'Mother Tongue plus Two': Irish and Multilingualism

21 February is Cora de PaorInternational Mother Language Day and this year's theme was 'Towards Sustainable Futures through Multilingual Education'. Córa de Paor spent nine years working as an Irish translator in Brussels, and is now a Field Officer in the European Commission Representation in Ireland. Here she reflects on the position of our own mother language, Irish, and working to encourage multilingualism.

“It is no small challenge to promote Irish and multilingualism. In fact, Irish is perceived by many in high places in Ireland as an optional extra rather than the first official language of the country which needs to be given equal status with English. As I work to promote Irish as an official EU language on a level with all others, it can be disappointing to see how Irish isn't always practically afforded equal status. There are many examples of this, including insufficient signage in Irish.

However there is a good spirit of cooperation on a practical daily basis among my colleagues in the Representation and there may be better days on the horizon with the end of the Irish language derogation in European institutions. (The derogation meant that not all EU institutions were obliged to translate all documentation into Irish.) The Irish government recognises that the phasing out of the derogation won't be easy, and is working with us to address the challenge. For example, last year the government funded their own publicity campaign in collaboration with the Field Office and the Directorate-General for Translation (DGT) of the European Commission to recruit Irish translators.

My highest priority when I arrived in April 2016 was promoting that competition, through which the institutions hoped to recruit 62 translators. Over the next five years, Irish translation capacity is to expand from one small unit in DGT to a fully-fledged department. I am excited about being a part of making that happen.

We want to get the message out that 'mother tongue+two', and in our case, 'Irish+two', is a wonderful package that can lead to excellent job opportunities in Europe as translators, linguistic assistants, lawyer linguists and interpreters."

Thanks to Cora for her contribution! Léargas promotes multilingualism and plurilingualism through our Languages programmes, in particular the European Day of Languages and associated competition. Last year we asked schools to study climate change in a country where the language they learn is spoken, to win an environmental field trip in that country. The winners, Christian Brothers College Cork, studied climate change in Ireland and will shortly travel to Cloughjordan Ecovillage to study the environment as Gaeilge. Read more about the winners and about this year's competition, 'My Dream Job in...'.

Author image courtesy of Cora de Paor. A version of this blog originally appeared in DGT monthly, an online publication for EU translators. We welcome contributions to 'Insights' at comms@leargas.ie.

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