?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

an béal bocht

Grrrr. In today's Grauniad, Manchán Magan (whom I have interviewed, and who is extremely nice) writes about his attempt to travel around our native land speaking only as Gaeilge, to the general confusion and, surprisingly, wrath of his (and my) compatriots. No, this isn't what has provoked my growling. What annoyed me was the subhead, in which, despite the fact that Magan refers to the language as 'Irish' throughout the piece, our supposed native language is refered to thus:
Gaelic is the first official language of Ireland, with 25% of the population claiming to speak it. But can that true? To put it to the test, Manchán Magan set off round the country with one self-imposed handicap - to never utter a word of English

Except of course Gaelic isn't the first official language - Irish is. God! I know that lots of people in Britain think that the language is called Gaelic, but they're not going to learn anything by being given inaccurate information.

Interesting piece, though. I was surprised by how hostile people apparently were to Magan's Irish-speaking - it seems very odd that people would get so aggressive when asked for a drink as Gaeilge, and I don't really think it's becasue they're so ashamed of their lack of Irish. But I have no idea whether these reactions are typical or not, as, like most of us, I've never spoken Irish to strangers outside of the Gaeltacht.

Comments

( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
socmot
Jan. 5th, 2007 10:47 am (UTC)
I know how you feel - it drives me *nuts* when people say Gaelic. It's like saying "Chinese" - there are multiple dialects of under both headings!

This has been doing the round on Metafilter (http://www.metafilter.com/mefi/57509) and I repeat my 2 cent here -

"Tá brón orm, mar ní mé ábalta ag caint as Gaeilge".
(I'm sorry, but I am unable to speak Irish).

I have a few basic words of the language, but took care to learn that one off, just in case I was ever spoken to with the intent of having a conversation.

Manchán (who does make very good documentaries) might not like to read this, but the fact is that like me, most Irish people speak English, were reared in English, work in English-speaking employment and will never use the Irish that was forced on them in their schooldays recreationally - which is a large part of the problem - in Ireland there is no choice to learn Irish. We are required to do so in school, and the syllabus is very dry (or it was 10 years ago, when I finished school). I can actually speak better Spanish and French than I can Irish, most likely because the syllabi in school for those two languages was better than the Irish one.

As an afterthought, I can't find an Irish version of Manchán's site! Interesting.
stellanova
Jan. 5th, 2007 11:04 am (UTC)
Yeah, Irish is taught horrendously - I definitely have much better German than Irish (and that's not just because of studying it at university - my knowledge of German grammar was better than my Irish grammer by the time I left school - as was my knowledge of Latin grammar). My spoken Irish used to be pretty good but that was purely from being a cinnire in a strict summer Irish college - and I had a very good Irish teacher for the Leaving, which helped.

Well done for coming up with a polite way to explain yourself in the native tongue to would be Irish conversationalists! But I think "in ann Gaeilge a labhairt" might be better there - caint is talk and labhairt is speak.
daegaer
Jan. 5th, 2007 11:08 am (UTC)
It definitely says something about the teaching of the language when I can get by (hilariously incompetently, I have to admit) in France despite not thinking about French for over 20 years, but I literally could not order so much as a sandwich as Gaeilge in Trí D, to my shame (and starvation).
hfnuala
Jan. 5th, 2007 10:49 am (UTC)
Grrrr
Interesting piece but the vocab at the end persists in one of the most comfusing bit of wrong headedness when teaching someone basic Irish - telling them Sea is the same as yes. It isn't and if you think it is you will always struggle with proper sentences.

That said if someone came up to me and spoke Irish I would really struggle. Without the base level of reminder you get from biligual signs in Ireland my Irish has disappeared. But I would at least try.
stellanova
Jan. 5th, 2007 10:55 am (UTC)
Re: Grrrr
Interesting piece but the vocab at the end persists in one of the most comfusing bit of wrong headedness when teaching someone basic Irish - telling them Sea is the same as yes.

I know! And the fact that we don't really have a word for yes has of course strongly influenced Hiberno-Irish.

You might be surprised at the extent of your Irish skillz, though. When I did that piece last year about going back to the Gaeltacht and spoke Irish all day for the first time since 1993, I was frankly amazed by how easy it got by the end of just a single day. My main problem was putting in German words,
daegaer
Jan. 5th, 2007 11:10 am (UTC)
Re: Grrrr
My main problem was putting in German words,

Yes! Me too! Not French, not Hebrew, just German. Clearly there is a mad linguistic theory lurking there somewhere.
cangetmad
Jan. 5th, 2007 11:22 am (UTC)
Re: Grrrr
Ooh, I'd love to know what the crucial factor is - people do seem to want to substitute only one language's words into another, and often it's obvious (Italian into Spanish, or whatever), but there must be a triggering factor. I used to put Latin into Japanese, I think. Word order? Phonemic system? Something triggers something.
daegaer
Jan. 5th, 2007 11:38 am (UTC)
Re: Grrrr
The similar gutteral consonants, perhaps? Though that should have me sticking Hebrew in all over the place, hmm . . .
hfnuala
Jan. 5th, 2007 11:23 am (UTC)
Re: Grrrr
I think I would manage after a bit - in a couple of days I'd be fine. But living in English-speaking Ireland still keeps up your vocab because the Irish is there round you all the time - I occasionally try and say something to my mum in Irish and blank after 2 words because while I know the structure of what I'm trying to say I'll be remembering french words instead. Very frustrating.

My Dad's Irish is very good. He went along to a Gaelscol for some reason or other a while ago and came back complaing about the poor quality Irish the teachers spoke.
leedy
Jan. 5th, 2007 11:23 am (UTC)
Re: Grrrr
My main problem was putting in German words

That reminds me of the week before my Irish and French orals - I remember literally not knowing what language was going to come out when I opened my mouth.

The last time I rediscovered my Gaeilge was in the markets in Marrakech - it became a very handy means of discussing whether we were getting an item at a good price, or whether we liked it, without any of the stallholders (many of whom had a few words of English) understanding us. I was pretty impressed by how much of it I remembered, in particular my ability to discuss jewellery and bags.

(Of course, then there was the shopkeeper who immediately beamed and shouted "Céad míle fáilte!".....)

We also had a great night out in Prague on our band tour, where we started talking Irish in order to avoid being identified with/talked to by a noisy English stag party - I remember the fluency increasing rapidly after a few pints.
nwhyte
Jan. 5th, 2007 11:31 am (UTC)
I don't speak a word of it (having been offered German and Latin instead at school). But the "Gaelic" thing really annoys me too.
tenderhooligan
Jan. 5th, 2007 11:43 am (UTC)
My friend just emailed me this piece from the Guardian website and I thought the same, 'what is this Gaelic everyone thinks we speak?'

Annoying.
biascut
Jan. 5th, 2007 11:57 am (UTC)
I always end up in an awkward situation over that one - I said to my schoolfriends at Christmas that I was learning Irish, and the Supermodel said, "What do you mean, Irish? Like, talking with an Irish accent and Irish words, or actually Gaelic?" And it's really difficult for me to say, "Actually, everyone calls it Irish" without sounding really know-it-all. aaargh!

Also, I was in the pub last Tuesday and asked for a glass of water and an old bloke (to whom, had I been learning what the Supermodel thought Irish was, I would refer as "an ould fella") turned to me and said, "Uisce! Uisce!" So, apparently, Brogans on Dame Street is the place to go...
biascut
Jan. 5th, 2007 01:50 pm (UTC)
Also, I really want some Gaelscoileanna-slang speaking children now.
mollydot
Jan. 5th, 2007 06:13 pm (UTC)
I think I'd clarify by saying "The Irish language".
daegaer
Jan. 6th, 2007 04:46 pm (UTC)
This summer in Reading I was asked much the same sort of thing, the questioner not seeming to get the hang of "actual language" till I said (as Gaeilge) "Irish is a real language, with words!" At least I think I said that. Anyway, there was much goggling all round, including by me, as a lot of dhrink had been taken by then, and even English was failing me.
slovobooks
Jan. 5th, 2007 12:27 pm (UTC)
A Pain in the Erse
I am, by most definitions, a native Irish speaker. I could speak Irish before I could speak English as a child, I attended Irish-language schools for both primary and secondary education, and my father actually earned his living speaking Irish, first as a school teacher, and then as one of the very few full-time Irish language news-readers in RTÉ. Despite all this, my family speak English amongst ourselves, and I could pass entire years without needing to speak a single word of Irish.

I feel comfortable putting myself down as an Irish speaker on the census form, even if it is all a bit rusty for the first few minutes, but I strongly suspect that, like the people who mark themselves down as Catholic, despite having no interest or belief in their supposed religion, nor having voluntarily seen the inside of a church (outside the obligatory births, marriages and deaths, and possibly a drunken Midnight Mass or two at Christmas (and don't even get me started on the utter hypocrisy of people insisting on getting married in church when neither of them have a shred of belief between them...)), people who mark themselves down as Irish speakers without having a single word to their name do this out of some sort of romanticized vision of themselves as they'd like to imagine they are, rather than a strict adherence to the facts.

I think the hostility to being spoken to in Irish is the belief that someone is trying to make a point about you, rather than their desire to make a point about themselves. After all, if someone insists on speaking to you in Irish, when you know they must know how to speak English, it's pretty obvious they're doing it to make some sort of point, and most people don't like finding themselves in the middle of a situation they don't understand. And of course there's the fact that most Irish people have a love-hate relationship with the language, and get extremely flustered (and there fore agitated, and defensive) when actually forced to demonstrate their complete and utter inability to put two words together.

One of the interesting things that comes out of people finding out that I can speak Irish is the amount of them that tell me that this must be wonderful, and how much they wish they could speak it too, although, with one single exception in more than perhaps thirty years of being told this, none of them ever do anything about it. This wish to speak it genuinely baffles me, as, as I said, I get no use out of it, and is really no more than an ornamental flourish, interesting but ultimately useless, much like the much vaunted Mahogany Gaspipe. it's all romantic pish, really, and it is my firm belief that the language will eventually finally die out, and should be let do so.

And, oh by god yes, it's is extremely annoying to have people ask if me if I can speak Gaelic.
leedy
Jan. 5th, 2007 01:18 pm (UTC)
Re: A Pain in the Erse
I think the hostility to being spoken to in Irish is the belief that someone is trying to make a point about you, rather than their desire to make a point about themselves. After all, if someone insists on speaking to you in Irish, when you know they must know how to speak English, it's pretty obvious they're doing it to make some sort of point, and most people don't like finding themselves in the middle of a situation they don't understand. And of course there's the fact that most Irish people have a love-hate relationship with the language, and get extremely flustered (and there fore agitated, and defensive) when actually forced to demonstrate their complete and utter inability to put two words together.

I was thinking that too when I was reading the article - I can see how people would interpret it as being some sort of accusation. I also thought it was interesting how many people under- or overestimate their competency in Irish, possibly because they never have that "sink or swim" experience that you get when, eg, speaking French in France. Most people have never had to put their Irish to a meaningful test, apart from the rather unrealistic situation of state exams.

There was a character in an otherwise slightly rubbish RTE comedy show recently who showed up in various situations (being held up at gunpoint, calling the fire brigade, etc.) insisting on being spoken to in the first national language, including the immortal line "Abair leis an lámh, níl an aghaidh ag eisteacht"[1] (I think - excuse possibly dodgy spelling) - kind of a funny take on the same situation.

[1]"Talk to the hand, the face ain't listening."
barsine
Jan. 5th, 2007 07:56 pm (UTC)
Re: A Pain in the Erse
I think the hostility to being spoken to in Irish is the belief that someone is trying to make a point about you, rather than their desire to make a point about themselves. After all, if someone insists on speaking to you in Irish, when you know they must know how to speak English, it's pretty obvious they're doing it to make some sort of point, and most people don't like finding themselves in the middle of a situation they don't understand. And of course there's the fact that most Irish people have a love-hate relationship with the language, and get extremely flustered (and there fore agitated, and defensive) when actually forced to demonstrate their complete and utter inability to put two words together.

I was thinking this too while I read the article. In work we sometimes have to deal with Irish-language bodies, and their complete refusal to speak in English, or supply relatively complex forms in English, gets really frustrating. I think I find it so enraging because I KNOW they can speak English and are just making a point ... maybe I am guilty and ashamed of my lack of language proficiency though, because I never get as agitated about dealing with French companies etc etc
mollydot
Jan. 5th, 2007 06:21 pm (UTC)
Re: A Pain in the Erse
the utter hypocrisy of people insisting on getting married in church when neither of them have a shred of belief between them

Speaking as one of those hypocrites, I did it because there wasn't yet a non-religious option that's a proper ceremony. I've been to a registry office wedding, and it just wasn't the same. The registrar was giggly, it was over quickly, and you had to hang around almost queuing beforehand. I've also been to a non-religious ceremony in Scotland, and I would have like something like that. I believe we're getting the option of hotels and stately houses, or maybe it's already there, but as far as I'm aware, it wasn't possible two years ago.
I can't guarantee we would have taken that option had it been there, as his family is religious (his uncle said the Mass), but it would have been mooted by me.

My defense was "I'm a cultural Catholic" and also "I never said I wasn't a hypocrite".

Anyway, that's kind of getting off topic, so I'll shut up now.

mollydot
Jan. 5th, 2007 06:10 pm (UTC)
Have you seen Yu Ming is ainm dom? Lovely little film.
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )

Profile

fat pony like thunder
stellanova
The Monkey Princess

Latest Month

July 2009
S M T W T F S
   1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031 

Tags

Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Cindy S.