Manx language is revived in 'scoills'

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The Independent Online
MOGHREY MIE. Good morning. This is likely to be your first lesson in Manx. So tear yourself away from the chellveeishan - television - and get ready for scoill - school.

History will be made today on the Isle of Man, when Manx Gaelic, the island's indigenous tongue, will be taught for the first time in schools since the language fell out of use earlier this century.

More than 1,700 pupils between seven and 18 have volunteered for Manx language classes at two of the island's schools when term begins this morning. Another 300 have had to be turned down and will start next September.

The last indigenous Manx Gaelic speaker died about 20 years ago and there were fears that the language had died forever. Education officials have been surprised by the enthusiasm for reviving it and have started a year-long pilot project. Initially, children will be given half an hour's Manx a week.

As befits an island in the middle of the Irish Sea, and arguably at the centre of the British Isles, Manx Gaelic is said to be a mixture of phonetic Scots and Irish Gaelic, but based on English spelling, with some Welsh influence thrown in.

It could prove useful as an argot impenetrable to outsiders, on an island famous for its discretion in financial affairs, as well as g-wheeylaght - motorcycling - and shiaulley - sailing.

Manxmen will be able to give each other sound financial advice such as ta argid ry gheddyn ass - there is money in it - bee argid mooar ass - go and make some money, or even, though rarely, when anxious to avoid the chagleyder - tax collector - ta my phoggaid follym - I am out of cash.

The language has, surprisingly, kept up with modern developments. A computer is co-earrooder. The classic reference book, Fargher's English-Manx dictionary, includes a word for homosexuality, homocheintys, until recently illegal on the island.

Manx Gaelic was the island's main language until the 1830s, but it declined later in the 19th century after English began to be taught in schools.

'Two thousand students wanted to take Manx, but I have had to write to 300 parents informing them that some classes will have to be delayed,' Dr Brian Stowell, the island's Manx language officer, said.