Carson, L. & Extra, G. (2010), Multilingualism in Dublin: Home language use among primary school children, report on a pilot survey, Dublin: Centre for Language and Communication Studies
Travellers who arrive at Dublin airport from abroad easily receive the impression that
they have arrived in a bilingual country. However, whilst both English and Irish appear
on official signage, the languages they frequently hear are Russian and Polish. Mac
Éinrí and White (2008: 153) suggest that ‘Ireland’s historical demographic and
migration profile can fairly be described as unique, at least in European terms.’ Unlike
its neighbours, large‐scale population diversity has been a recent phenomenon in
Ireland. In the 1990s, the country’s economy began to prosper (referred to as the
Celtic Tiger), and contributed to a reversal of the well‐trodden path of Irish emigration
towards England, North America and beyond. A surge of immigrants arrived in Ireland
from every continent. Newcomers – professionals, seasonal migrant workers, asylum
seekers, refugees – along with returning Irish emigrants, created an entirely different
demographic and linguistic profile in the space of a decade. Kallen (2010: 55) highlights
how the ‘linguistic landscape in Dublin is undergoing a profound change’. This shifting
city landscape is observable both in ‘“top‐down”, official signage’ (ibid: 42) in the civic
domain – where state agencies now frequently provide information in Russian, Polish,
Arabic and Mandarin Chinese in addition to English and Irish – through to prolific
multilingual entrepreneurial signage, and even at the level of street detritus (ibid: 55).
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