It's time we all admit it - the Irish language is cool again

By Hugh Carr

February 20, 2023 at 3:21pm


Time to break out the cúpla focail.

Is fearr Gaeilge briste ná Béarla cliste.

An old adage repeated ad nauseam from the days of primary school, in between sessions of reading Bran and watching the dub of Spongebob as Gaeilge. The Irish language, however, as been viewed as that for a long time; a relic from the classroom, a memory of education long ago, whether pleasant or otherwise. The language has survived, and thrived, in niche pockets around the world; between music festivals like Féile na Gealaí, Pop Up Gaeltacht's, and spaces like Club Chonradh na Gaeilge in Dublin and Arás na nGael in Galway.

While Irish speakers have found great joy meeting in these cubby holes of culture, it's been long since the language has had such a prominent voice in mainstream culture. That is, until, the appearance of "An Cailín Ciúin".

The film, based on a novella originally written in English, has taken Hollywood by storm, securing nominations at the Oscars, the BAFTAs, and festivals around the world. An Cailín Ciúin broke box office records, becoming the highest-grossing Irish-language film of all time. Seeing a film with such beautiful performances, a heart wrenching plot, all in our native language, left a profound impact on cinema goers.

Irish cinema was no longer defined by a blindman eating a cake on a train, or a murderous dentist; this is a piece that we could all be proud of. The film's success has already shown knock-on effects, as the Irish language is now the central point of conversation when discussing the movie and Irish cinema as a whole. Nowhere was this more obvious than on the red carpet this weekend at the BAFTA's, where Irish was heard from not only the cast and crew of An Cailín Ciúin, but major stars like Paul Mescal and Brendan Gleeson.


While Paul might have struggled a bit at the start (I mean, as a Donegal Irish speaker, I can understand why), his conversation with TG4 was free-flowing and full of craic.

Mescal's conversation quickly went viral, and while it was clear he was self-conscious about his líofacht (fluency), he had more than enough to talk about the impact of An Cailín Ciúin and Ireland's place on the world stage. If there's anything to be taken from Mescal's conversation, it's that the old adage really does ring true. We, as a nation, love to hear Irish spoken around the world, no matter what the level.

It doesn't have to be perfect; hell, people from the Gaeltacht regularly throw English words into conversation (as one foul-mouthed rant so eloquently showcased). And there's no shame in having no Irish at all, as Colin Farrell thought to himself while co-star Brendan Gleeson was interviewed on TG4. The way the language is taught is a story for another way, but I'll put it this way; if you do something five days a week between the ages of 5 and 18, and you still can't do it, that's not on you; that's a systemic issue.

So if there's anything to learn from the impact of An Cailín Ciúin, it's that we should endeavour to add cúpla focail into everything we do, because our common language is something that connects us like nothing else can. Tír gan teanga, tír gan anam and all that good stuff, y'know?


This article originally appeared on JOE 

Header image via YouTube

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