Wednesday, April 12, 2006

I say "Caidé mar áta tú?" You say "Cén chaoi a bhfuil tú?" Let's call the whole thing off.

Today marks my one-year anniversary as resident in Dublin. To celebrate, I had my first Irish lesson. OK, so I didn't actually plan it that way. I've been searching for a teacher since the end of February. The search took longer than I expected and my first lesson just happened to be today.

Starting to learn new language is difficult. It's such an immense project. Where do you start? I started today with a teacher, a couple of handouts, and a white board. I learned a bit about grammar, a bit about a couple of verbs, how to say some basic greetings. It was a good introductory class and I'm looking forward to getting my hands on Progress in Irish and doing my homework.

I like that my teacher only learned to speak Irish as an adult. Although his parents are Irish, he grew up in New York. He had some exposure to the language, but didn't really start learning until 7 years ago. When I told him my lofty goals, he told me they were doable and that he was the living proof of it. He understands how adults learn and also understands the challenges of coming at Irish as an English-speaking adult.

What I'm not real sure about is that he speaks the Ulster dialect. Now, I understand that there are three major dialects and I'm sure there are loads of regional peculiarities and idioms and other linguistic anomalies that happen when languages evolve over time. I'm given to understand that Ulster Irish is not the typical dialect that you're going to run into when you chance upon an Irish speaker. But I don't know how much of a difference this really makes.

To hear my teacher tell it, you should just concentrate on learning a single dialect and then worry about differences later. To hear Peter tell it, learning Ulster Irish may leave me at a disadvantage. And to hear my father-in-law (a Kerry man) tell it, I should find a teacher who speaks Munster Irish (Connaught Irish at a push) and give up this Ulster Irish lark as a bad job.

In the short term at least, I'm going to stick with Ulster Man. Even if I later decide to switch dialects, the time I put in learning Ulster Irish won't be a total waste. That's what I figure at least. Or maybe I'm just going to end up having to convince Peter that we need to move to the Gaeltacht in Donegal.


At 12 April 2006 at 22:21, Blogger John of Dublin said...

Very gallant of you learning the Irish language.

I understand your problem with the dialects, I had the same issue with different teachers as I was growing up. Ulster does seem the most different I suppose. I would be inclined to agree with your father-in-law that the Munster one is closer to the most natural.

However, it's not a big deal, as I recall it's just prenounciation differences, I think the spellings are all the same. The country is too small for big variations. It's not like the bigger differences you get in border regions of Germany/Austria/Switzerland with the German langauge.

At 14 April 2006 at 20:41, Blogger Steven said...

Ná bac leis an Uladh ráiméis!

Seriously like. The Munster dialect is by far the simplest to learn and comprehend.

You're to be applauded for learning the first official language but the Munster dialect is what the entire country should be learning.

There are different spellings never minding the fact the pronunciations in Ulster make no sense whatsoever. It's just frustrating that TG4 uses Ulster Irish

At 18 April 2006 at 03:36, Blogger Lyss said...

Happy anniversary!

At 18 April 2006 at 06:10, Blogger -Ann said...

John - I just want to be able to understand the speeches at the All-Ireland finals. :)

Steven - Hey, you changed your profile name.

Lyss - Thanks!

At 18 April 2006 at 18:47, Blogger Fence said...

I always hated hearing the Ulster Irish when listening to aurals at school. It's so very different to the other dialects.
I'd be sorta familar with the Munster one cause that is what my mother used. But I lived in Sligo for most of my life, and went to the Galway gaeltacht, so I'd be more used to the Connacht. Though proficient in none :)

At 20 April 2006 at 17:47, Blogger Cionaodh said...

There are a couple of online groups which might be of interest to supplement your in-person studies:
(ag foghlaim an Ghaeilge via "Progress in Irish", currently on lesson 5)
(Learning Munster Irish via Dillon & Ó Cróinín's "Teach Yourself Irish" -- the original version c.1960, not the 1990s-era course by Ó Sé & Shiels)

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