Belfast Telegraph

Almost half of Irish speakers only know basics

By Jonathan Bell

Almost half of people with an understanding of the Irish language only know the most basic terms, new official figures indicate.

The survey, conducted by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, suggested that 15% of the population here said they could understand, speak, read or write Irish.

Demands for an Irish Language Act have been held up as one of the main hurdles for restoring power-sharing in Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland Continuous Household Survey for 2017/18 also found that 15% of respondents had a knowledge of the Ulster Scots dialect - with just over a third admitting to knowing only the most basic of terms.

Four percent of adults surveyed said they use Irish at home with family or housemates or outside the home socially either on a daily basis or very occasionally.

Of those adults who said they understood Irish, 5% said they had a high level of comprehension of the language and could handle radio or television programmes delivered entirely in Irish.

Some 17% could understand directions, 32% could tell the time, and 46% knew a simple phrase such as "Cead mile failte" meant a hundred thousand welcomes.

Meanwhile, 4% of adult respondents in Northern Ireland also said they used Ulster Scots to converse at home or out socially.

Of the 15% of adults who said they had some knowledge of the language, 13% said they understood it, 4% could speak it, 3% read it and 1% write it.

In terms of the level of their ability, 36% of those asked knew basic phrases such as "fair faa ye" was hello.

Some 29% could understand sentences such as asking for the time, while 22% could hold a conversation such as on street directions.

A total of 13% said they could understand complicated spoken sentences such as television programmes or radio shows conducted in the language.

Belfast Telegraph

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