When you think …

When you think about the spoken languages of western Europe, the obvious ones come to mind, English, French, Spanish, and German. There are other languages native to the land however. These languages hold their roots in the tribes and people who have inhabited the land for generations. The major spoken languages have largely replaced them as new peoples entered the land and language changed, but the old ones are still alive.

In the British Isles the Gaelic languages are still present. In the northern and western parts of Ireland Irish Gaelic is still prominent. Irish Gaelic is sometimes called Hibernian, coming from the ancient name of Ireland, Hibernia. Irish Gaelic has its roots in the proto-Gaelic peoples of Ireland who were Celts like Gaels, but not Gaels, the people who eventually became the prominent Celtic people of all the British Isles.

In Scotland you find Scotch Gaelic, a language that was once present anywhere that the Scottish went. It was used by Scottish members of the British militairy to disguise their conversation. In Nova Scotia, Scottish immigrants brought with them Gaelic idioms that are still present in many parts of Canada. Today Scotch Gaelic is under threat as speakers are on the decline. Counter efforts are being made as it is taught in schools, and street signs can be found in Gaelic.

In Wales, Welsh is very prominent. Welsh is another Celtic language that is not Gaelic. It is a Brythonic Celtic language. Welsh is so prominent that it is the only official language of the United Kingdom besides English. There are people in Wales who speak nothing but Welsh. Like Scottish it has been used to disguise military communications. Interestingly though, during the Falklands Wars the British chose to not use Welsh, because of the prominence of Welsh in Argentina. Welsh is actually spoken in Argentina, brought by Welsh colonists who spread the language where it is still spoken on occasion.

On the small isle of Manx, there is a Gaelic language called Manx. It is distinct from any other Celtic language. The language nearly went extinct but efforts have returned it to the people of Manx. Today there are a few hundred people fluent in the language, with a percentage of the islands population posessing some proficiency. 

There is only one Celtic language found in mainland Europe. The language Breton is spoken in the French region Breton, called Brittany in English. Breton is very distinct from any other Celtic language. It was Brought to the region by the people known as the Britons who sailed all along the west coast of Europe and actually brought Celtic language to Iberia, where its influence still exists today. Despite the huge amount of Breton speakers the language is critically endangered.

Brittany is a very populous region filled with the distinct Breton people. The younger generation however, was taught not to speak Breton. This was an effort taken by Charles de Gaulle that effectively killed similar indigenous languages like Provencal, Occidental, and Picard. The breton situation is tricky though, as there are still huge numbers of people who can teach todays youth, but those kids parents dont really speak Breton. Today there are moderate efforts being taken by the French government to preserve the language that the older generations are working hard with to save their language.

There’s all sorts of crazy languages across Europe. Iberia is home to many languages and peoples. The oldest spoken language in the world is Basque which is spoken in northern Spain and southwestern France. You also find Catalan, Galician, and Aragonese. In the low country, there’s all sorts of Flemish dialects like Frisian. In Scandinavia and Finland there is this Eskimo like people called the Lapps, they speak their own language. In Switzerland there is a really weird language called Romansch which is like 2000 year old Germanic mixed with Latin, its the weirdest thing. I went to Switzerland a couple summers ago and I was lost this time, and I was trying to ask this guy direction in French or German, I think he was speaking Romansch because I didnt have the slightest idea what he was saying.  


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