Assessment of Bilingual Competence: Language acquisition among people in the Gaeltacht

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report

Abstract

This study derives from the analysis of the current crisis in the social use of Irish in the Gaeltacht, as described in Staid Reatha na Scoileanna Gaeltachta (2005) and the Comprehensive Linguistic Study of the Use of Irish in the Gaeltacht (2007). The results of this research will enhance the scientific basis for supporting and educating young Irish speakers and for the associated debate as presented in An Chonair Chaoch: an Mionteangachas sa Dátheangachas (2012). The present work strengthens that debate by discussing our findings in their international context.

This publication presents an in-depth and multifaceted analysis of the linguistic competence in Irish and English of young students (7–12 years old) whose home language is exclusively Irish. It represents the first comparative bilingual study of its kind in Ireland. The analysis is based on recordings of the speech of 50 students in both of their languages (engaged in narration and language tests). In addition to detailed descriptions of the students’ spoken Irish and English, the quantitative comparative results are presented as well as the associated statistical analysis. The results of the students’ competences are examined in relation to the social indicators of age, gender, academic ability, exposure to television and other technological media, and the proportion of Irish speakers at school (with age and the proportion of Irish speakers at school having a statistically significant effect).

The results indicate a linguistic disadvantage in Irish in the context of the students’ bilingual ability (i.e. their competence in English significantly surpasses their Irish) and we present recommendations which seek to address this disadvantage in competence and the reduced functionality in Irish. The analysis provides valuable insights into the complexities of the contemporary minority language condition. Recommendations are set out with a view to supporting intergenerational transmission of Irish and the personal growth and education of young Irish speakers in the context of their heritage. These recommendations provide a new agenda for parents, teachers, community activists and policy makers. The study has important implications for families, communities and the State. The response to the inescapable evidence presented here will require an assured and urgent plan of action if we intend to retain the Gaeltacht as a community of competent Irish speakers.
Original languageIrish Gaelic/Gàidhlig na h-Èireann
Place of PublicationDublin
PublisherAn Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta / Council for Irish-medium Education, Ireland
Commissioning bodyCouncil for Irish-medium Education
Number of pages306
ISBN (Print)978-0-9572986-9-9
Publication statusPublished - 20 Nov 2015

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Keywords

  • Language acquisition
  • Minority bilingualism
  • Incomplete acquisition
  • Irish language
  • Language planning
  • Minority language education
  • Language attrition
  • Minority language fragility
  • Gaeltacht
  • Language death

Cite this

(2015). Iniúchadh ar an gCumas Dátheangach: An sealbhú teanga i measc ghlúin óg na Gaeltachta. Dublin: An Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta / Council for Irish-medium Education, Ireland.