Statistical Survey of the County of Clare, 1808

By Hely Dutton

Chapter V - Section 22

Use of the English language, whether general, or how far encreasing

THERE are very few, except in remote situations, that do not at least understand a little English, but from an apprehension of not speaking correctly they frequently pretend not to understand it: I have often heard them declare in good English, that they could not speak a word of it; almost all the better kind of people speak Irish to the country people, but scarcely one of their sons is able to hold a conversation in this language; of course in the next generation it may be expected, that almost every person in the county will use the English tongue, which would certainly be a desirable object, as the sooner we assimilate with the English in every respect, the more likely we are to forget ancient prejudices, and to adopt their improvements in agriculture, manufactures, and every useful science. That the English language is encreasing, it may be necessary to observe, that the children of almost all those, who can speak scarcely any thing but Irish, are proud of being spoken to in English, and answering in the same, even though you may question them in Irish.

No Irish is spoken in any of the schools, and the peasantry are anxious to send their children to them for the purpose of learning English. I am informed very little pure Irish is spoken in this county, the present language being a jargon of Irish and English; therefore the sooner it is forgotten, the better. The encouragement of schools by the distribution of good books, at a low price, (not gratis,) with ink and paper, would in a few years do wonders, in making the English language become general. I do not recollect to have seen any of the useful little tracts, printed by the Society for promoting the comforts of the poor, in this county; the clergy should attend to this, if not too troublesome.

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