Sunday, April 8, 2007

Smaionte: Encouragement for we learners of Irish.

These cupla focal are from the Yahoo group going through Mairead Ní Ghrada's stolid but compact and blessedly even able to be opened and easily read (cf. my comments last month in my Donna Wong book review in turn on Eamonn Ó Dónaill's fine content but woefully bound paperback "Teach Yourself Irish Grammar") "Progress in Irish." An old dependable primer for straightforward school "caighdean/ official standard" drill. I am deeply enmeshed in the Sargasso Sea of all Irish texts, Mícheál Ó Siadhail's misleadingly titled "Learning Irish: An introductory self-tutor." I am on chapter 18, after a year and a bit more, of the thirty chapters. I am liking the little texts to translate at the end of each chapter, but the exercises of English into Irish take me hours. Then, I use Nancy Stenson's helpful if also (as in the Ch. 18 section) equally opaque intellectual workouts with directions and then answers half understood. The fact that both Stenson and Ó Siadhail are reportedly error-ridden does not help matters. I share the letter-writer's urge as stated below to toss book at wall, then repeat. But like him I keep on keeping on, giota beag agus beaginin. Adh mor oraibh freisin!

LI is a long march through a sludgy type, tiny italics, and topical terrain full of bogs and sumps, and maddeningly frustrating in Ó Siadhail's oblivious lack of reader-friendly pedagogical encouragement. (I reviewed it too, unfavorably compared to the even denser but better written guide by Wong.) Given my own Old & Middle English, classical & medieval Latin, and Spanish courses over the years, adding bits of Hebrew and Greek, why so many headbanging moments with Irish? Yes, it is much more difficult than those other languages. Why stick with it? Same reason I did the Ph.D. I must finish this challenge and not let it defeat me. Do marathon runners love and hate what they train for? Think of LI as proto/anti-ALS.

Lately I have been encouraged by the handy Blas BBC NI site for us beginners, Gíota Beag, and the "little bit" of ten-minute lessons I have uploaded finally last week to my iPod after a wee bit o' technical difficulties. This kind of approach helps me hear some Ulster Irish in snippets, and I like the heavy Norn Iron "blas" of the presenter, chuckling Fearghal Mag Uiginn. Interviews and supplemental material for more advanced students also appears. Among others, a talk with Wong. She pops up again, included as not the first Californian I have heard-- hi Carrie!-- who's picked up a giota beag of a vowel shift towards the North herself amidst her otherwise demotic standard flat Western American (which in the belt Cal is in is the same accent belting the center of the US from Pennsylvania to the Pacific). Listen to the clips, read the lessons, and see for yourself. The Blas site is mentioned in passing below, but the fuller URL is:

Well, this Yahoo re-post cheered me up. If you are a learner or considering being or helping one, or curious why anybody bothers to try to wrap their noggin or tongue around Gaeilge, read on. Even if you do not fit into any of these categories, Éamon's reply to Gearóid's a nifty glimpse into how Irish syntax differs from English and how in "Hiberno-English" it echoes.

I thought that this message from the Gaeilge-B list from 2 years ago,might be worth a read, plus the reply to it, further below.

Gearóid-----Original Message-----From: Lucht Foghlamtha na Gaeilge [mailto:gaeilge-b@...] OnSent: 18 January 2005 11:26

To: GAEILGE-B@...Subject: An encouragement for beginners.

About 9 months ago I decided to learn Irish and sought out learning material and lists like this one. I was determined that I was going to learn it. However after an initial phase of enjoying the odd phrase I could now say when greeting people or asking for a pint in the pub, I started to becomeworried at what seemed unsurmountable grammar and unfeasable pronunciation.

Nonetheless I stuck with it and continued learning phrases with the help of the Blas website on the and CDs and books . These phases between determination and despondency went in a kind of loop , sometimes in frustration I would swear to put my study books on ebay , shouting at the screen that this was an 'anti-language' and made no sense.

But something happened a couple of days ago that I wanted to share with other beginners. I am still at a very basic conversation stage and have along way to go but suddenly I can see how things fit in to place and why the grammar takes the seemingly strange paths it does. It was like a light coming on and I am now looking forward to advancing with my ability in Irish. I guess what I'm saying is that if anyone is struggling and feeling the same frustrations, and feels like chucking it in then have hope becuase itdoes eventually become clearer and less overwhelming. It's just unfamiliarity with the subject that makes it seem such a tall wall to climb. Now I feel that all I have in front of me is a language to learn and not the superhuman task I was afraid it might be. My hope now is that in about 6 months time I will be able to come back andwrite about my progress as Gaeilge ! Keep on keeping on.

Is mise, Gearóid<------------------------->

Subject: Re: An encouragement for beginners. From: Éamon Jeffers <eamon_jeffers@...>Reply-To: =?iso-8859-1?Q?=C9amon_Jeffers?= <eamon_jeffers@...>Date: Tue, 18 Jan 2005

Togha fir, a Ghearóid, Nach raibh an fhadhb chéanna agamsa féin agus mise ag iarraidh an Ghaeilge a fhoghlaim anseo i Londain blianta ó shin. I ndáiríre, níl gramadach na Gaeilge chomh casta sin: aidiacht i ndiaidh ainm fhocail, an comórtas idir 'is' agus 'tá', agus dosaen briathair neamhrialta - tá na céadta i mBéarla. Is ionann iad an nua-litriú agus an fhuaim, ach tá a chuid rialacha féin ag an nGaeilge agus ag an mBéarla. Ar ndóigh, níl baint mhór idir stór fhocal na Ghaeilge agus stór fhocal an Bhéarla. Níl an dara rogha ann ach iad a fhoghlaim de ghlan mheabhair. Ina dhiaidh sin, níl ort ach glacadh le meon na nGael. Agus is dó
igh liom gurb é sin an fáth a thosaigh tú ar fhoghlaim na Gaeilge i dtús báire! Éamon

[MORE OR LESS 'FOCAL AR FHOCAL' (word for word)

Good (choice) man, Gearóid.

Wasn't the same problem at me self and me at trying the Irish to learn here in London years ago. Really {in earnestness), Irish grammar isn't that complicated (twisted): adjective in afterness of noun, the contrast (competition) between 'is' and 'tá', and a dozen irregular (unruly) verbs-there are (the) hundreds in English. It's identical they (are) the modern (new) spelling and the sound, but Irish and English have their own (share of) rules. Of course, there isn't a great connection between the vocabulary (word-store) of Irish and the vocabulary of English. There's no option (no second choice) but they a-learning by heart (of clear mind?). After that, you've nothing to do (there isn't on you?) but adopt (accept) the mentality (temperament?) of the Gaels. And I suppose (it's probable with me) that is the reason you started on learning of Irish in the first place!


1 comment:

Miss Templeton said...

You seem to be well versed in the existing language textbooks and the wider community of thosing learning. Would you say the field has room for another guide?

Two points to consider. It would be a very basic, beginner's sort of a guide with the benefit of a major, well-established branding behind it (but possibly not 'scholarly enough' for the established student, so a certain amount of criticism should be factored into the marketing equation).

And secondly, the major publisher will need some indication of the potential audience for said guide. Although it could be acceptable to state that guide and marketing will foster new audience and contribute to global appreciation of cultures/languages/etc.

Hmmm...This isn't a bad idea for the whole family of smaller languages out there btw.