There is quite literally a little bit of Ireland in Ontario, Canada, where the Gaeltacht Thuaisceart on Oileáin Úir (North American Gaeltacht) joyfully celebrates everything Irish and, most importantly, the Irish language.
According to data compiled for Ireland’s Census in April 2016, the total number of people aged 3 and over in Ireland who could speak Irish was 1,761,420, or 39.8 percent of the country’s population.
The Irish Census further found that of the 96,090 people living in Ireland's Gaeltacht areas, just over 66 percent could speak Irish.
(In the US, where more than 31 million Americans claim Irish ancestry, 20,590 people claimed to be able to speak Irish, according to the American Community Survey 2009-2013.)
While Gaeltachtaí (Irish-speaking regions) in Ireland are helping keep the endangered language alive, 30 kilometers north of Napanee, Ontario, where Irish immigrants fleeing the Great Hunger settled, is the only official Gaeltacht outside Ireland.
For those in this Ontario settlement, the Irish language acts as a lifeline to their history, their culture, and to Ireland itself. On these 62 acres of land, they strive to keep the language alive by celebrating it through arts festivals, summer camps, classes, Irish dance, music, Gaelic games, and most importantly, speaking Irish.
The Canadian Gaeltacht's mother organization Cumann na Gaeltachta was founded by Séamus Mac Concharraige in 1994, and on June 16, 2007, the Gaeltacht site in Tamworth/Erinsville, Ontario, was officially opened.
“People like to connect with their roots. There’s a sense of pride in that identity,” says Sheila Scott, one of the founders of the Canadian Gaeltacht.
In recent years, the Irish government has established funding for fluent language teaching assistants to travel to Canada and the United States to teach at universities.
Similarly, North Americans are traveling to Ireland to polish up their Irish skills by taking part in courses such as those sponsored by the Fulbright Commission in Galway.
Here’s an impressive video of North Americans speaking about their love for Ireland and the Irish language: