Teaching an endangered language: situating Irish language teachers’ experiences and motivations within national frameworks of continuing professional development

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Lane, Ciara
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Language practices around the world have experienced a significant shift in the last number of years (McDermott, 2011; Walsh, 2005). Communities that continue to speak minority or heritage languages, such as Irish Gaelic, have felt the effects of the various social, political and economic pressures that have gone hand in hand with globalization, resulting in a breakdown in intergenerational transmission (Anderson, 2011; Hornberger, 1998; Norris, 2004). In the Republic of Ireland, the education system has been set as the corner stone of Irish language revitalization efforts since the 1920s, thereby assigning much responsibility to Irish language teachers. Yet, there is a dearth of existing research that gives voice to Irish teachers, and their experiences and motivations to teach a language that just 1.8% of the population speak on a daily basis remain unclear (National Census of Ireland, 2011). In this study, I engage with teachers from both Gaeltacht (where Irish is spoken as a first language) and primarily English speaking parts of Ireland, in order to give a broader account of Irish teachers’ experiences in different educational settings. In addition, I look to identify what implications a better understanding of teacher motivation could have for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programs offered to Irish teachers, and situate these recommendations within the current educational policies that exist within the Irish education system.
Irish language, Motivation, Continuing professional development, Teacher experiences