Running on Empty: The Irish Language Lesson from #LocWorld31

Another Localization World Dublin has come and gone. Again, running featured as an (unofficial) activity  for participants. Again, the expressed interest in doing so paled in terms of actual turnout. At least there is a pattern, a turnout of around 20% or so.

We did have a couple of good runs though.

Localization World 31 10k Dublin running crew taking in some culture en route (the ladies ran the next day)
Localization World 31 10k Dublin running crew take in some culture en route (the ladies ran the next day). Image: Ultan Ó Broin.

This made me wonder about claims made about how much the Irish language is spoken in Ireland. Official Irish census figures bear no testament to the frequency with which Irish is actually heard on the street (1.77 million people out of a population of 4.5 million speak Irish? Are you kidding me?).

Irish is far from dead sure, but varying levels of fluency and the emergence of an urban “pidgin” Irish (savvy, modern vocabulary, zilch grammar) and an official “State Broadcaster” Irish (all grammar, accent, and antediluvian terminology) means that Irish speakers often cannot even communicate with each other when boundaries get crossed.

Irish, or Gaeilge, in official terms, is endangered.

Of course, everyone says they have the capacity and the will to speak irish. Except when the rubber hits the road, they don’t.

A bit like running.

And, just like running, the excuse is often that there are more important things to do.

Running seems like a good idea. A bit like Irish.

To the real runners out there: Rith ar nós na gaoithe #keeponrunning.

Ultan Ó Broin
Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally. Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.


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