Friday, December 28, 2007

The Small Has To Justify Everything

Language sparks debate in Kerry

By Diarmaid Fleming

BBC NI Dublin correspondent

The status of the Irish language in Northern Ireland has prompted bitter debate in the assembly after Culture Minister Edwin Poots said he would not introduce an Irish Language Act.
But in one of the few remaining Irish-speaking areas in Ireland, there's another debate, this time demanding that more English and less Irish be spoken in a new secondary school in Dingle.
The Kerry Gaeltacht, or Irish-speaking area, is one of the few places left where Irish can be heard in the street.
But in the capital, Dingle, or in its official Irish title, Daingean Ui Chuis, English is widely used.
Two secondary schools recently merged into a new one, Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne.
But the school's policy of teaching all lessons through Irish has led to protests by some students who say they cannot understand what they are being taught.
Sam Spinn was one of the students who left classes to protest against the all-Irish policy.
"A lot of students can't learn through all Irish - there are some who can but a lot of them can't and it's just not acceptable that people have to go through school in which they don't understand the classes at all," he said.
"People just begin to hate a language if it's forced on them so it will flourish under encouragement, but if it's forced on people, people will just reject it and they'll go against it."


But speaking in Irish is fundamental to an Irish-speaking area.
Here, a group of fluent speakers meet to bring on others keen to improve.
Some who have come from outside or abroad say they have learned Irish out of respect for the Gaeltacht tradition and its people, and want their children to learn it too.
Lone Ui Raghallaigh comes from Denmark. Married and living in the Kerry Gaeltacht, she has learned to speak Irish.
"When we moved here we knew we were moving into a Gaeltacht and to me it is very important not to water down the beautiful language they have in this area," she said.
"So we are very conscious of trying to do the best ourselves to learn the language and of course we took it for granted that the children would be taught through Irish.

"It's part of living in a Gaeltacht."

Maire Ui Shithigh and her family speak Irish at home.
She argues that if English is introduced into the school, then Irish will end up not being used.
"If you have Irish and English, then everything moves over to English because English is the global language," she said.


"English is the language of youth and minority languages are dying out all over the world and unless we take very serious steps to prevent it, the Irish will be gone and I think we will hugely regret it."
But parents of students without fluent Irish, say that it's an educational rather than a language issue.
Cyril Harrington, from a group calling itself the Concerned Parents for Education, moved into the area from Dublin, and feels strongly that Irish should not be imposed in the school.
"This is not about language - this is about every student's constitutional right to a viable education," he said.
"For the last 20-odd years, the medium was through Irish and English.
"Suddenly pupils who've done four years of secondary school like this are now having all-Irish imposed on them.
"There are people sitting in classrooms and they don't know what's being said and that is unfair and unacceptable and it cannot go on."
But for others, replacing Irish with English would have a disastrous impact on the language in the Gaeltacht.
Native speaker and former Kerry All-Ireland gaelic football winning captain Dara O Cinneide is on the board of management of the new school.
He says extra help in Irish for those needing it - rather than abandoning it for English in the classroom - is the solution.
The school is looking for further help provided under a scheme by the Ireland's Department of Education to give assistance to students needing help in the language.
"We are aware that there are challenges being posed to a certain group of students in the school," Mr O Cinneide said.
"We have put extra supports in place to counteract this challenge and we are looking for even more again, so I think anybody who will have a difficulty learning their subjects through Irish will be catered for."
He says it is accepted that some older students in the school who may not have learned Irish from a young age may need help, but said that throwing out Irish as the spoken language in the area's secondary and replacing it with English would be devastating for the future of the language in the Kerry Gaeltacht.
He added that the children of many new immigrants coming into the area have little difficulty learning Irish, and have no issue with it.
"We just have a love of the language, we feel it's very important for us and for the next generation and generations to come to have that language preserved as well as educating our children to the highest possible standards."
With English the dominant world language, those fostering the Irish language in Kerry say that like other minority languages, it is threatened, even in the area where it should be strongest.

But just as north of the border, the Irish language seems to provoke plenty of debate - in English.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ryszard Kapuscinski

I discovered Kapuscinski just when I saw his obituary in The Economist. I didn't have a clue who he was so tried to find something written by him and I ended up with a book called "The Shadow of the Sun - My African Life" in my hands and... I discovered an entire new world.

I saw this guy was for a while in the right place at the right time in Africa's political life. A kind of George Steer of the second half of century. And I also discovered an attitude I like and even admire: humble but curious, analitical but respectfull with local history, traditions and logic, trying all the time not being "the white man looking down to all black persons".

A hero of paper and ink.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Miss USA Doesn't Speak English?

Belgium's political tensions entered the glamour stakes after it was revealed that the new Miss Belgium does not speak Dutch.
Alizee Poulicek, who comes from the country's French-speaking region, was booed by some of the 4,000 audience when she admitted that she could not understand a question put to her in Dutch at the contest on Saturday night in the main Flemish city of Antwerp.
Poulicek, a 20-year-old language student, speaks French, Czech and English, but Flemish tabloid daily Het Laatste Niuews headlined its Monday edition with: "Miss Belgium does not speak Dutch".
The paper underlined that the "community crisis in our country" -- where there is no government six months after general elections amid bickering between leaders of the main French and Flemish parties -- "has insinuated itself into even the lightest sector."
Poulicek's victory "is not going down well," the daily said.
She said she had been taking Dutch lessons before the contest and has pledged to improve her standard in one of Belgium's three official languages, along with French and German.
The incident did not hurt her image with television viewers who voted for her, but Flemish journalists assailed her with questions at a press conference, highlighting her deficiencies in their tongue.
The Flemish community accounts for 60 percent of Belgium's 10.5 million people. A further 3.5 million live in Wallonia and one million in the largely Francophone, but officially bilingual Brussels.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Local Accents

More than half of British parents discourage their children from speaking with their local accent for fear of harming their life chances, according to a survey.

The research showed 51% actively discouraged their youngsters from using an accent while 33% encouraged them to speak "the Queen's English".

The firm Combined Insurance asked a sample of more than 2,300 parents about the importance of keeping local accents and how this impacts on the community.

The respondents were asked whether they would encourage their children to speak with their region's local accent and what impact they thought this would have on their child's future.

They also indicated which accent they would most like their child to speak with.

One in five (20%) parents were worried their children might find it harder to get a well-paid job if they spoke in their local accent and more than one in six (17%) thought their child would be perceived to have a lower level of intelligence.

Almost one in 10 (8%) feared local accents would mean they would not be taken seriously in life.

Among the regional findings of the survey were that 27% of parents living in the West Country were worried their child might be teased and bullied in their future job for having a local accent and 26% thought their child might be considered to be not very bright.

And 14% of parents living in the Midlands believe their child might not be taken seriously in life because of their accent.

Across the UK, the Birmingham accent was the one parents would least like their child to use. In Birmingham, only 8% of parents said they would encourage their children to use the local accent.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Hope Ahead

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Raymond Carver - To My Friend

October. Here in this dank, unfamiliar kitchen
I study my father's embarrassed young man's face.
Sheepish grin, he holds in one hand a string
of spiny yellow perch, in the other
a bottle of Carlsbad Beer.

In jeans and denim shirt, he leans
against the front fender of a 1934 Ford.
He would like to pose bluff and hearty for his posterity,
Wear his old hat cocked over his ear.
All his life my father wanted to be bold.

But the eyes give him away, and the hands
that limply offer the string of dead perch
and the bottle of beer. Father, I love you,
yet how can I say thank you, I who can't hold my liquor either,
and don't even know the places to fish?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tue Poem

The rain it raineth every day
Upon the just and unjust fella
But mostly on the just because
The unjust hath the just's umbrella.

by Baron Charles Bowen

Monday, December 10, 2007

Free Kosovo

Saturday, December 08, 2007

How To... Lick

by Guy Browning

The Guardian

The modern tongue is virtually a prisoner in the mouth. That's why sticking out your tongue is very rude but also rather saucy: it's a kind of entry-level flashing. Tongues are extremely sensitive and can determine thousands of different flavours, including the three used in British cooking.

What food, sex and envelopes used to have in common was that they all involved licking. With self-seal envelopes we are now down to just food and sex, which is a shame because licking a letter before you sent it added an interesting sensual angle to your correspondence with the tax authorities. Self-adhesive stamps have added to the precipitous decline in licking. To be fair, they do make sending your Christmas cards easier because in the past licking 80 stamps was an absolute nightmare unless you had a handy labrador or French boyfriend.

One of the main attractions of ice cream is that you can lick it. People who eat ice cream with their teeth and chew it are slightly missing the point. An excellent training aid for licking is the jam doughnut as it's impossible to eat one without licking your lips and fingers afterwards. Some people cheat and lick the sugar off first but then the doughnut ends up looking like a hairless chihuahua.

Licking has very little place socially and the rule is never lick a person you haven't already kissed on the lips. Similarly, never lick somebody in the office unless you are on an advanced team-building course. Licking people reveals the wide range of flavours they come in: there's sweet, salty, cheesy, BBQ and prawn cocktail. Or, if they've had a bath recently, mango, pomegranate, seaweed and strawberry. Licking someone after a bath is the equivalent of one portion of fruit and veg.

Before wet wipes, the tongue acted as a mobile cleaning unit. The tongue would be applied to the hanky and the hanky applied to the mess/baby. Even now, a thorough beauty regime can be carried out using nothing more than finger and tongue. Licking is still very important in love-making but you should use moderation. Attempting to lick someone's entire back, for example, especially if they're a large person, will just make you dehydrated, and make the recipient feel as if you're doing some kind of minor paint job.

FF - The Super Hero

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

To My Friend A

Monday, December 03, 2007

Tovarich 1 - 0 Amigo

Vladimir Putin secured a landslide victory in yesterday’s Russian election. His United Russia party won 306 seats (64.1%) out of 450 in the Duma or the lower house of parliament. The Communists would have 57 seats, or 11.6% of the vote. The Liberal Democratic party (nationalists) won the 8.2% of the vote and the populist Just Russia, 7.6% - the threshold of 7% has left many critic voices out in the political cold. And, as you know, Russia is extremely cold, in all the senses.

The turnout was about 62%, up from 56% in the last parliamentary elections four years ago.

According to Russian constitution, Putin has to stand down after two terms as head of state (like in United States) - but now, with this spectacular victory he wants to become a “national leader”. What does this mean? No-one knows.

From the Siberian tundra to lake Maracaibo.

Hugo Chavez lost very narrowly his try to make substantial changes to the Venezuelan Constitution. So he will stand down in 2013 once his term expires. The opposition won the 51% of the vote and the Government position, the 49% - I call this a Quebec-style result… Chavez called it a “photo phinish” with a “microscopic” difference – but, hey, that’s democracy, pure maths, at the end of the day.

It seems that the apathy and some disillusion of “softer” chavistas is partly to blame for the unexpected result (remember this is the military man- changed in politician who has won 10 elections in 8 years, almost all of them by landslide). The turnout of 55%, low by Venezuelan standards, showed that many stayed home.

“Abstention defeated us” said Chavez, “it’s a lesson for us”.

“He has woken us up, the poor”, says Oscar Olachea, a member of an agricultural co-op.

So here we have, a victory and a defeat. But, paradoxically, Putin looks more like a dictator after his rigged farse and Chavez looks since yesterday more a democratically elected leader who recognizes electoral defeat and less the strong man than some western media tries to suggest he is.

The West Banksy

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Sunday Pic

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Sat Poem - To My Father

Missing Things

I'm very old and breathless, tired and lame,

and soon I'll be no more to anyone

than the slowly fading trochee of my name

and shadow of my presence: I'll be gone.

Already I begin to miss the things

I'll leave behind, like this calm evening sun

which seems to smile at how the blackbird sings.

There's something valedictory in the way

my books gaze down on me from where they stand

in disciplined disorder and display

the same goodwill that well-wishers on land

convey to troops who sail away to where

great danger waits. These books will miss the hand

that turned the pages with devoted care.

And there are also places that I miss:

those Paris streets and bars I can't forget,

the scent of caporal and wine and piss;

the pubs in Soho where the poets met;

the Yorkshire moors and Dorset's pebbly coast,

black Leeds, where I was taught love's alphabet,

and this small house that I shall miss the most.

I've lived here for so long it seems to be

a part of what I am, yet I'm aware

that when I've gone it won't remember me

and I, of course, will neither know nor care

since, like the stone of which the house is made,

I'll feel no more than it does light and air.

Then why so sad? And just a bit afraid?

By Vernon Scannell