Russian academic brings love for Gaeilge from afar
2019-03-01 00:00:00 -

Jessica Ní Mháirtín


In light of the newly appointed Oifigeach Pleanála Teanga (Language Planning Officer) for Co Kerry, it came to mind about how people go about learning Irish in a non-traditional way.


Dr Victor Bayda comes from Moscow and this week moved to Kerry to start his new role within the council, leaving his wife and son behind in Russia.


Dr Bayda’s experiences with the Irish language — along with the other seven languages he’s fluent in — shows there was an academic approach to his learning methods. But he admits that Raidió na Gaeltachta, and TG4 were also huge factors in his self-education process.


“I was interested in languages in school and when I was 13 years old I began learning different languages,” Dr Bayda told The Irish Times. “I went to England to attend courses and it was there I found out there were other languages in the island.”


Having someone from a different country and culture be part of the Irish language plan may come as a shock to some. It wasn’t small-mindedness — ‘Here’s a foreigner coming in to take our job’ — but it brought me back to the same shock I felt when Joe McHugh, who had little or no Irish at the time, was appointed as Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Except Dr Bayda appears to be over-qualified for his role.


Besides, looking at the bigger picture, Joe McHugh was an example of someone who reminded the nation of how it’s never too late to educate yourself — and Dr Bayda, in all his success, is a prime example of how accessible the language is to anyone across the world.


Dr Bayda has a PhD in the Irish language and lectured in it for 15 years at Moscow State University — but what’s more significant is that he achieved all of that so far away from Ireland, keeping his ‘Gaeilge beo’ while in an atmosphere surrounded by much more popular languages.


It’s enough to make one wonder, is it time to move away from the traditional education system? Many who come from abroad who have already learned the Irish language have never endured the experience of the most dreaded Leaving Certificate examinations. If people like Dr Bayda can be successful in learning and using the language — from afar, at that — we should be able to incorporate that willingness into our own society.


As Dr Bayda told The Irish Times: “This position will be a challenge but it allow[s] me to do something for the language and try to help its development and revival. I have met the local committee in South Kerry and they are very energetic and enthusiastic. Irish is weak in the region but people are full of energy.”


Perhaps we native Irish need to be more open to the idea of using the Irish language outside of the education system. Indeed, there is a huge Irish-speaking community that are unknown to many because, as Irish is not part of their lives, they are oblivious and refuse to believe in its recent growing figures.


With Dr Bayda’s new position, here’s to hoping he can successfully fulfil his new obligations in the Oifigeach Pleanála Teanga and possibly move on to the Irish curriculum in the coming years.

TAGS : Gaeilge Russian academic Irish language
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