Irish language classes at Catholic
By Daniel de Vise ~ Look for the AOH link to the past!
Fifteen students gathered inside a basement classroom at Catholic University on a recent evening to ponder a laminated vocabulary list that looked like some language instructor’s cruel joke. The classes have been surprisingly successful.
Ronan Connolly teaches an Irish course at Catholic University, and he also gives lessons out of an office in Friendship Heights. The words were jumbles of seemingly random letters, strings of unpronounceable consonants, like the work of a touch typist who inadvertently plants his fingers on the wrong keys.
But for these students, and for kindred spirits in America and Ireland, the Irish language has emerged as an improbable passion.
As the Irish diaspora prepares for St. Patrick’s Day, the Hibernian tongue, once at the brink of extinction, is enjoying a modest revival. A 2009 survey by the Modern Language Association found enrollment in Irish-language classes in the United States numbered 409 students, compared with 278 in 1998, 58 in 1990 and 28 in 1980. Classes at Catholic University drew 18 students this year and 20 last year, the largest enrollments in recent memory.
Catholic may be the only college in the Washington region that has ever mounted a significant Irish language program. The effort is one of the oldest in the nation, funded through an 1896 gift of $50,000 from the Ancient Order of Hibernians.