Dumb it down
Does it really cost more if you text a cúpla focail?
An RTÉ report last night claimed that it costs more money to send a text message as gaeilge than in English. But is it true and do people actually text each other in Irish?
So does it really cost more if you send a text message in Irish?
It does and it doesn’t. You won’t be charged anything extra just because you’re using Ireland’s native tongue, just like you wouldn’t be charged for texting in French or German. However, you will be charged extra for any special characters that you use.
Oh right. So what exactly are special characters then?
Special characters are all those funny looking letters that you never really use in your everyday life – unless you’re a gaeilgoir, of course. Fadas are considered to be special characters because apparently they take up more data than normal letters, so when you type a message with a fada you’re reducing the number of characters that you can use.
Really? Can I check that out for myself?
You sure can. Here’s a little experiment to try at home: go into your phone’s message settings and turn on the ‘character count’ function which will tell you how many characters you have left when you’re writing a text. If you have a mobile phone on an Irish network then you’ll find that your message starts off with 160 characters. However, as soon as you add in a special character, like a fada, the number of characters you have left magically decreases to just 70. So if you were to send a message that’s 160 characters long and includes just one fada, then you’ll end up paying for three separate text messages.
Wow, so you really are charged extra for writing in Irish?
Well, like we said above, you’re being charged for using a special character. It would be the same if you wrote a message in any language that required one.
Ah right, so it’s not specific to Irish words?
No. It’s not.
But seriously, who texts in Irish these days?
Lots of people, actually. All the kids in the gaeltacht are surely texting each other and texting home to mammy as gaeilge… But in all seriousness, Gaelscoileanna Teo, a support body for Irish primary schools, told the Irish Independent how they regularly send group texts to parents and only recently have they become aware of the real costs.
Ouch… I’d say they were delighted to see the bill come in. So do other countries have to pay extra for their funny letters?
Strangely enough, no they don’t. According to regulations in Turkey, both mobile phone makers and network operators must allow mobile devices to use Turkish characters without an extra charge. If the device doesn’t allow the use of special characters without the user having to incur an extra charge then the phone can't be sold. According to the Irish Independent, similar initiatives have taken place in Spain and Portugal so we can’t really see why they can’t do it here.
So it’s not illegal for mobile companies to charge more just for using a fada?
No. Vodafone and O2 yesterday said that they conform to the standards set out by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute. So they’re not doing anything wrong according to the law.