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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: March 19, 2012 @ 9:39 am

    Bliain an Bhéarla/The Year of English

    Pól Ó Muirí

    As Seachtain na Gaeilge/The Week of Irish has ended, I would like to take the chance to remind all Irish speakers that Bliain an Bhéarla/The Year of English starts this week and that you will only have 51 weeks to practise your English. I realise that 51 weeks to speak English is not a lot of time but don’t lose heart – you can do it.

    Of course, the most important thing in learning any language is to use it whenever you get a chance. If you are getting a bus or a taxi or something to eat, don’t be afraid to use your “couple of words”. Your pronunciation might not be perfect but people will understand you. And don’t be afraid if your grammar is not the best. English is a language with a lot of grammar which no one pays any attention to. Just batter away with your Béarla and you will be fine.

    Perhaps you are one of those people who only feels confident speaking English when you have a drink taken. That’s ok. Some of the best English you will hear will be in the pubs of Ireland. The barmen will give you a “hundred thousand welcomes” when you arrive and will fill you so full of “the craic” that you will curse the days when you never had a word of English in your poor mouth. 

    Anyway, here are some emergency sentences to get you started: “Mine is a pint.”; “It is fierce wet out there today.”; “How is the soccer going, my good man, do we have a glimmer of hope at all at all at winning the Euros?”; “Damn and blast those bankers; they are a bloody awful lot and we would be better rid of them all”; “Economic recession me arse. As long we have potatoes we will be alright”.

    You will soon pick up new words and phrases and there will be astonishment on you at how quickly you master English. Remember too that you can just answer “Yes” and “No” to questions and that you do not have to answer the verb with the verb. That is, of course, acceptable – most things are in English – but it will make you seem a bit old fashioned and people might start shouting “begorrah” at you.

    If you want to study the language more formally, you could enrol for a course. There are plenty of English courses in Ireland but, really, I don’t think you will need to spend the money. Immersion in a language is the best way to learn it. So, throw yourself into English with as much vigour as you can manage. Try to avoid places and organisations which have a fada in their name or the word “Gaeilge”. The chances are that the people in those organisations will not be able to converse in English with you. Such people are to be pitied – and avoided at all costs. Don’t let them drag you back to The Stone Age  – or as they like to call it in Irish the “Gaeltacht”.

    Don’t be afraid to contact your T.D. – The Deputy – for help in getting services in English. After all, that is why The Deputy is there. Tell him that you pay your taxes and you want an English-speaking doctor, nurse, solicitor, taxman, postman because you want to learn English and get on.

    Let your motto be  – a language lives when you speak it. Embrace Bliain an Bhéarla!


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