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Learning Irish August 31, 2006

Posted by Rambling Man in Ag foghlaim na Gaeilge.
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It’s time to start learning a bit of Gaeilge again. Somewhere down in the far reaches of my brain there lies a bit of a grá for the language that was forced on us as children in the most boring and bland way you could ever imagine ! Can you remember ? Will I ever forget ? I’m ashamed I can’t speak, read or understand more than the absolute basics of our once thriving language.

Picture the scene – 20 something impressionable young kiddies sit in 1st class (1st grade, 1st form, year 1 – call it what you will) … we had minds like sponges , ready, willing and mostly able to soak up everything the education system could throw at us. If only we could make some room for … drum roll … the good old COMHRÁ. The jolly atmosphere in our co-ed classroom used to plummet each day after our morning break. Fresh from the yard we’d come, fuelled by fizzy orange and some now long redundant brand of biscuits and slump disheartened into our green and black moulded plastic chairs, knowing what was about to come. The comhrá – or conversation – which formed a basic cornerstone of the way our native language was instilled in us as children.

Looking back on it, I get depressed when considering the comhrá and how bad it actually was. We were taught by repetition, reinforced by gaudy cardboard cut out figures of Dadaí, Mamaí, na páistí agus an madra stuck to a black, pre-Velcro nylon board being moved around to supposedly stir in our minds all sorts of wonderful adventures and scenarios … all as Gaeilge, of course. The effect it had was the opposite and the only good to come from it was minor in terms of vocabulary. Ask any Irish child of the 80s who endured Irish as a “sit down and stare subject” – they can probably repeat at ease the immortal phrases “Tá Mamaí agus Dadaí ag dul go dtí an siopa. Tá Bran (the f*cking dog !) in aice leo.

So that’s the level of my Irish at the moment. It has only slightly improved since the days of my early youth. Over the past few weeks I have been trawling the web for a few sites dealing with learning Irish from the beginning (not necessarily beginner’s Irish) and have
come up with quite a few good resources. I’ve also started going to the bookshop at lunchtimes and reading the likes of “” or “Foinse“. There are also some very interesting articles around concerning the differences between Irish in different parts of Ireland and the sometimes high-and-mightiness of speakers as to whose dialect is better than others and so on …

I’m sure the road will be long and hard and sometimes a bit bearránach but deamaim mo dhícheall to speak a little bit more of the language in the months to come and expecially now since there’s a sprog on the way. And before anyone goes stone mad, as gaelgóireanna sometimes do with me, I know you can’t put English words in with Irishy words but sure didn’t we all understand the sentence ?

So I’m going to learn the language my way – and if that means that the native speakers I regularly encounter can’t understand me (i.e. I might as well be speaking Urdu) then that’ll be their problem – I’ll be learning for my own satisfaction.

Foclóir beag – A few translations

an Gaeilge n., pr. on Gale-geh ; Gaelic or Irish Gaelic or Irish ; the name of the Irish language, in Irish Gaelic.
Comhrá n., pr. ko-raw ; conversation ; a method of teaching Irish in 1980s, using cartoon cut-outs of family figures arranged into situations, which were then supposedly talked about.
Grá n., pr. graa ; love ; to have a grá for something means you have an affection for it. Phrase in common use in Hiberno-English.
Dadaí n., pr. dad-dee ; Dad.
Mamaí n., pr. mom-ee ; Mom.
na páistí coll. n., pr. neh pawsh-tee ; the children.
an madra n., pr. on mod-ra ; the dog ; he was always called ‘Bran’, which was Fionn macCumhaill’s dog.
an siopa n., pr. on shupp-a ; the shop or store.
n., pr. law ; literally meaning ‘day’ ; title of an Irish language daily newspaper.
Foinse n., pr. fween-sha ; literally meaning ‘source’ ; also the title of an Irish language newspaper.
bearránach adj., pr. barr-awn-och ; annoying.
deamaim mo dhícheall said expr., v., pr. day-nim muh yee-hull ; I will do my best.
gaelgóireanna coll. n., pr. gale-gore-enna ; native Irish speakers.

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Comments»

1. donal - August 31, 2006

Is breá liom an cur sios a dhéan tú ar Bhran. Is cuimhin liom an scéal ceanann céanna lá i ndiaidh lae. Go n-éiri leat agus tú ag foghlaim na Gaeilge aris.

2. Gary - September 1, 2006

God, I was so crap in school I don’t even remember really ever learning any Irish. Liom leat leis léi linn libh leo was about it I think.

Good luch anyway. and thanks for a new word I never herd:
bearránach.

gura míle

3. Gary - September 1, 2006

lol
“Good luck” was what I was supposed to say not “Good Luch”

4. cp1302ger - September 1, 2006

go raibh maith agat gary. thought you were writing it in a scouse accent !

a dhonal – Buíochas as ucht do thuairimí.
Cítear go bhfuil cuid mhaith spéise ar-líne sa teanga. Ar a laghad thigeas an méid atá scríte agat – measaim!

5. Gary - September 1, 2006

Tá scoth na Gaeilge agatsa cheana fhéin a Rambling Man. Beidh do thuras i bhfad Éireann níos éasca mar sin.

6. Rhys - September 5, 2006

Best of luck. I come across a lot of Welsh people who are now learning Welsh as adults, even though Welsh was/is taught as a subject at English medium schools. The reason they give for not being fluent are similar i.e. the teaching methods were less than inspiring. Were your teachers fluent Gaeilge speakers? We’re other people’s attitudes (that is your peers, family, general public, media etc) towards the language also a factor in you not doing so well would you say?

7. cp1302ger - September 5, 2006

Diolch Rhys – some teachers were native speakers and some weren’t – they all individually thought their form of Irish was better than every other one … with most of my peers (as would happen when you’re a kid), parents etc. the notion of irish as something you should nurture and maintain simply didn’t exist. i’d be interested to compare irish speakers and welsh speakers per head of population now, as wales is often held up as a good example of how people speak their native tongue while heavily under the influence of another …

8. Anthony - September 5, 2006

God, I hated Irish in school. I really resented being forced to sit through those classes. Bran! Actually, I still hate it – it sucks! English is a much better and more useful language, however nastily it was forced upon us.

9. donal - September 6, 2006

Why do you still hate it Anthony? You’re not forced to sit through any more boring classes or have it forced down your throat. Sure English is more useful as it is more widely spoken but there is still a place for Irish too. Also, I hated geography and was forced to sit through those classes but I don’t detest rivers and mountains and maps etc…

10. cp1302ger - September 6, 2006

i dont think we can say one language is “better” than another – for example, would you tell someone from Jamaica “the Queen’s English” is a more valid form of communication that the English they speak ?
I dont hate Irish or German or any language – for me Irish and trying to learn a bit more of it is about identity, pride and what makes us a bit different from the rest of the english speaking world

11. Anthony - September 6, 2006

No, you’re right, there’s really no reason for me to hate it any more. I guess I still have a lot of anger about my schooldays! I do resent the idea (not represented here, but certainly one I’ve come across) that people who speak Irish are somehow “more” Irish than those of us who don’t, or have no interest in doing so.

I don’t feel that it really is part of my identity. Irish identity is certainly sonmething I’ve thought about, living in America, and my conclusion is that it’s not something that has to be discovered or proved – it’s just something that is. I can no more define what it’s like to be Irish than I can tell you what it was like to have my parents. What is it like *not* to be Irish?

As to being different to the rest of the English speaking world, I find that the question is not “how are we different from them?” but “how are they different from us?” The drive to learn Irish, which is obviously a very common one amongst those of us who were heinously mis-taught it, seems to me to come from a place of uncertainty which is unjustified. I just don’t believe that you need to speak Irish to be Irish, or to be proud of being Irish.

12. cp1302ger - September 6, 2006

Anthony – thanks for the comments – i also don’t agree with that sentiment that people who speak Irish are somehow “more” Irish than those of us who don’t … in my opinion the irish language is however part of our identity and find it a shame that for reasons historical, it isn’t nowadays part of what defines us. and i wouldnt agree that my drive to learn the language now might come from a place of uncertainty – i just feel that it would immerse me a little bit more in nativeness (if i can put it like that) and help me diverge a little from the common-or-garden “westernised” ireland whose culture is only a little removed from other countries …

13. Anthony - September 7, 2006

Well, there you go – it would be my contention that Irish is not something you choose to be, it is something you are. Not feeling Irish enough isn’t going to be fixed by learning the language, it’s fixed by realising that you don’t have to believe the propaganda of those who have a vested interest (tax cuts, grants) in having the rest of us believe that those who speak Irish are special (ie more Irish) and need to be rewarded. The “westernised” Ireland *is* Ireland, and I don’t think it’s as indistinct from other countries as you seem to.

Obviously, I don’t know you at all apart from what I read here, so it would be foolish and arrogant of me to cast aspersions on your motives. There are plenty of good reasons to learn Irish, or any other minority language. I do feel that there’s a kind of institutionalised uncertainty over there about what being Irish means, and it’s entirely fabricated and pointless. Whatever you are, that’s what being Irish is – you don’t have to jump through hoops to upgrade your score.

Anyway, I see this is about to drop off the main page. Thanks for the discussion! I’ll check back.

14. cp - September 7, 2006

no bother anthony – thanks for the comments – its not un-irish I feel at all – just something i have an interest in.

15. aonghus - September 12, 2006

The argument “You/I think you/I are/am more Irish because you/I speak Irish” is one which I (as someone who grew up speaking Irish in Dublin) have only ever heard being proposed by someone who doesn’t speak Irish (and usually belongs to the “I Hate Irish Brigade, so how dare you like/speak/enjoy it).

Since it is in the category of the “Have you stopped beating your wife yet” questions, most Irish speakers will tend to shrug and ignore it.

Speaking Irish makes me more me. I don’t know anybody who has a recipe for the perfect Irish person.

But, as someone who spent 10 years abroad, I can understand and emphathise with, those who try (and many succeed) to learn Irish as a part of exploring who they are.

16. cp1302ger - September 12, 2006

thanks aonghus – you’ll note from the above that i also don’t agree with the “learning/speaking irish = being more irish” viewpoint – from a language and cultural point of view i would like to improve my knowledge

17. aonghus - September 12, 2006

Tá fhios agam sin. Ach tá an argóint seanchaite úd feicthe chomh minic agam….

Dála an scéil, an bhfaca tú seo:

http://ionad.org/rang/ (Eachtrannaigh ag foghlaim a lá Yu Ming!)

agus

http://www.gaelchultur.com/

18. cp1302ger - September 12, 2006

go raibh maith agat as na nascanna – féachaigh mé orthu níos deanaí

19. peter - November 5, 2007

i hate doing irish in school hav to do it and the teacher wont let me do foundation just gonna fail

20. Rambling Man - November 6, 2007

chin up peter. it might not be as bad as you think. good luck in your exams.


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