Speed Reads

A Focus on Film

Oscar nomination for foreign film The Quiet Girl shines spotlight on 'endangered' Irish language

As the 2023 Academy Awards prepare to get underway Sunday, one film that has garnered an Oscar nomination is piquing interest across the pond in a disappearing language

An Cailín Ciúin, or The Quiet Girl in English, is nominated for Best International Film. The Colm Bairéad-directed coming-of-age film is set in rural Ireland, and the majority of the dialogue is in the Irish language. The film has grossed more than $1 million at the U.K. and Irish box office, according to film tracking site The Numbers, and still has a wide theatrical distribution in Ireland. 

The first Irish-language film to be nominated for an Academy Award, The Quiet Girl has placed a renewed spark in the country's native tongue, also known as Gaelic. While Reuters noted that "Irish is taught as a compulsory subject all the way through to the end of high school," it is a dying language, with just 70,000 of Ireland's five million citizens speaking it at least once a day, recent census data shows. 

UNESCO's Atlas of World Languages in Danger reported in 2021 that the language was "definitely endangered." Irish newspaper the Irish Independent noted that "linguists predict that at least 43 percent of languages currently spoken in the world today will likely disappear in the next century, including Irish."

With the decline of Irish speakers, Bairéad hopes that the awards season success of his film will help to shine a spotlight on endangered languages. 

"It took me a while to accept that actually to be given another language and to be given our native language was a beautiful thing and a gift really," Bairéad told Reuters, adding that "when you have a language that is becoming part of the cultural landscape, that really helps."