RTÉ presenter Maura Derrane has opened up about her desire to speak more Irish on-air with fellow Gaeilgeoir Dáithí Ó Sé in a bid to promote the language.
rom Paul Mescal’s red-carpet interview on TG4 at the Baftas to the huge success of An Cailín Ciúin, the Irish language is far from lost in translation and is enjoying a renaissance moment.
Derrane, an ambassador for this year’s Seachtain na Gaeilge le Energia, admits she and co-presenter Ó Sé often trade gossip in Irish and constantly switch between the two languages on RTÉ’s Today show.
“I speak Irish with Dáithí on the show loads,” she said. “We speak a lot of Irish in the background, like when we’re in rehearsals,
“Sometimes I don’t even notice what language I’m speaking to him in. And that’s what I think I’d love Irish to be – I’d like it to be more out there in society.
“I’d love it to be at a point where people would be able to mix it with English and not be afraid to do that for fear of getting something wrong.
“I definitely want to speak it a lot more but with a show like this, you don’t want to alienate people either. So for me and Dáithí, we speak Irish and then we give the English translation if it’s something complicated.”
She praised Oscar-nominee Mescal for answering in Irish when asked questions by TG4 reporter Caitlín Nic Aoidh. The video clip has now been viewed over 3.3 million times online.
“I thought he was great,” she said of the Kildare native. “The interview was fab. I really didn’t expect it myself, especially when they came on him quick.
“But what you find about anyone who speaks Irish – whether you learn it from the cradle or like Paul Mescal did, in school – is that unless you practise Irish all the time, you lose it.
“I think you just have to try a cúpla focal every day. It’s amazing how quickly you pick it up again.”
She said it is perfectly acceptable to mix in some English with Irish – like Mescal did in his interview – and that we can’t be so “purist” about it.
“We need to be a bit more open for people to learn it and not be worried that they don’t have it focal ar fhocal (word for word). That is not the reality of how the world works anymore.
“A lot of people tell me that they’ve spent all these years in school and can’t speak a word of Irish. A lot of that is fear – they’re afraid to make mistakes because, years ago, they felt they might be chastised.
“It shouldn’t be like that. It should be fluid and you shouldn’t worry about making an error. If you don’t have the word in Irish, just stick in the English word and who cares.”
Derrane, who grew up in the Aran Islands and has co-presented the Today show for 11 seasons, says the way Irish is now taught in school is “more warm and welcoming”.
She referred to a recent study that found the optimum time to learn a language is seven years of age.
“The earlier they’re exposed to Irish, the better, and the whole school system now is easier through Irish.
“If you turn on the Irish programming for kids, it’s so lovely and warm. Children of today will have a better relationship with Irish than they did in the past.”
Today marks the start of Seachtain na Gaeilge le Energia. It runs until next Tuesday, March 7, with Irish-language events taking place across Ireland and globally during the festival.
Along with Derrane, Manchán Magan and Éadaoin Fitzmaurice are ambassadors for this year’s festival.