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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.


Jan. 5th, 2007 10:49 am (UTC)
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.
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,
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.
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.
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 . . .
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.
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.


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