Yu Ming Is Ainm Dom: Chinese Guy Learns Irish To Ireland's Shame

  • Donovan Nagel
    Written byDonovan Nagel
    Donovan NagelTeacher, translator, polyglot
    🎓 B.A., Theology, Australian College of Theology, NSW
    🎓 M.A., Applied Linguistics, University of New England, NSW

    Applied Linguistics graduate, teacher and translator. Founder of The Mezzofanti Guild and Talk In Arabic.
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Yu Ming Is Ainm Dom: Chinese Guy Learns Irish To Ireland's Shame

LEARNING IRISH? I can’t recommend both Turas Teanga and Gaelige Gan Stró enough (they helped me achieve Irish fluency in 9 months).

UPDATE: I’ve put together a huge list of the best resources available for learning Irish which has been hugely popular with Irish learners. Check it out here.

Ah… another video. This one won’t be an ordeal like the one I made for my last post don’t worry!

I wanted to quickly share with you the most moving language-related video I’ve ever seen.

Yu Ming Is Ainm Dom

Although it was made in 2003 and is therefore well and truly yesterday’s news, Yu Ming Is Ainm Dom is still entirely relevant and hard-hitting for people interested in language revival and specifically Irish.

As my readers know, I started teaching myself Irish recently [UPDATE: I successfully learned Irish fluently in 9 months. Check it out.] using what’s available online and just this week I heard about Yu Ming through the EasyIrish.com free podcast series.

To sum up the story for those who haven’t heard of Yu Ming, it’s about a young Chinese guy who gets sick of living in China and decides to travel, randomly picking Ireland as his destination. He finds out that Irish (Gaeilge) is the national language so he teaches himself the language fluently.

After arriving in Ireland he discovers that every indigenous Irish person he comes in contact with can’t understand him.

The whole point of this short film is to draw attention to the widespread neglect of the Irish language by the Irish people – one of the main reasons why I want to learn it.

In the world, approximately 6,000 languages are spoken…
…of which only about 600 are confidently expected to survive this century. – MIT Department of Linguistics and Philosophy

What are your thoughts?

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Donovan Nagel
Donovan Nagel - B. Th, MA AppLing
I'm an Applied Linguistics graduate, teacher and translator with a passion for language learning (especially Arabic).
Currently learning: Greek


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Confused Laowai

Confused Laowai

Wow, if that viedo isn’t motivating someone to learn a language, never mind a minority language, then I don’t know what will. That is amazing. Thanks for sharing!



This has to be one of the most shamefully ignorant videos that I have ever watched, and I can’t believe that after spending time in Ireland yourself, that you’d cite this as “the most moving language-related video that you’ve ever seen. Ignoring the fact that the video sites Irish as THE official language of Ireland (it’s not - Irlenad is officially a bilingual country, with Irish and English both being official languages), and the somewhat dubious Irish pronunciation at the start of the video, you’d be hard pressed to find an Irish person who wouldn’t be able to understand what was spoken in that video clip, as the Irish is pretty rudimentary, and it’s spoken extremely clearly. A fair chunk of the video is dedicated to the -Australian- hostel receptionist who understandably didn’t speak a word of Irish, but rather assumed that the Mongolian guy was Chinese, and resorted to speaking “chinglish” to het his point home. IF this video is to be taken to be an accurate representation of nationalities, then Australians must be the most racist and backwards people out there, no??

Irish didn’t decline because of the “widespread neglect of the Irish language by the Irish people”, but rather was forced out under British rule, almost decimated when the famine wiped out a huge percentage of the Irish speaking population, and was stigmatised by the Catholic church when eventually people had the freedom to use it again. Colonisation and genocide, pretty much, tends to have that effect.

Irish was in serious decline until the 80’s, and if wasn’t for the efforts of a huge number of Irish people, it would have been wiped out ompletely. Irish is a compulsory language in schools, form the day you start, until the day you leave. It’s also a compulsory element of being a teacher, working in the police force, etc - when I worked at the university I had to sit an exam to prove that I could teach in both languages. I agree that the way in which Irish has been taught in school needs a radical overhaul, as it’s taught in much the same way as English (literature, poetry, etc, rather than as a language), but it’s very much omnipresent in the school curriculum. There has been a huge revival in the Irish language in the past 20 years, with an Irish language TV channel broadcasting everything as gaeilge, including cartoons for the kids, Irish speaking radio stations, gaelscoils everywhere, not just in gaeltacht areas. In fact, when removing Irish from the Leaving Certificate (A-levels) as a compulsory subject was proposed a couple of years ago, Irish people went ballistic, and the idea was dropped.

Do I think that Ireland will revert back to a land where we all speack Irish as a first language, and only use English when absolutely necessary? Of course not. The internet, audio and visual media, and global commerce are all English oriented, and doing so would be a huge step backwards. But do I think that Irish will die out through neglect? Not for a second - the number of Irish people speaking Irish as a second language has increased dramatically over the past decade, and hopefully will continue to do so in the years to come.

Sorry mate, but this video a farce. At best ignorant, and at worst insulting. And I thought that youd be smarter than to believe it.




Someone on Reddit gave me a good laugh by making the comment that the young man was smart enough to teach himself Irish but not smart enough to look up Wikipedia to see what the national language is.

Look, colonialism did indeed cause the initial decline and near-extinction of Irish, and the language did bounce back in recent decades in terms of its recognition, mandatory education and TV/radio stations.

However, it’s a fact that Irish isn’t improving or thriving as a spoken language at all. The gaeltacht is in fact diminishing (thanks to a combination of Irish speakers emigrating out due to unemployment, and non-Irish speakers/people immigrating in). It’s also a fact that Irish doesn’t greatly increase employment opportunities in or outside of Ireland which also affects peoples’ desire to maintain it.

Outside of the gaeltacht people generally don’t speak or use Irish. My ex girlfriend from Cork knew how to spell, along with some common words and basic phrases but couldn’t understand TG4 or converse with anyone. All my other friends were the same. In fact, in an entire year living in Cork I encountered less than 5 fluent speakers in the big city, all of whom were over 50 years old. There were more speakers in West Cork when I was there but again, they were an old generation.

Although Irish is a strong national identity marker for many young people (people will react if it’s threatened by any form of legislation or outside interference of course) the reality is young people see no point in maintaining it as a spoken language. The same attitude exists in other parts of the world where an indigenous language has been displaced by another dominant language (e.g. Scotland, where despite similar efforts to keep the language alive, less than 1% of Scots care about maintaining their own language). It is a form of neglect.

The reason why I consider it a powerful message is that this young Chinese/Mongolian/whatever lad is more motivated to learn Irish than most Irish lads the same age.

Oh, and the inclusion of the Aussie guy in the film I didn’t really understand. Not sure if they were trying to accuse us of ignorance (people like to do that) or what but it was a bit unfair.

Benny Lewis

Benny Lewis

When I was in the Gaeltacht I met many foreigners whose level of Irish was incredibly high and better than mine. A bit of a shock at first to see those with different skin colours kick our own asses, but glad to see it happen.

The situation is poor in Ireland thanks to abysmal education that drills it into you robotically and is grammar focused. I actually quite disliked Irish myself until I humanised it by spending time socialising in the language.

Luckily more Irish language schools are cropping up, the language’s official status in Europe is helping and we now have Irish language TV, which we didn’t when I was a teenager. You can even watch Sponge Bob square-pants in Irish, which I think is a really important thing that academic-heads would dismiss.

I saw this video way back when I was in the Gaeltacht, but it’s always nice to see it get shared around.



Benny, what do you think of what Mike said about this in his comment below?

Both of you are from Galway.



Heartwarming and sad all at the same time. Great video that everyone should see. Thanks.

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