Monday, September 17, 2012

The Isle of Man

by Arturo Vergara |

Editor: Jessica Nicholas (PhD Candidate in French)

Bio: Arturo Vergara, a bilingual speaker of English and Spanish, is a Senior in Psychology. In this bilingual blog entry on Manx, written for the ‘Language and Minorities in Europe’ (418) EUC survey class, he draws the reader into the universe of customs and sounds of a tiny regional minority language of the British Isles: Manx.

The Isle of Man…  You may be thinking that the place is simply made up, a place as fictional as Paradise Island…the homeland of Wonder Woman and her Amazons. Well, it is not and that picture is not a meme in some made up language. It is as real as the computer you are staring at. Too bad we cannot say that with certainty for the language spoken in this island. The situation concerning the language is one of those stories you have no idea about until, BAM! The news hits you like someone swinging a sack of potatoes to your face to get your full attention.

Image Source
Well that sack of potatoes is swinging right at yah, so brace yourself! Manx is the language that is shown in the picture above, and it is spoken on that island. One of the Celtic languages, it holds the history of a proud people. It is also an alchemy-like product of language mixing, cultural imperialism, and spoken diversity. It sits along with other languages that I (and probably you) have never heard of; Breton and Cornish and a few others that are more common: Welsh, Irish, and Scots Gaelic.  However, the Manx language became extinct when its last native speaker died in 1974.

That should be enough of the history lesson because the important part is looking towards the future. Luckily, this language does seem to have a future! Though the chances of its survival were grim not too long ago, recent sparks in interest for the language has set ablaze the life-giving engine. With the assistance of, “targeted Manx Government support,” the language is finally, “an option in schools, Mooinjer Veggey run a network of playgroups and nurseries and the Bunscoill Ghaelgagh goes from strength to strength.”  These triumphs are something to hold with pride, considering the dire circumstances surrounding the language. To make matters worse, island inhabitants used to connote the Manx language with poverty, preferring the more prestigious language of English.  Though the language is still considered endangered, the recent multimedia campaign is surely moving the language up the GIDS scale to a more stable vitality state.

Something that is really a useful tool in the revival process is the use of modern technology. Though not at the point where a personal web domain is created for the Manx language or the Isle of Man (along the lines of .com or the progress of having a live radio feed is crucial. For those who are curious to hear what the language sounds like, you can follow the link ( and let your ear holes take in a plethora of new sounds that accompany the language. But wait! For those of us who like to see the entertainment, there are a series of YouTube videos that catalogs news and other happenings in the Manx language. This would be a great opportunity to expand your cultural knowledge on YouTube, instead of watching some kids face-plant after some dangerous (but equally hilarious) stunt for some sort of internet fame.

So to wrap this up and let you carry on with your two hour internet study break, let it be known that Manx is a language that is coming back from the dead. Also, that the Isle of Man is a completely real place nicely placed in between the Great Britain and Irish islands. The road to a full linguistic recovery is a long and tedious battle through social and legal arenas, but it is one that is already on its way. The cultural richness of the EU can only expand by keeping a language like Manx and other endangered languages alive.  As they say in the Isle, Slane lhiu! AKA…goodbye!


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