Archive for May 5th, 2005

Minority Languages, Cows and Green Fields

In the absence of a copy of Take A Break, and saturated with internet use, I relieve boredom by translating things. Newspaper articles, bits of books and the like. In the age of advanced translation technology, this might seem a bit odd, but I reckon it wards off the Alzheimer’s for a bit.

It’s a bit of a mug’s game trying to translate the already translated words of a person back into the language originally used. Especially when it’s Seamus friggin’ Heaney. Never one to pass up the opportunity to make a mug of myself, I have decided to translate a couple of interesting excerpts from a report on a speech he gave yesterday as guest of honour at Asturias’ Selmana de les Lletres.

Politics and poetry

First of all, in what serves as a useful response to questions raised by this post, he

‘said that poetry “is like a wave that spreads across a community” and rejected any link between lyrical creation and politics. “It has nothing to do with politics. Poetry is essentially linked with personal value, it depends on individual talent. A poet does not need to write about political realities”

Northern Ireland

With an “intuitive and sceptical” sense of the world, he believes that much has been achieved in the last 10 years in the Northern Ireland peace process, but that ”30 years have been wasted”. The problem, he says, is not a temporary political one, but ”a question of changing the relations between a majority and a minority, one victorious and the other defeated”. He says that the unionist majority in the North is very slowly taking on these changes, but that Sinn Fein needs to learn to be a bit less triumphant

Or perhaps he said triumphialist. Anyone who might have an English transcript of the speech send it on.

Minority Languages

From another report from the same paper, but on the same speech:

`One’s own language is the one that reaches the heart, said the poet, who recognised both Irish and Asturians feel as if their ‘terruño’ (god knows what word he actually used here – I reckon the journalist is paraphrasing. Difficult to explain what it means other than it’s not simply land, or homeland, but a space that provides a sense of personal and communal identity) is being attacked if someone says these languages are only of interest to antique dealers and that in the age of the microchip and e-mail they are an anachronism, a barrier to progress. “For the majority of Irish people, English is their mother tongue, but Irish is their national language. And Irish, although it’s threatened, is not dead.”

and perhaps most important for the organisers of the festival:

`”Minority languages such Irish and Asturian deserve official recognition at all levels, nationally and internationally.”

He concluded by saying that

“respect for small languages is a sign of respect for the people who speak them and it is also recognition that they possess their own history, and of their loyalty and pride towards (their language)”

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May 2005