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21 Feb, 2019 12:13

Russian man tasked with saving Irish language in rural county

Russian man tasked with saving Irish language in rural county

In a highly improbable turn of events, a Russian man has been tasked with saving and reviving the Irish language in an isolated, rural part of Ireland.

Dr. Victor Bayda, a native of Moscow, has been named as an Irish language officer in the Kerry Gaeltacht (a primarily Irish-speaking region) by the Comhchoiste Ghaeltacht Uíbh Ráthaigh, a local community organization in the area which is tasked with reviving the language.

Bayda has been teaching Irish or Gaeilge at Moscow State University for the past fifteen years. He began learning Irish after he first mastered Scots Gaelic (in addition to speaking Dutch, Welsh, Swedish, French, German and Icelandic… and Russian and English), and holds a PhD for a thesis relating to certain aspects of the Irish language. So he certainly has the gift of the gab.

“Irish is such a beautiful language and is well worth learning. It’s a different way of thinking and the language allows you to express yourself in creative ways not possible in most major European languages. It’s certainly a language worth saving and holding on to,” Bayda told Irish state broadcaster RTE.  

Bayda is tasked with stopping the rather precipitous decline of the native language in the Ireland’s rural south. According to a 2016 census, just seven percent of the local Gaeltacht population speak Irish on a daily basis, outside of the education system.

“Victor is one of the finest Irish speakers you’ll ever meet. Completely fluent. He is highly qualified and possesses tremendous expertise in the whole area of language planning,” Mícheál Ó Leidhin of Comhchoiste Ghaeltacht Uíbh Ráthaigh told RTE.

“We are confident that we have found the right man.”

Bayda’s appointment has been met with widespread approval in Ireland and his TV and radio appearances have unleashed a deluge of positive comments. He is being heaped with praise for his excellent command of the language, his faultless accent and his abundant enthusiasm.

Many have noted that his mastery and love of the language is making them feel ashamed of their own ability to speak their native tongue.

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