Thursday, September 4, 2008

Recommendations for Irish-language Learners.

An Amazon reader of my Irish-language language resources review asked me about simpler materials for advanced beginners than "Turas Teanga." Here's most of my response. I post it here in case others roaming cyberspace may find it useful.

Thanks for the kind note. I assume that you have seen my Listmania! selections on Amazon under "Learning Irish Gaelic"? This list may answer many questions.

I have not used the Eurotalk, although I have not heard that it's very deep; "Teach Yourself Irish" is considered ok, and there are newer related materials, by the way, "TY Irish Conversation" (not tested by me yet) and a great book (crummy binding however) by Eamon Ó Donaill called "TY Irish Grammar" that I would recommend. Indeed, Irish is daunting, and I make myself do as a mental workout twice weekly short paragraphs on my blog that I then translate, sort of, into stilted English that tries to reflect how I must think differently in Irish. It doesn't get much easier, but with time and practice I do find the irregular verbs are beginning to stick.

Here's some recommendations that have helped me. All except the first one I mention should be linked by my Amazon List. The one that is not is a "glance card"-- for easy reference, two sides, color, found in some Irish import stores that stock language materials or found at Oideas Gael's on-line shop in Donegal. I keep it by my side as I write. Also, a helpful verb paradigm book is "Briathra na Gaeilge" by Ó Murchú, a small paper booklet-- this may be sold only in Ireland and probably cannot be found in America.

Now, to materials that you can find via the List. I went two weeks to OG last summer and was overwhelmed! As a self-taught book learner, the emphasis on spoken Irish floored me, and many of my adult classmates were natives refreshing their school skills. Still, it exposed me to the rhythms, and there's a new CD with material from OG staff and other fluent speakers, "Spoken Irish," with a textbook out that I have purchased that may help at an intermediate level. My interest is not in conversing so much as reading, so OG may be better suited for a learner like you who wants to chat away in Irish! It's a great place with fine teachers, a bit harrowing for me who despite being a teacher as a student again became very nervous in the classroom! Liam, the director, is a devoted and admirable man. If you go, tell him I sent you! You can find out much more about OG on their website.

If you want Kerry Irish, there's a place down by Ballyferriter, and if it's Connacht, there's the Maírtín Ó Cadhain center in Carraroe. Steve Fallon in a book I review, "Travels with Alice," went there. The book's hard to find and unevenly written but I recommend it along with the accounts by immersion learners in Darerca Ní Chartuir's overview of the Irish language and its background. That book has info on the other adult schools. You can also go to Dublin and take classes there from Conradh na Gaeilge in the city center over a period of weeks. These appear the basic options. Other schools "exist" on the Net but they do not appear to be still in existence!

Books that might help? See the List, but I would not go for the commonly found Michael Ó Siadhail "Learning Irish" unless you like linguistics. I know students that love this, but it's dry and technical. I progressed 2/3 of the way through, and it did prepare me for the grammar, but it's dull. The Pimsleur 8 CDs barely will get you to order a drink in a pub. But they may be good for driving when you can repeat the phrases out loud.

For my purposes, wanting to understand grammar, I need more print help. The Irish Grammar Books by McGonagle (smaller form)/ Mac Conghaile (detailed edition) and the quirky "Beginner's Irish" by Gabriel Rosenstock are both useful references; Donna Wong's misleadingly titled "Learner's Guide to Irish" is really a grammar book, but I do use it as a reference a lot. As an American learner, she's more aware of what people like us get confused by. It's an expensive book probably only found in Ireland (CoisLife publisher) but it's a good investment. My teachers at OG tended to diminish books and suggested listening to radio and TV via the Net. and I admit I don't do this enough.

I wish there were more podcasts. I tried a year ago to find some, and you can search on my blog for the entry and two links. The BBC-Northern Irish site ironically beats hands down any other Irish site for learners. Download "Gíota Beag" and while simple, this series of short programs that you can upload to an MP3 or iPod will be perfect for you. Not that advanced, but hearing the strong Ulster accents in English and Irish will probably never leave your mind! BBC-NI is full of helpful materials that you can read, play with as games, and listen to. Highly recommended, and free...

I would strongly suggest listening to a show on the Net at TnG or RTÉ such as the soap opera "Ros na Rún" or Des Bishop's bilingual "In the Name of the Fada." These may have subtitles, that also help. A CD from the OG shop, "Gearrscealta," also can help-- it's six short films in Irish with subtitles in English. One, "Yu Ming Is Ainm Dom," can be seen for free from Atom Films on the net. I have a link to it from my blog page if you see it on the taglines on the right margin and go way down. My page also has many reviews of Irish-language learning materials, especially posted last year.

Rosetta Stone just came out with the Irish one, and I wish you could find out more about it. I think the same template is used for every language (the demo uses Turkish!): words superimposed on images that you match. The complaint is that learning the name for a camel is not that helpful for many other languages in this one-size-fits-all approach. I guess it's more of a home-schoolers or business exec's vocabulary builder. Not sure how grammar and sentences come into it, and the demo does not give you much to go on for a $200 product.

There's a simple, DOS only program from Liberation Software in Toronto that drills you in vocabulary that I have used. Extremely bare-bones, but good for the flash-card type of approach. The kind of item a grad student might benefit from, and there's even Old Irish as another option. You need the basics to use it, but it will reinforce the vocabulary. Transparent Language sells a 30-language or so (with Irish) Vocabulary Builder that uses flash cards and picture drawings on a simple CD-Rom. They also have an "Learn Irish Now!" CD-Rom that I tried but lacking a microphone never really got much into. You might check it out as it's cheaper than RS. I have a ten-year old version of LI, so it may be snazzier now. There's also a CD-ROM "Learn Irish" that I got a decade ago (originally from the Welsh label Sain) but again, without the mike, could not get the hang of; it also had annoying sound effects. "Turas Teanga" is too high a level for the likes of high-beginners, you are correct. I wish you could see subtitles in Irish on it, to get used to matching sounds to letters. For me, this is an overlooked element for such a visual learner as myself.

Bishop's series is recommended if you can handle the barrage of expletives. He's a New York stand-up comedian who moved to Ireland as a teenager and learned Irish at Carraroe in Connemara in a year. On the on-line magazine "Beo" published by OG, you can look up under "Agallamh Beo" an Irish interview with him; interviews each month help learners with extensive glossaries. For some reason, I found Bishop's a bit easier to get into than the usual Irish-born interviewee perhaps since his Irish was influenced as you or I might share by American English patterns?

Finally, Gaeltalk on line, via (a seller of Irish learning materials, the biggest such site on the Net, but I prefer to support the non-profit OG shop who can order any item you want anyway!), offers chat live with a tutor that you can sign up for.

I can read, sort of, Latin, Old and Middle English, a bit of Hebrew; I speak Spanish, yet Irish keeps challenging me. I agree with you regarding the difficulty, but do not give up. Even in my stumbling, the fact that I can hear some echo of what my family once spoke inspires me.

Adh mór a chara, and let me know if I can be of further assistance. I hope to hear from you soon. All the best/ slán go foill...JLM

Photo: "Are you serious?"

1 comment:

Bo said...

Thanks for this. I've just bought a DVD set called 'Speaking Irish/ An Ghaeilge Bheo' that has video interviews with native speakers from all over Ireland, inc. Cathal O Searchaigh etc. The interviews are transcribed in the book with immensely helpful comments on dialect.


I thought Welsh was bad...

BTW I have nominated you for an 'I love your blog' award. Pop over to EBB and scroll down a bit.