Parents who are raising their children with Irish hope that they not only acquire competency in the language but to also develop a love for it. As every child is individual, with their own needs, personality and character, this hope can only be achieved if the approach suits the needs of each child.
As we live in world surrounded by English, despite Irish being the language of the home, children turn to English and their English may even become stronger than their Irish and can become their default language. There are different ways to handle this. If they speak English to you when you are speaking Irish, the sentence can be repeated back them in Irish and the answer then given in the family language. This displays that Irish is valuable to you. The further option is to pretend that you do not understand English and have fun with them over language choice. Do not make a battle out of this approach. Do not turn the child against Irish. Every child is different and they develop all languages differently.
Any strategy for encouraging the learning and use of Irish among young people should be drawn from the list below:
- Talk to them in Irish, even before they are born.
- Have fun-time with them through Irish.
- Sing and play musical poems and rhymes in Irish to them.
- Ask them questions about emotions.
- Make sure you are watching programmes on TG4.
- Read Irish-language stories at bedtime.
- Ensure children need to have the opportunity to spend time with children of the same age as them.
- Attend play groups through the medium of Irish or to create one yourself.
- Develop your child’s knowledge of the language through conversation – speaking, listening, writing and reading. It is necessary to take every opportunity to encourage these things.
- Ask the children interesting questions.
- Play games with them that have a language basis.
- Show satisfaction with their language development – praise the young and they will flourish.
- Make sure that they have access to suitable reading material in Irish.
- Ask the children to tell the bedtime stories at times so that they aren’t the one who will always be listening.
- Conversation should be encouraged. Make sure that the focus is on the child and that the conversation gives the child the opportunity to speak. Make sure you show that what the child has to say is valuable.
- Teenagers are gradually becoming more independent and want to be in the company of their peers.
- Register the teenagers with youth clubs that operate through Irish. When there is no Irish language youth club, parents often start one in conjunction with other parents.
Remember, it will not always be easy! Remember why you decided to speak Irish!
The list above is not exhaustive and could be used to encourage speaking Irish in the home. Other things that families can do will depend on their own conditions. It would be worthwhile to explore the issue with friends or acquaintances who have already travelled this language road.