When talk isn’t cheap…

COMEDIAN David Mitchell pontificates upon Scots Gaelic and taxpayer funding, although the argument could perhaps be applied to Northern Ireland… but to Irish or Ulster-Scots?

  • Joe

    Though I agree with his broad arguement about lingiustic evolution, and like him as a comedian, it does slightly grate that a home counties Englishman feels he must butt in on this Scottish matter. The costs are a drop in the ocean compared with say, the wars in Afghanistan & Iraq.

    By the same token, if the Scots want Englishmen to [i]stop[/i] interfering in their matters they know what they have to do. Keep voting SNP!

  • Dewi

    What a smug, stupid, condescending twit.

  • googoogaagaa

    What an annoying voice!

    who cares what this twit thinketh?

    Unfunny too.

  • Henry94

    He’s a funny guy usually but what he is missing is the fact that we don’t leave things like language and culture in general to evolution but to policy and education.

    Would he agree to allowing evolution (which in this case really means the free market) to decide the destiny of Shakespeare’s plays? Of course not. They are subsidised and and are part of the education system all over the world. We don’t hold that they should compete on an equal footing with whatever ephemeral rubbish we are enjoying at a particular moment in time.

    They are too important for that and it is on those lines that the argument about languages must be made. There is still an argument to be had of course. The primary responsibility for a language lies with those who speak it but government should be a partner in preserving what is valuable.

  • eranu

    so no real argument against common sense so far from the pro language posters, just ignoring what is actually said. a tax payer is voicing an opinion that spending his and other tax payers money on a language as if it is necessary for people to communicate is a silly waste of money. exactly what is being said in NI.
    cultural funding for those wishing to learn an old language, fine. funding to alter government departments, road signs, interpreters etc, no. just common sense.

    he mentions hindi – my indian work colleagues tell me that there are 22 official languages in india and 1000 different dialects. im told that people from one part of india cant understand the language of people from other parts. all the indians in work use english to communicate, funny that!

  • Mick Fealty

    I don’t agree with him, but the utterly stupid manplaying above obviously standss in leiu of a counter argument. Thanks Henry for at least making an effort.

    His argument is a reasonable if rather undeveloped: it’s about utility. Now, let’s hear a counterblast that’s not based on cliche or simple hatred of the English.

    Otherwise, you’re just proving his point.

  • Gael gan Náire

    The thing is is that he is totally blind to the historical facts.

    There was nothing free market about the aftermath of Culloden.

    Gaelic was banned! – that is not a free market.

    The people were cleared, forced to emigrate, schools in English only, courts in English only.

    You simply cannot do ever thing in your power to destroy a culture and then ignore these attempts in your anaylsis.

  • Mick Fealty

    I hate to defend a guy that I don’t agree with but isn’t that verging on historical fallacy GGN?

    Apart from the fact Mitchell doesn’t touch the causes of language desertion, he wasn’t around when it substantially happened.

  • Gael gan Náire

    Mick,

    Point out the inaccuracies and I’ll answer, though maybe not today.

    The point is that there is and always was massive state intervention in linguistic terms in Scotland – in favour of English.

    A few million spent on Gaelic really is very little in comparison, but a comparison there must be.

    To be honest, I saw this vid a while back, I would find it difficult to engage it much without breaking the man rule – so I won’t, shouldnt have started of course but hit the ground running this morning.

  • fin

    got to agree with GGN, and not just for Scotland but elsewhere in the empire aswell.

    I found it entertaining and people should get over themselves, he’s a comedian voicing his opinion.

    Indians communicate in English, mmmh why so, is it because there and in other countries English was the language of the ruling classes? and so to progress that was the language needed.

    What is wrong with making a recognising a language spoken by 60,000 and 600,000, they have different issues and need to be addressed differently.

  • Mick Fealty

    Appreciate it GGN.

    Last line: the implied fallacy is that Mitchell is a cypher for the whole brutish English nation and all that was ever done in its name. He’s (as we are) merely a corollary of mix of historic processes.

  • Gael gan Náire

    “Last line: the implied fallacy is that Mitchell is a cypher for the whole brutish English nation and all that was ever done in its name. He’s (as we are) merely a corollary of mix of historic processes. ”

    Absolutely agree.

    I agree with Fin, the guy is comedian. It was entertaining, somewhat extreme but he was trying to wind up people.

  • kensei

    Mick

    That’s a straw man. You can’t ignore historical context. Was slavery irrelevant to civil Rights in the US? And GGN’s point is fair – the language wasn’t simply destroyed by “natural” forces, so it shouldn’t have to rely on “natural” forces to maintain it.

    Second, an argument based on pure utility is deeply flawed. Shakespeare’s plays are mentioned above. The world can exist quite happily without them. They made a big contribution to the English, but those have been assimilated by this point. Destroying them would not affect the utility of the language. They are kept and celebrated for other rasons. He lightly dismissed the cultural argument but as much as it is thrown about lightly, it isn’t an important thing.

    Third. All languages are different. Translations are never about simply translating directly, world for word. It is often much harder to capture the precise meaning of one language in another. To lose that is to lose part of not just your voice, but the voice of all humanity. Maintaining a language helps maintain a sense of self, a sense of uniqueness and a sense of your own voice. These are not small things in a world that can pressure toward homogenity, and where traditional ties break down.

    The amount of money we are talking about here is tiny, relatively. And given his vote has no effect on that budget afaik, what’s it to him anyway?

    Finally, increase the amount of people using a language, and you increase utility. So encouraging the language in and of itself increases utility.

    That said, I think those passionate about their languages need to work out what they want. The South needs to drop the fiction that everyone is going to be speaking the language, at least in a couple of lifetimes, and focus on generating a sufficient critical mass to keep it alive and vibrant. I think SF actually hit on a decent idea, probably accidentally. West Belfast Gaeltacht Quarter is a good idea as it incentivises the use of the language, and encourages density and a place for people to meet and communicate. It helps create a cultural. Encourage similar things elsewhere, try creating new Gaeltachts in new ways rather just maintain old ones. Support online infrastructure rather than print media, because the former connects people in a way the latter doesn’t.

    Some might seee that as pushing Irish into a Ghetto. But at the Electric Picnic last year there was an Irish language stage. It’ll be back this year. Would it be a better system to have piecemeal Irish around the other stages? I can’t see how that makes any sense.

  • fair_deal

    “Mitchell is a cypher for the whole brutish English nation”

    On that didn’t he just do a programme all about his Scottish ancestry?

  • eranu

    fin, maybe ruling classes were a factor 100s of years ago. but the reason most countries learn english today is because its the language the world communicates in.
    its a strange contrast where the rest of the world wants to learn english, but in the english speaking british isles, there are people who want to revive ancient languages, and then insist on communicating in them…

    i dunno..

  • kensei

    eranu

    I am unaware that other countries wish to give up their own languagES rather than just learn English as well. Perhaps you have some supporting evidence?

  • Mick Fealty

    Kensei,

    You’re missing my point. Historical context matters to the argument, but it’s fallacy to link it with Mitchell personal views.

    The fact is we’re already way off track because of that fallacy. We could be talking about how he’s actually got it wrong.

  • Barnshee

    The comedian touches the Presbyterian psyche which stripped to the bone says “Fund it yourself or fuck off– don`t ask me to pay for it”. This applies to Ulster scots, Irish or other “non essentials”.

    The guy has a point the public sector is littered with waste and incompetence don`t add to it.

  • Gaelic is my first langauge and i’d say his argument is perfectly valid. He supports the teaching of the language and believes provisions should be made for those who wish to continue speaking it or learn it.

    Most of the people who argue against support for Gaelic(or Welsh or whatever) reveal themselves as hypocrites who are not against massive public spending in itself, just against public spending on anything they happen not to take any interest in and fully expect that all of their interests should be provided for by the state (and other peoples money). I am deeply uncomfortable when i look at some of the ways money is being used to promote the minority languages – interpreters at meetings, utterly pointless translations of government documents and NHS papers etc.

    “On that didn’t he just do a programme all about his Scottish ancestry?”

    Yes. He traced his ancestry to the Highlands – Sutherland and Skye i believe. Presumably this is what led to his making this video.

    “its a strange contrast where the rest of the world wants to learn english, but in the english speaking british isles, there are people who want to revive ancient languages, and then insist on communicating in them…”

    For those of us in the British Isles who do not speak English natively and whose families do not speak English natively and whose home towns/regions do not and have never spoken English natively there is nothing strange about it. I realise it can, at times, be a difficult concept to grasp for English speakers when it comes to the topic of language but the world does not revolve around you. We are not ‘insisting’ on speaking a language other than yours out of spite or to be awkward anymore than you speak English to be spiteful or awkward. We do so because it’s our native language – why on Earth would we speak to each other in what is a foreign language rather than our native language?

  • Mack

    I’m confused – is he arguing for a free market in languages? If so then the language market should be deregulated. Taxpayers should be free to chose to communicate in whatever language they want. I gaurantee you, that that would have the exact opposite effect than what he thinks. A multitude of languages would blossom at the expense of English!


    But I don’t think he is arguing for that. He has expressed his democratic wish that his tax pounds not be spent on the restoration of Scots Gaelic. Fine. I’m sure most of his neighbours agree. Fine. No Scots Gaelic road signs or Gaelscoileanna for Essex then.

    However, it is perfectly valid for other tax payers to express a desire that the some of the tax pounds they contribute go towards supporting the language (much like it valid for some taxpayers in NI to argue that some of their tax pounds go to enabling Orangemen to march for example).

    I think as presented, the argument was deeply flawed – and really made the case for the opposition either in terms of deregulation or in terms with democratic allocation of taxpayer resources..

  • “I am unaware that other countries wish to give up their own languagES rather than just learn English as well. Perhaps you have some supporting evidence?”

    Oh it’s rarely a deliberate or conscious effort but there are several countries which are effectively commiting linguistic suicide. The Scandinavians are a prime example. Almost 100% of their population speaks English to a decent, usually fluent, standard and certainly in Sweden (i think also in Denmark and Norway) they have actually legislated that all higher level university work (graduate standard) most be taught, researched and written in English. You start creating sections of society where the native language is no longer used and you start, slowly, to weaken the language and its speakers. The vocabulary of the language will cease to grow as it once did and its speakers will feel more comfortable conversing and thinking in the foreign language which they associate with that area (higher academia/science etc) than in their native language. A hundred years ago the situation was probably similar with the Gaelic speaking regions of Ireland and Scotland. A small proportion remained monolingual while the great, great majority had become bilingual in Gaelic and English. A century on and the language is on its last legs (regardless of token efforts by nationalists on both sides of the the straits). Of course the situation is far from comparable what with the Scandinavian nations being sovereign, and when you consider that both Ireland and Scotland had significant blocks within them who were not only monolingual English but actively antagonistic towards the native languages but even so there are lessons to be learnt.

  • Mack

    Costello –

    I don’t know if that will lead to the collapse of the Scandinavian languages. Language teaching (outside of school, where it has stagnated imho) is improving all the time (innovations like the Pimsleur Method and Michel Thomas Method and even Google Translate), making it easier for people to pick up new languages at a reasonable level. English is the new lingua-franca in Europe, but I’m not convinced that the effort level to be able to communicate in English is as high as it was 100 or 200 years ago. I.e. it need not come at the expense of maintaining their native tongues. In fact, I think that had we the same set of resources available for Gaelic (Irish / Scots) as are available for other European languages (e.g. full range of Pimsluer, Assimil and Michel Thomas Method courses chief among them) – many more people would learn them, with less effort.

  • Gael gan Náire

    Mack,

    The Rosetta Stone method is available for Irish. Just some info.

    I think the Michel Thomas method would be brillant but it is copyrighted – a version is used in Cumann Chluain Árd in Belfast but and the results are very impressive.

    I used it over two days for Italian and amazed all around me that I had learnt Italian in two days, but then the mental trick wore off! and within two days I had lost most of it – hypmotism!

  • Mack

    GGN –

    There are over 27 hours of material for Michel Thomas Method Italian, I suspect you probably only did the first couple? (Basic introduction course?).
    It should take a learner much longer to complete them as you normally have to pause to make an attempt to answer the questions. (They are – Foundation – 8 CDs, Foundation Review – 2 CDs, Advanced – 5 CDs, Advanced Review – 1 CD, Language Builder – 2CDs, Vocabularly – 5 CDs)

    Likewise there are more than 45 hours of Pimsleur Italian (in Pimsluer I,II,III – another 10 or so in IV but it’s shorter and seems to be tailored for one particular industry).

    Between them, they’re a pretty good introduction. If those resources were available for Irish – it would be enough to get people speaking together with some confidence though far from fluency (esp mixed with knowledge from school).

  • Nordie Northsider

    Isn’t Mitchell of Scottish ancestry? While idly flicking from channel to channel I saw him talking to distant family members on Skye. (The island, not the digital network). That might have influenced him somewhat. It’s not scientific, but I’ve observed that many of those most hostile to Irish & Scots Gaelic are from areas which were until recently Gaelic-speaking, or who have some ancestral connection they seem ashamed of.
    By the way, what Mitchell said pales into insignificance compared to Declan Lynch’s tirade in the Sunday Independent: http://www.independent.ie/opinion/analysis/no-surrender-ever-to-the-enemy-within-1867218.html
    It’s a hateful, hysterical rant of a type that’s become very common, and it begs the question how should Irish-speakers respond. The indefatigable Liam Carson has penned a well-written reply, frankly acknowledging the hurt caused. But, of course, Lynch wanted to hurt, wanted to create controversy. He’ll probably respond to Liam’s letter by saying that, being from Belfast, he’s not even Irish. That’s what Indo journalists do. Perhaps a better response would be for Foras na Gaeilge, An Roinn Gnóthaí Pobail, Gaeltachta agus Tuaithe etc. not to place ads in the Indo while the editors allow articles to equate Irish-speaking with child sexual abuse.

  • Gael gan Náire

    NN,

    Did the Indo print Liam’s letter? I did not see it. They normally dont print anything pro-Irish.

  • Seimi

    I’ve never heard of the Michael Thomas Method? What is it? Or am I just being too lazy by not Googling it myself?

  • Seimi

    Ok, Googled it. Does it work? For more than a day or two?

  • Nordie Northsider

    I don’t know if that letter was published, GGN. It was included in a few e.mail shots and I’ve copied it below. I still think that hitting the Indo in the wallet might be a better approach. The Indo has earned thousands from Foras promotional campaigns like the Learn Irish with Liam Ó Maonlaí CD. Pádraig Ó Céide even wanted to redefine Foinse as the Indo’s Irish language supplement! The Indo don’t deserve a red cent of any monies earmarked for the promotion of Irish.

    Anyway, Liam’s letter below:

    REPLY TO DECLAN LYNCH ARTICLE

    BY LIAM CARSON
    Director
    IMRAM Irish Language Literature Festival

    ‘Irony’ was how one friend described Declan Lynch’s article on Irish, ‘No surrender ever to the enemy within’. I then showed it to my partner who thought it went well beyond the bounds of irony into the realms of gratuitous offence. And offend it does. Why? I have a two and a half year old daughter, with whom I speak Irish. For her, it is the language of affection and play. It is, therefore, disturbing to read Lynch’s comments that ‘the majority of us cannot hear that lnaguage being spoken, in any context, without hearing some distant echo of physical and sexual and psychological abuse’.

    To respond with anger to Declan Lynch’s article was an immediate impulse. I’d prefer, rather, to ask him why he uses hurtful and abusive language – Irish is the ‘language of the enemy, of the abuser’; the ‘whine’ of Irish; ‘children being tortured’; this ‘mad thing’; ‘bullshit’.

    Whether or not the intent of an article is to be ironic, contrarian, or provocative for the sake of being provocative, is irrelevant. Lynch’s article celebrates ignorance in its ill-informed assertion that ‘there is not much to read’ in the Irish language. It is, in effect, promulgating a lie. As the director of the IMRAM Irish Language Festival I’ve been honoured to not only read but to promote some of the best writers in Ireland in any language. There is the young Orna Ní Choileáin, whose short stories – set against the backdrops of the IFSC – have a twist in the tail, not unlike Roald Dahl; Dáithí Ó Muirí’s Ceolta fuses Ballardian fantasy with the hipster language of rock journalism; there is Belfast poet Gearóid Mac Lochlainn, with his intoxicating blend of Irish sean-nós with hip-hop rhythms, beat poetry and punk imagery. What they have in common is a love for the flexibility and possibilities of the Irish language. They are motivated by love, not the ‘hate’ that Lynch repeatedely evokes in his article. Has Declan Lynch read any of these writers? Has he even heard of them? If Irish language literature is as worthless as Lynch asserts, why was every single event at the IMRAM festival packed to the rafters last year?

    There are, indeed, questions about ‘the sufferings of our forefathers’, and I wonder if Declan Lynch is aware of the extent to which the Catholic Church once opposed and derided Irish, declaring it to be ‘the language that confuses men’. What is surprising, though, is the fact that it does survive despite predictions of its imminent demise since the Battle of Kinsale; despite being suppressed for hundreds of years by a colonial power; despite the incompetence of the State’s policies in teaching Irish (and Lynch has a point in this regard); and despite the verbal abuse meted out by columnists seeking any easy target.

    Finally, why do I read and speak Irish? It is not because I despise English, or for any nationalist purpose. It is because, quite simply, it is a part of me. I was brought up with it. It is not all of my life, but it is a part that is dear to me, and I should be allowed to celebrate that without being subjected to an insensitive and thoughtless linkage of a language I speak to sexual abuse. I might add, in conclusion, that Lynch, in doing so, also trivialises the very serious issue of sexual abuse.

    LIAM CARSON

  • Mack

    Seimi –

    Michel Thomas was a language instructor who died in 2005.

    http://www.michelthomas.co.uk/methodology.htm

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michel_Thomas_Method

    He did a series of audio language courses (that are being expanded by the publishing house he was contracted to) that seemed to get people speaking a language very quickly. The courses are interactive, he’ll ask questions and you’re meant to respond in the language and he builds it up very well – you’ll have covered everything you need to answer the question. Very quickly, you’ll be constructing reasonably complex sentences (in the present tense) in the language. He makes use of verbs such as “to want”, “to need”, “can” and “should” which can be used with the infinitive of other verbs to communicate a hell of a lot.

    E.g. You can say, using I want (voglio) and the infinitive of a verb..

    I want to know where it is

    Voglio sapere dov’è?

    I want to buy it

    Lo voglio comprare

    etc. without having to know (at the start) how to say, I know, or I buy. He’ll build up to that later, and different tenses etc. But it’s a learn by doing process that builds confidence and ability very quickly..

  • Mack

    If you stick with it, yes I think so. I’d recommend using other courses too (Pimsleur Method in particular). Order them in your local library..

    There are samples here –

    http://www.michelthomas.co.uk/soundclips.htm

  • Seimi

    Thanks for the info Mack. I’ll have to check it out.

  • Mick Fealty

    The man’s a pedagogical genius…

  • Mack

    Here are some Pimsleur samples

    Italian – I lesson 1 –
    http://www.simonsays.com/assets/isbn/0743509552/MPP1_0743509552.mp3

    Irish (Pimsleur Irish is much cut down course unfortunately. Nowhere near the same standard as the others).

    http://www.simonsays.com/assets/isbn/0743509552/MPP1_0743509552.mp3

    List of free Pimsleur samples –

    http://www.pimsleurmethod.com/free-pimsleur.html

  • Mack

    Sorry pasted Italian twice – This is the Irish sample –

    http://www.simonsays.com/assets/isbn/0743500156/MPP1_0743500156.mp3

  • Big Maggie

    Just watched the vid. I first of all wish to say I like David Mitchell. He’s very talented and not simply as a comedian. I watched him on QI when he did a flawless impersonation of actor Alan Rickman. I thought at the time: Rickman can only do Rickman but Mitchell can do Mitchell, Rickman and a lot more besides.

    Having said that, I think he’s very much wide of the mark here. Minor languages are national treasures and ought to be treated with the sort of reverence we extend to properties protected by the National Trust. Gallic, like Irish, is a rich and fascinating language, so different from English and laden with a history all its own.

    I do agree with Mitchell about Scots. It’s a dialect, not unlike Ulster Scots. Neither really adds much to English apart from a charming quaintness.

  • OC

    If Scots is merely a dialect of English, then Norwegian is merely a dialect of Danish, and Estonian merely a dialect of Finnish, itself merely a dialect of Lapp.

    Now, whether anybody is monolingual in Scots is a different question.

  • googoogaga

    Surely his voice forms part of his message and thus can be mentioned.

    if the man is making jokes, may we not comment on how funny those jokes are or are not.

    I call that two fair shoulder-charges.

  • Greenflag

    Big maggie hits the right note re Mitchell and re minority languages generally 🙂 Such common sense BM . Where did you learn that language ;)?

    The best way to learn to speak another language fluently is by living and working in the country/countries where it’s spoken. I know this from persoanl experience having studied French for 5 years in school but while I can read a fair amount I would be unable to carry out a proper conversation in the language . I can however understand about 95% of spoken German and ued to be able to understand about 80% of Japanese ( not so much now ) having lived and worked in both countries . Despite 13 years of learning Irish in school the only time the language really meant anything to me was on a holiday in Connemara where I remember being ‘amazed’ and iirc (it was some time ago ) awe struck that the children of the house where we stayed spoke it without any hesitation . Most of my Irish teachers at school were desperate with almost zero interest in the language I thought apart from it’s direct correlation with their pay slip . The one exception oddly enough was a Donegal man with what I suppose would be called by ultra nats as a ‘settler ‘ name no it was’nt Mitchell .

    Unfortunately we only had him for a year . But I still recall his obvious love for the language and his skills and talents as a teacher .

    I’d be wary of the Rosetta shower . Very expensive -overhyped and as you see them displayed prominently in every airport terminal shopping area likely to be purchased by tired travellers who are thinking with their livers because their brains have been left behind on the other side of the globe 😉

    Pimsleur is very basic . My advice would be to get some cds with native speakers or even better tune in via the internet to radio programs in the specific language and get a decent grammar book .
    Listen first , then repeat and best of all spend a few months living and working where the language is spoken . I understand that’s not always possible but it’s imo the best way.

    Use it or lose it appears to be the best way to retain a newly learnt language .

  • Big Maggie

    OC,

    I have rule of thumb. If I as an anglophone can read or understand Scots without any difficulty then it’s a dialect and not a separate language. I may be wrong but that’s my personal experience.

  • Mack

    Greenflag –

    Pimsleur is very basic

    Pimsleur Irish is very basic. I think the 90 odd lessons for most other languages are a very useful start – the pace is much slower than Michel Thomas, but the pronunciation is good (even down to taking you syllable by syllable through key words). It builds the language up too, but at a much slower pace. There are over 45 hours of it, for each of the widely used languages.

    Based around Anticipation, graduated recall (scientifically validated to aid transfer to long term memory), active vocabularly (number of active words in daily use is typically quite limited) & organic learning (implicitly picking up grammatical structure).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pimsleur_language_learning_system#Pimsleur_learning_principles

    The CIA apparently use The Pimsleur method for language training..

  • On that didn’t he just do a programme all about his Scottish ancestry?

    In which he discovered that his antecedents were enthusiastic speakers of Scots Gaelic, to the point where one of them wrote an important grammar of the language.

  • Big Maggie

    Greenflag,

    “The best way to learn to speak another language fluently is by living and working in the country/countries where it’s spoken.”

    According to a dear friend of mine the best place to learn a foreign language is in bed :^)

  • Mick Fealty

    Googoogaga,

    For the purposes of argument, no. To both of those.

  • Greenflag

    mack

    ‘The CIA apparently use The Pimsleur method for language training’

    That could be why they are having so many problems with their overseas staff 😉

    I’ve only ever looked at the Pimsleur Irish so your point about the method for other languages is probably fair enough .

    ‘graduated recall ‘

    Well I don’t know about the scientific underpinnings but I do recall being told that if you want to commit a piece of information be it a language phrase or a mathematical formula to permanent (recall ) memory, you learn and understand it and review /repeat it every day a couple of times for the first week and then once a week for another month and you’ll be able to recite it verbatim up to just before the time they nail you down in the pine box 🙂

    If you give it enough repetitions having learnt it you may reduce the month to a week . I know this because I once had to learn a German marching tune for a part as an extra (at a time when the language was completely foreign to me )and must have sang the blasted tune at least 200 hundred times in a week . That was 20 years ago . I can still sing it -all three verses .

    Big maggie ,

    ”According to a dear friend of mine the best place to learn a foreign language is in bed :^) ‘

    Your friend might think that BM but I could’nt possibly comment 😉

  • fair_deal

    I think this thread both pro and anti has lost track of itself he hasn’t said spend nothing he has said it should be in specific areas e.g. education and there should be the necessary materials to teach it in future.

  • kensei

    fd

    I think this thread both pro and anti has lost track of itself he hasn’t said spend nothing he has said it should be in specific areas e.g. education and there should be the necessary materials to teach it in future.

    He has expressed scepticism as to spending any public money AND he has said, separately, materials will still be available.

    He also dissed the street signs. I like them. They make a place different and do no harm. What’s it to him if they put them up in Cornwall? Does everywhere have to be the same.

  • Gréagoir O Frainclín

    Ah the old native language debate again. What it all boils down to here on Slugger is that some British Unionist folk just don’t see the merit of preserving the old languages of the ‘British Isles’ and seem quite content with just English alone being the common and national language throughout. Tax payers money spent on foreign wars seem ok.

    Oh for an appreciation for the diverse heritage of these islands, but history seems to get in the way all the time.

    “You taught me language, and my profit on’t Is, I know how to curse. The red plague rid you For learning me your language!”

    William Shakespeare: The Tempest (Caliban at I, ii)

    Gréagóir O Frainclín

  • kensei

    I should also add that if this has fallen out of his investigations of his Scottish ancestory, it seems to lack a certain degree of empathy. Growing up in England he has no contact with the language, its history or its social and cultural significance. But his distant relatives growing up in that place do. It is real and significant for them in a way that is not for him. There is an attachment he doesn’t have but surely should eb able to understand. And his distant relatives also pay taxes, and deserve consideration.

    How does he feel about arts funding, or blowing up old buildings? Pure utility is such a crappy argument, adn “well you can have a hobby” just dismissive.

  • Big Maggie

    kensei,

    “Does everywhere have to be the same.”

    I hope not. What a lesser world it would be if we all spoke the one language. I’ve toured America by car and have to say I find touring Europe so much more interesting because of the different language. You don’t need to speak them to appreciate them.

  • Big Maggie

    different language = different languages

  • “If Scots is merely a dialect of English, then Norwegian is merely a dialect of Danish, and Estonian merely a dialect of Finnish, itself merely a dialect of Lapp.

    Now, whether anybody is monolingual in Scots is a different question. ”

    Not really. Scots was for the great, great majority of history referred to by its own speakers as English (Inglis). Its speakers also self-identified as English and referred to themselves as such. Thus the region of Scotland from which Scots originally spread – the Lothians in the south east- was historically known as “the land of the English in the Kingdom of the Scots” and was thus distinguished by its people who were ethnically and linguistically English as opposed to the rest of the population of Scotland were were ethnically and linguistically Scottish (Gaelic). It was not until well after the Wars of Independence were won and Scotlands sovereignty assured that the English population of Scotland started to identify itself ethnically as Scottish. It wasn’t until even later that they stopped referring to their dialect of English as English and instead assumed the name “Scottish” which, before than, had referred to Gaelic which is the Scottish language. If Scots is a dialect it is a dialect of English. If Scots is a distinct language then it is an English language in the same way that Irish, Manx and Scottish Gaelic are all Gaelic languages.

  • Dewi

    “don’t agree with him, but the utterly stupid manplaying above obviously standss in leiu of a counter argument.”

    Fair enough but I get fed up with commentators talking so smugly about the death of a living language which many people are performing minor miracles to ensure it’s survival. But no excuse for lack of civility.

  • willis

    Big Maggie

    “Having said that, I think he’s very much wide of the mark here. Minor languages are national treasures and ought to be treated with the sort of reverence we extend to properties protected by the National Trust. Gallic, like Irish, is a rich and fascinating language, so different from English and laden with a history all its own.”

    Completely agree

    Also the language skills you learn with a second language when young make learning more languages easier.

    Its going to be tough for the ones who all have to learn Mandarin.

  • Mike

    Costello

    “If Scots is a dialect it is a dialect of English. If Scots is a distinct language then it is an English language in the same way that Irish, Manx and Scottish Gaelic are all Gaelic languages.”

    I think “an Anglic language” is the term.

  • PaddyReilly

    What we have here is a well known argument in Northern Ireland, usually associated with some such phrase as “They’re not loyal to the Crown, but they are to the half-crown.”

    Basically the idea is that the Exchequer extracts money from all without discrimination, Nationalist and Unionist, but that money, once in the public hands, becomes decent Protestant Unionist money (as proven by the fact that it bears the Queen’s head) and the spending of it on workshy Fenians and their leprechaunish culture makes the angels in heaven weep tears of blood. In this case, the idea is that money is de-caledonianised by passing through the public purse. The Scottish Gaels get back from the exchequer for the use of Gaelic culture much the same as they put into it.

    Friends of mine in the Isle of Lewis say things have changed much for the better since the Scottish Parliament came into being. Where everything was once depressing and moribund, a little injection of public cash has put life back into the culture. Gaelic matters in Scotland: ministers are concerned about it. In England plenty of people don’t even know it exists.

    Scots is both a language, and an accent of English among people whose ancestors spoke Scots. People confuse the accent, and the few residual Scotticisms thrown in with it like ‘press’ for cupboard etc, with the full-blown language which is not used in any context I can think of any more. It was reckoned to be a language because it was different enough from spoken English as to render efficient communication impossible until the differences had been learnt. The Scots may have called their language Inglis, but the Dutch call theirs Duits, which is much the same as German Deutsch, but still felt to be a different tongue.

  • Nordie Northsider

    I think Mitchell is mistaken but he expresses his opinion calmy and without the invective that usually accompanies this kind of commentary. And you’ve got to love anyone who comes up with sketches like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zwXjm64a3QE

  • barnshee

    “The Scottish Gaels get back from the exchequer for the use of Gaelic culture much the same as they put into it.”

    Nope– Scotland NI and Wales (and SW England and NE England and NW England) are all in Tax deficit to SE England
    SE England carries all the dud areas.

  • Paddy Matthews

    The Scots may have called their language Inglis, but the Dutch call theirs Duits, which is much the same as German Deutsch, but still felt to be a different tongue.

    Niet zo. De taal is Nederlands genoemd. Duits is… German.

    “Diets(ch)” is een verouderde vorm, en wordt met Vlaamse nationalisme van de jaren dertig geassocieerd.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dietsch

  • PaddyReilly

    “Diets(ch)” is een verouderde vorm, en wordt met Vlaamse nationalisme van de jaren dertig geassocieerd.

    I suppose this makes it Nazi? Well the 1930s may seem like the Middle Ages to you, but its only yesterday for some poor buggers. The pattern is the same: The Scots started using the word Inglis, and eventually called it Scots: the earlier Netherlanders would have said Dietsch, but eventually called in Nederlands. Similarly Yiddish, known by that title and as mama loshen to contemporary Speakers, was Taytsh in earlier documents.

    SE England carries all the dud areas.

    Oh yeah, what about Scotland’s oil?

  • Big Maggie

    Mike,

    “an Anglic language”

    I thought that was the Enochian Calls for dylectics :^)

    Paddy Matthews,

    Goed gezegd, jochie!

  • Big Maggie

    dyslectics even! :^(

  • Dewi

    “SE England carries all the dud areas”

    Yeah right – bankers have done us well….in fact I reckon we owe £30,000 each because of the wonderful SE…

  • OC

    “Brea, bûter, en griene tsiis is goed Ingelsk en goed Frysk.”

    This translates as “Bread, butter, and green cheese is good English and good Frisian”.

    So I guess then, Maggie, that the billions of people speak a mere dialect of Frisian.

  • Gréagoir O Frainclín

    See that some folk are so offended by the Irish language that they set fire to 3 prefabs where Irish is taught to children.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/northern_ireland/8226254.stm

    Probaly felt that the “British Empire” in Northern Ireland is under threat by the Irish language.

  • CW

    Afrikaans was then presunmably known originally as “Nederlands” before the Voortrekkers set off in their oxwagons to build new settlements to the north far from the British influences of the Cape? And as these “European Africans” became settled on the new continent they began to call their language African?

    As for Lynch’s rant, it’s nothing new. His other pet hate is the GAA which he slags off at every available opportunity. Like his colleagues at the same rag, Harris, Dudley-Edwards, O’Connor, Myers, O’Hanlon and the rest of O’Reilly’s pond life lap-dogs he enjoys being controversial simply to provoke a reaction, which he knows he’ll get from anyone prepared to rise to the bait. In fact he’s such an expert at laying bait he deserves the title of master-baiter. His attitude is fairly typical of a certain section of the Dublin 4 mindset, who have contempt for most aspects of Irish culture – ie GAA, music, the language, etc as they think it’s a threat to their supposedly cosmopolitan and sophisticated outlook.
    I tried to provoke a discussion on some earlier GAA threads about the attitude of the chattering classes in some of the leafier Dublin suburbs towards the GAA – ie one of utter contempt and derision, deriving largely from snobbery and a superiority complex – but (frustratingly) no-one seemed interested in discussing this.

    As regards David Mitchell, I’m a big fan of Peep Show, but I think that sketch show he does with Webb is utter shite. I’ve seen him on Question Time and found him to be quite impressive. I also enjoy his column in the Observer. He’s certainly very talented, but not a particularly good comedian. It looks like he’s in danger of becoming the new Stephen Fry, another Oxbridge-educated comic intellectual too clever by half smartarse Jack-of-all-trades character who’s never off the TV.

  • Big Maggie

    OC,

    “So I guess then, Maggie, that the billions of people speak a mere dialect of Frisian.”

    You may guess what you wish but I doubt whether they do. I also have a smattering of Frisian and it’s very much closer to English than Dutch is. However, I can neither speak it nor write it. I simply understand a great deal of it.

    That’s again my rule of thumb. Rightly or wrongly it demonstrates to me that Frisian is a separate language, not a dialect.

  • OC

    Posted by Big Maggie on Aug 28, 2009 @ 01:28 PM, quo she:

    “If I as an anglophone can read or understand Scots without any difficulty then it’s a dialect and not a separate language.”

    Posted by Big Maggie on Aug 29, 2009 @ 12:35 AM, quo she:

    “I also have a smattering of Frisian… I can neither speak it nor write it. I simply understand a great deal of it.”

    So help me out here, Maggie.

    Can you speak or write Scots? Or do you “simply understand a great deal of it”?

  • Big Maggie

    OC,

    A fair question. I can neither speak nor write Scots but I can read it without difficulty. Robbie Burns’s poetry doesn’t need a translation for me. Why? Because it’s English.

    But let me be plain here. I understand Frisian because I speak Dutch; I understand Scots because I speak English.

    Oddly enough, I understand Catalan because I speak French. But that’s a discussion for another day :^)

  • OC

    Many comparisons gang aft agley, but I won’t belabour the point for auld lang syne.

    My experience with Frisian was in Amsterdam. A Dutchman told me that his girlfriend was Frisian, and when she spoke on the phone with her parents in Frisian, he not a word understood.

    Again, it’s debatable whether anyone living today is monoglot Braid Scots.

  • barnshee

    14.“SE England carries all the dud areas”

    Yeah right – bankers have done us well….in fact I reckon we owe £30,000 each because of the wonderful SE…

    Er we are talking about Tax take– where it is raised (most in the SE)where it is spent and how the deficit areas( NI WALES NW etc) get back more than they pay. Do try to keep up.

  • Dewi

    “Er we are talking about Tax take—where it is raised (most in the SE)where it is spent and how the deficit areas( NI WALES NW etc) get back more than they pay. Do try to keep up.”

    Yes a tax take from a finance sector whose bail-out has cost the rest of us billions.

  • A few years ago when holidaying in the Britain and Ireland we went well out of our way to visit Skye to hear Scots Gaelic spoken. We also visited Pollatomish in Mayo and Ballydavid near Dingle to hear Irish, I’m sure plenty of other tourists do the same. Having these languages around does have economic benefits

  • 0b101010

    Just to nail my colours to the mast–as if they needed more nails–it was good to hear a reasonably-well-thought take on Gàidhlig and Scots that was practically identical to my own opinions about our local flavours.

    One important difference is that, despite agreeing that the fundamental function of language is communication, I’d have no problem teaching my child a minority/dying/dead language or learning one myself. I simply don’t believe knowledge, or personal endeavour, has to justify itself–and certainly not to its practical application amongst the masses–as long as you’re not asking someone else to pay your way.

  • barnshee

    23.“Er we are talking about Tax take—where it is raised (most in the SE)where it is spent and how the deficit areas( NI WALES NW etc) get back more than they pay. Do try to keep up.”

    Yes a tax take from a finance sector whose bail-out has cost the rest of us billions.

    In fact it has cost wales ni etc fuck all— the subventions remain -you get out more than you pay in and the SE picks up the bill -again.

    Whay they continue to do it is beyond me- A resounding FUCK OFF is clearly in order

  • Dewi

    No worries Barnshee – bring it on.

  • kensei

    0b

    I simply don’t believe knowledge, or personal endeavour, has to justify itself—and certainly not to its practical application amongst the masses—as long as you’re not asking someone else to pay your way.

    Which is nice but once again: speakers of minority languages also pay taxes. And the sums asked for are minimal, generally.