perfectly. To my shame, I often resort to English when I get stuck on a phrase or word. I’ve never been to Connemara, wouldn’t be able to scold someone else on their grammar but I will admit that I do own an Aran jumper.
And of course, no one I know who speaks Irish falls into these categories. That’s because they don’t really exist. They’re an exaggeration of what we Irish think we see when we look at the modern Gaeilgeoir; someone who defies our expectations of what the speaker of a ‘dead language’ should look like. It’s almost as if we can’t quite believe that somebody normal could speak Irish; maybe because it reminds us that our excuses for not speaking it don’t really cut it.