A new generation of Manx Gaelic speakers is revitalising the language, a development officer has said.
Manx is descended from Old Irish and is Gaeilge’s closest linguistic relation; the two languages remain mutually intelligible and both share a struggle for survival in a world dominated by English.
Whereas an Irish speaker would thank someone by saying ‘Go raibh maith agat’, a Manx speaker would reply ‘Gura mie ayd’.
In many ways Manx owes a big part of its survival to Irish gaeilgeoirí; in 1947, then Taoiseach Éamon de Valera visited the island and returned to Ireland determined to help the language survive.
He dispatched officials from the Irish Folklore Commission to Man to record the tales of native speakers - creating a treasure trove of Manx culture that islanders value enormously to this day.
A wonderful gift from Isle of Man Chief Minister @HowardQuayleMHK – a photograph of Éamon de Valera’s visit in 1947.
After this trip he arranged a recording of the island’s last native Manx speakers – preserving the language for future generations.https://t.co/V7eIBPyhQo pic.twitter.com/esOSuEWulB
— Micheál Martin (@MichealMartinTD) July 7, 2021
Currently, some 2,200 people on Man speak the language and dozens of primary school children receive their education through Manx at the island’s Bunscoill Ghaelgagh.
Despite this, the language was officially declared dead by UNESCO in 2009 - something that caught Manx speakers by surprise.
“When that actually happened and when UNESCO said that in 2009, there was a bit of an outcry really and people wrote to UNESCO in Manx saying, ‘If our language is dead then what are we writing to you in?’” Ruth Keggin Gell, a Manx Language Development Officer, told Moncrieff.
“It was definitely erroneously declared dead.”
Most people learn Manx in school but there are a small number of individuals who grow up speaking as their native tongue.
“We’ve definitely got a new generation of new native speakers,” Ruth continued.
“One of my cousins was brought up with her first language as Manx.”
'That will go on the wall of the Taoiseach's office'.
In 1947 the Taoiseach Éamon de Valera visited the Isle of Man and spoke Manx, prompting the Irish Folklore Commission to make recordings of native Manx speakers. This helped secure the revival of spoken Manx on the Island. pic.twitter.com/8mARGxcA18
— Isle of Man Government (@IOMGovernment) June 11, 2021
Ruth’s job is to foster a love of the language in the community and she spends much of her working life organising events that give people the opportunity to use their native tongue in a social setting.
There’s even a Manx version of Ireland’s Oireachtas na Gaeilge held annually in November.
“It’s really encouraging people to use Manx in their daily lives… and making it fun as well,” she said.
The Manx Government has an ambitious target to more than double the number of native speakers to 5,000 by 2032 - something Education Minister Julie Edge could “improve wellbeing and be used to positively promote the Isle of Man on the global stage."