Manx seek the revival of Gaelic

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The Independent Online
MANX GAELIC is to be taught in all schools on the Isle of Man for the first time in an attempt to revive the ancient language once spoken by most of the population, writes Will Bennett.

Although the subject will not be compulsory, about 1,500 pupils in the island's five secondary and 32 primary schools have volunteered to start learning it in September.

The language, which is similar to Scottish and Irish Gaelic, has been in decline for more than a century, and the last person who spoke it as a first language died nearly 20 years ago.

Today only about 50 people out of the island's population of 70,000 speak the language fluently, while about 300 others have some knowledge of it. Few books have been written in Manx.

Until the 1870s, when tourists from Lancashire began to come to the Isle of Man in large numbers, Manx was spoken by most islanders. The influx of visitors and the growing standardisation of education in the British Isles led to its replacement by English.

Now the Manx government's department of education has decided to prevent any further decline of the language although it acknowledges that it will never recover to the point where it can rival English.

John Cain, modern languages adviser to the department, said: 'There was a great deal of concern about the language dying out and a feeling that something should be done about this.

'It is very much a heritage language. Learning it should help people appreciate and develop an awareness of their heritage and cultural background.'