Is there a city version of the Irish language? And if there is, how different is it from Gaeltacht Irish? A conversation I recently had with a speaker from Limerick, who is raising her daughter in Irish, revealed a fascinating fact. She never listened to Raidió na Gaeltachta. Was it that it was a Gaeltacht station and irrelevant to her, I asked? Only partly, she admitted. It was actually because she found the presenters very difficult to understand.
Yet this woman spoke fluent Irish. How could a fluent speaker of Irish have such difficulty with the national Irish-language radio station?
This article’s from 2010, but I found it really interesting nonetheless. The Irish language has been gaining popularity in Ireland’s cities, but speakers of this urban variant often struggle to understand speakers from the Gaeltacht, while Gaeltacht speakers often find the urbanites’ speech weird and unpleasant to hear – to the point that members of the two groups often prefer to speak English with each other.
This article talks about the linguistic differences between Gaeltacht Irish (varieties passed on continuously from one generation to the next) and urban Irish (the result of language revival efforts, like Irish-medium schools). I appreciate that the author doesn’t just dismiss the latter as “bad Irish” or put down its speakers; he’s actually very positive about that community, even though he’s quite frank about the “simplified” nature of their Irish.