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Irish (Gaeilge)

 

Godmy

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Location:
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In a word: combination.

My father and his family were native speakers. In fact, English only came into his family in the twentieth century. His mother is the first member of the family to have learned some English according to the 1911 census. My dad wouldn't teach me since we lived in Scotland (think, The Troubles), but from the age of ten I took an interest in Gaeilge while on my annual three holidays to the family (Christmas two weeks, Easter two weeks, summer six weeks) in Donegal. I badgered my dad for bits now and again, and a supportive uncle gave me books (no recordings though :( ) and I muddled along till I was at uni. Then I started attending a summer Irish college for three weeks annually and it took off from there. I'd practise with my dad and anyone else I could kidnap for long enough, got proper grammar books, made videos of Irish TV when I was in Donegal, recorded elderly neighbours etc. and carried my annual caches back to Scotland to keep me going till my next trip. In 2001, I moved into a Gaeltacht in Ireland with over 90% Irish speakers at the time, attended Oideas Gael in the summer and listened to local radio.
That's awesome! What a journey! So, you were pretty much a potential bilingual native speaker.... but for the circumstances... you weren't :-/ But you caught up! I guess the Internet in the last decade or so and Youtube must seem as a blessing to you now!

Thanks^!
(I remember I "hacked" for you from somewhere some undownloadable Irish recording of some radio/podcast a few years ago :p)
 
 

Terry S.

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That's awesome! What a journey! So, you were pretty much a potential bilingual native speaker.... but for the circumstances... you weren't :-/ But you caught up! I guess the Internet in the last decade or so and Youtube must seem as a blessing to you now!

Thanks^!
(I remember I "hacked" for you from somewhere some undownloadable Irish recording of some radio/podcast a few years ago :p)
I remember and still have it!

It's a bugger not being a native speaker. Most of the time everything is fine then all of a sudden I realise there's something simple and idiomatic that I just don't know how to to say, or can't understand. As it happens, I have a friend who is a native speaker of the very rich dialect of Toraigh island, and who is now bilingual. But even after all the years of speaking and reading in English whenever she is on the mainland, there are still times when she gets tongue-tied and gives herself away as a non-native speaker of English.
 
 

Terry S.

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His mother is the first member of the family to have learned some English according to the 1911 census.
She was hired out aged eight to a farmer in an English-speaking area.
 
 

Godmy

Sīmia Illūstris

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Location:
Bohemia
Thanks for that sum up! I guess many of us must have thought how would it feel if we traveled to the classical-age Rome and how difficult it would be to adjust to start being comprehensible... even if we train oral Latin often. But that is far fetched of course, nonetheless, it's interesting to see how you fare... not that Irish is a dead language, but sometimes it gets the reputation of being on the grey line and for me at least it's incredibly exotic (in the right way).

If nothing else could be said about Enya, she does propagate the language well to other nations. I bet that 80% of foreigners around the world who otherwise have nothing to do with Ireland, Irish is for them a language they might have realized to have met through some Enya song ; P
 
 

Terry S.

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She's a brilliant ambassador for the language and for the region! We're lucky to have her and the whole Clannad group (or the survivors at least).
 
 

Terry S.

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Terry S.

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Agus codladh sámh!

sleep well

It's time bad boys were tucked up in bed. I have a very early rise tomorrow.
 

Clemens

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Maine, United States.
By the way, one of the things I like about Irish and Scottish Gaelic is the same thing I like about French: how they look in writing. I know it's totally subjective, but all three languages seem to me to have more aesthetically pleasing spelling than English.

Something else I just remembered from my old lessons: in Scottish Gaelic the negative version of tha is chan eil; in other words, "is" and "is not" do not resemble each other. Is this similar in Irish?

I once had the good fortune to hear Breton being spoken. It's a more distant relation to Irish, but this chat and my resurgent memories do make me think of how valuable it is to preserve the Celtic fringe, as a lot of cultural and linguistic information will be irretrievably lost if they are allowed to disappear.
 
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Terry S.

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Something else I just remembered from my old lessons: in Scottish Gaelic the negative version of tha is chan eil; in other words, "is" and "is not" do not resemble each other. Is this similar in Irish?
tha = tá

chan eil is (supposed to be) represented by chan fhuil (silent fh) in the very northern dialects of Donegal although my father didn't use it, and I've only heard it in Gort a'Choirce. It was more widespread in the past but those dialects have become extinct. e.g. William Neilson, a Presbyterian minister, in the early nineteenth century asserted it to be the ordinary negation ofin Co. Down.

The preverbal particles cha/chan/char are used in northern Donegal for negating a wide variety of other verbs and is impossible not to hear it when out and about over here. Everywhere to the south uses and níor, and níl (ní fhuil) for chan eil.

There is scholarly debate about whether cha/chan/char is an example of Scottish influence on Ulster Gaelic or something else. e.g. Hughes, AJ. Ulster Irish char as a reflex of Old Irish níconro rather than a Scottish import, Studia Celtica 225 - 258 1997. Professor Cathair Ó Dochartaigh had something to say on this too, but I don't have the reference to hand. I could dig it out if you are interested in following it up.
 

Clemens

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Location:
Maine, United States.
Nearly all the Irish people I've known have been from County Cork or the extreme west. I was under the impression that most native speakers of Irish are located there. Is that accurate?
 
 

Terry S.

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No, the SW of Munster, Cork and Kerry, is fading away into oblivion. It's a cultural tragedy. They gave us most of the literature of the eighteenth century and the Munster poets, and were the dialect grouping that had the biggest influence on the Modern Standard language. Nowadays, Conamara has the largest number of speakers, closely followed by Donegal.
 
 

Terry S.

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If I get time some of these months, I might put together a rough guide to learning Irish for Auslanders, according to what I think is the best bet for people with ties to no particular Gaeltacht or county. If someone wants to speak it with natives, I definitely don't recommend starting with the standard language. That's ok for reading and writing, but not much else IMHO.
 

Clemens

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Location:
Maine, United States.
Interesting. I believe standard Breton is also how nobody actually speaks.
 
 

Godmy

Sīmia Illūstris

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Location:
Bohemia
If I get time some of these months, I might put together a rough guide to learning Irish for Auslanders, according to what I think is the best bet for people with ties to no particular Gaeltacht or county. If someone wants to speak it with natives, I definitely don't recommend starting with the standard language. That's ok for reading and writing, but not much else IMHO.
That would be great!

I think [if I start learning it] I wouldn't mind getting to know the standard dialect as well, since I'm used to learning literary-only languages at this point and I seldom travel, but I quite recognize that the living dialects have potentially a bigger value and I would certainly put bigger emphasis on that, given the choice! I suppose that acquiring the literary dialect after that is not that hard?
 
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Terry S.

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It wouldn't be difficult at all to learn to read and write it. Just try hard never to learn to speak it!
 
 

cinefactus

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I'm sorry you missed out on that. Irish is fascinating, living as it does on the western edge of the pre-Columban Indo-European world. If you ever do decide to take up the cudgels again, give me a shout and I'll point you in the direction of some good resources.
@Terry S. One of my colleagues today was asking me about learning Irish—do you have a link to the resources I can point him towards?
 
 

Terry S.

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@Terry S. One of my colleagues today was asking me about learning Irish—do you have a link to the resources I can point him towards?
Working on it right now. Give me a couple of hours. I keep getting interrupted by people wanting me to do the work I'm paid for.
 
 

Terry S.

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What I'm recommending below isn't how I learned Irish, although I have used all of the resources listed in one way or another over the years. I suppose you could say that this little learning programme is how I would do it if I had to start from scratch again, and had no attachment to Donegal.

For the absolute beginner with no attachment to any particular part of Ireland I earnestly recommend beginning with the dialect(s) of Conamara, the dialect of Cois Fhairrge in particular. The reasons are laid out by Mícheál Ó Siadhail in his book Learning Irish.

Two hundred years ago a good speaker of Irish, travelling slowly from Kerry to Antrim (and on to the north of Scotland), could have spoken the language all the way and noticed only minute dialectal changes as he passed from place to place. One dialect shaded into another in the most gradual fashion. Today, however, the Irish-speaking areas are separated geographically by wide stretches of English-speaking territory, and their dialects would seem fairly distinct to a man going from one Irish-speaking area to another. A good speaker of any dialect can, with a little practice, understand any other fully, but the old linguistic and communicative bridges between them have fallen, and they have tended to drift apart. We may hope that this drift has been stopped in recent years by broadcasting in Irish and by increased social contact between people from the various Gaeltachtaí.

In such circumstances, what sort of Irish should one teach to beginners? A dialect must be used, for though there has been one Official Standard of Irish spelling since 1945, there is as yet no standard pronunciation. No one dialect, however, has established itself as socially superior. A choice must be made.

The Irish in this book with regard to pronunciation and grammar is based on that of Cois Fhairrge, Co. Galway, and the necessary vocabulary is that which might be expected from a native speaker who has assimilated a modicum of newly-coined terms. The dialect of Cois Fhairrge has some decided advantages for the learner, since it has a relatively large number of native speakers. Furthermore, it has been more fully described linguistically than any other dialect.
In addition to what Ó Siadhail says, Conamara lies between the Ulster dialects and the Munster dialects and its central position makes it easier to cope with these than say an Ulster speaker trying to figure out what a Kerryman is saying and vice versa.

The first item on the list is a must-buy and keep handy forever. Learning Irish by Mícheál Ó Siadhail (Yale). This book teaches the dialect of Cois Fhairrge through grammar and not by parroting. I think that makes it unique in Irish learner materials. (Art Hughes is trying the same for Donegal but all his stuff hasn't yet been published.) Get the CDs as well; they are essential. The book comes with a pull-out at the back on Irish pronunciation. I say, start there and master it before going any further regardless of how long it takes. If you don't master Irish pronunciation from the start only other learners will understand you, and you can expect nothing but blank looks from native speakers. There is a free workbook by Nancy Stenson that goes with it. http://phouka.com/stenson/LI-01.htm

More pronunciation: http://www.fuaimeanna.ie/en/Recordings.aspx The website is free to use, but the book costs money. Not a lot of point in buying the book straight away since it's written entirely in Irish. Use the middle column for the pronunciation of An Ceathru Rua. It's great for nailing down a particular sound that you might be hearing in the other recordings.

https://routledgetextbooks.com/textbooks/colloquial/language/irish.php Again, recordings are free, books are to buy/borrow/steal. I'd suggest downloading all the audio right from the start and listening to it constantly in the background during the months you are working conscientiously through Learning Irish. Perhaps look for copies of the books in a library when Learning Irish is finished; they are no substitute, but a useful supplement, not to mention good preparation for a visit to the Conamara Gaeltacht.

https://www.focloir.ie/ Get the free app. I don't think dictionaries are too much of a help for the total beginner in Irish (just stick with the vocabularies provided until they are fully assimilated), but this dictionary provides pronunciation links for most words in all three major dialect groupings. Just click on the C for Connacht and you'll get something useable for Cois Fhairrge.

Listen to programmes from Conamara on Raidió na Gaeltachta https://www.rte.ie/radio/rnag/

Look for Ros na Rún on Youtube. Some of the early episodes contain a bad mixture of Irish and English in an attempt to reflect how a lot of Irish speakers actually speak. Just ignore the Béarlachas and look out for the good Conamara speakers. It's a soap which contains all the usual stuff - murder, rape, coming out, euthanasia, infidelity, incest, theft, slander - everything you've seen on your own local soaps, only in Irish. I don't think they've done cannibalism yet, though. To reflect the local culture there's even a dodgy priest who... well, watch it for yourselves.

More money: If you have cash to splash buy Leabhar Mór Bhriathra na Gaeilge by AJ Hughes. It's expensive, but worth every penny. It's your usual paradigm verb book for learners, but Hughes has taken the trouble to give complete examples in the Ulster, Muster, Connacht dialects, and in the modern standard too. Do not buy the abridged edition. This gives only the modern standard and that would just confuse a learner using the above texts. To be fair, the abridged version is a godsend for schoolkids doing the standard language at school rather than lugging around the tome that is the full version.

When all that is done the learner should be ready for a visit to a Gaeltacht Summer School. http://www.colaistenaomheanna.ie/ https://www.colaistegharumna.ie/

Advanced: The Irish of Cois Fhairrge, Co. Galway, and, Gaeilge Chois Fhairrge, An Deilbhíocht, both by T. de Bhaldraithe. These are both mid-20th century academic studies and definitely to be borrowed rather than bought except by the clinically obsessed.

Last piece of unsolicited advice: Don't try to express yourself in the learning stages. That can wait till later. Instead, listen to how native speakers express themselves in everyday matters.
 
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