A recent presentation to the Oireachtas Committee on the Irish Language, Gaeltacht and the Irish-speaking Community aimed to bring the voice of the public to the Members from submissions made to SFI’s Creating Our Future campaign. Speaking at the event, collaborator and former researcher at the ADAPT Centre, Dr Teresa Lynn, spoke about the gap that exists in terms of technology and support for speakers of minority languages such as Irish.
During her address, Dr Lynn said: “In today’s digitally connected world, advances in AI lie behind many of the ways in which we work, do business, shop, study and socialise. Language technology underpins many of the applications and platforms that enable our digitally enhanced lives (virtual assistants, search engines, translation tools, spell-checkers, language learning tools, etc.). Yet these advances do not benefit all Irish citizens equally. Due to a lack of sufficient Irish language technologies, our computers and phones don’t understand Irish. As such, Irish speakers usually need to revert to using English. Such a language shift plays a major role in the risk of digital extinction, that is, an eventual decline in language use due to lack of technological support.
“Irish is in a precarious position while it competes alongside the most technologically supported language in the world. The lack of awareness around the need for immediate strategic planning, investment and development of Irish language technologies further widens the gap. Our attempts to increase language use through increasing the number of speakers alone will be futile if those speakers will need to live in a separate unconnected world.”
The address formed part of the response from the Creating Our Future campaign that harnessed over 18,000 submissions from the Irish public on the role of research in Ireland. Despite materials being made in both Irish and English, just under 300 submissions were received in the Irish language. The Expert Committee report which the Committee received, presents comprehensive findings reflective of the public’s voice. It includes expert commentary, calls to action and recommendations.
Common themes across the submissions received in relation to the Irish language include calls for researchers (and policy makers) to explore:
Dr Lynn presented with Dr Ciarán Seoighe from SFI and Professor Pádraig Ó Duibhir of DCU’s School of Language, Literacy and Early Childhood Education. The Oireachtas Committee on the Irish Language, Gaeltacht and the Irish-speaking Community promotes the use of Irish in the community, the arts, education, sport, business, the media and politics. It is working towards providing a meaningful and visible reality to the Irish language’s status as Ireland’s first official language.
Watch the full presentation here: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/oireachtas-tv/video-archive/committees/7456