Yn Naight

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Manx Gaelic, Bilingual Education and P.D. James

Tue, 17 Apr 2012


I finally managed to read 'The Children of Men' by P.D. James when I was on holiday last week and was surprised to find that the Island played a key role in the book. In her view of a world coming to an end the writer has Mannin as a prison for criminals and rebels. The resident population has been 'voluntarily' repatriated to the 'mainland' leaving behind a desolate battlefield. I can't imagine myself many Manxies being 'voluntarily repatriated' to the 'mainland' however serious the circumstances might be; moreover, although I know things are pretty tough on the Island at present it's only a 'walk in the park' compared to P.D. James's vision of our future!

The book did, however, remind me of a question I'm occasionally asked about the language; 'What's the point of Manx Gaelic?' My stock response is, 'What's the point of the Isle of Man? Hopefully, not one of a penal colony in a dystopian future but one, to my mind, that is socially inclusive, environmentally sustainable, economically vibrant and culturally diverse and exciting. In this vision I firmly believe that the language can play an important part in contributing to such an inclusive, exciting and rewarding environment to live in.

I was very much reminded of this when I was filming at the Bunscoill recently. The school offers not only a first class educational environment but given the significant advantages of bilingual education - which includes a greater capacity to learn languages other than Manx - it provides a stimulating and innovative response to the world we live in and the economic and social issues which we are faced with today. Click here to check out that video and here for my thoughts on bilingual education 

P.D. James's vision of a future Mannin is in sharp contrast to a review I read recently about a new  book on Manx history which says that, 'today, the Isle of Man barely registers in the consciousness, having become largely peripheral to the cultural and political milieu of modern Europe.'  I'd like to think that in the language community we are going someway to making the Island relevant to the larger world we live in. The revival of interest in the language and the growing number of good speakers is a good news story for the Island and one which I hope can create a positive Island narrative; one that is far away as possible from the vision of the Island as either an irrelevancy or penal colony! 

We will be starting a new class for beginners on a Tuesday evening in St Johns in May. Let me know if you'd like some details