Irish in Moscow

Believe it or not there are quite a few people in Moscow who speak or are studying Irish, according to this article. Some have been to Ireland, but many have not. Most got interested in Irish through Irish music, and see the language as a way of understand and accessing Irish culture.

Moscow State University offers degrees in Celtic studies which can include modules in both modern and old Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Breton and even Gaulish, and quite a few other universities outside Ireland offer courses in Irish and other Celtic languages. For example, you can study Welsh and Irish in Prague, Irish, Manx, Scottish Gaelic and Welsh in Oslo, or Irish and Welsh in Utrecht.

Speakers of minority languages like Irish often face criticism, insults, hostility and/or mockery from others in their country who believe the minority language and culture are worthless, useless, nonsense or gibberish. Many such people may have been taught the language at school and really did not the experience at all, and may have absorbed negative attitudes to the language from parents, friends and/or the media. Sometimes it can be helpful to see a country, language and/or culture through the eyes of others.

When those with negative views understand that other people with perhaps no family connections to the country are learning a language through a love of the culture and/or language itself, and they see the immense enjoyment such learners get from speaking the language, singing the songs, etc. they might possibly be inspired to learn or re-learn the minority language themselves.

One friend from Wales, for example, rejected Welsh when she was growing up and had no interest in Welsh culture. After leaving school she went travelling in Eastern Europe and on discovering that she was from Wales, many people who she met asked if she could speak Welsh. She saw that these people spoke and were proud of their native languages, even if they were minority languages, and became determined to learn Welsh. Within a year of returning to Wales she was fairly fluent in Welsh, and she is since won the Welsh Learner of the Year award at the National Eisteddfod and has become a Welsh tutor.