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  • Raising children with Irish

    March 21, 2012 @ 10:02 am | by Pól Ó Muirí

    Brian Ó Broin’s new book, Thógamar le Gaeilge Iad (Coiscéim), will be launched tomorrow (Thursday, 22nd March) at 6pm in Club Chonradh na Gaeilge, Harcourt Street, Dublin. Ó Broin is a young academic working in the U.S. and he has edited this collection of essays by various contributors on the challenges of raising children with Irish in areas where the language is not strong. All are welcome to the event.

  • Ferdie’s fáilte for funding talk

    @ 9:40 am | by Pól Ó Muirí

    The Chief Executive of Foras na Gaeilge, Mr Ferdie Mac an Fhailigh, has said that he is heartened by the level of participation in the public meetings that the group has organised on its proposed New Funding Model. This model aims to replace the traditional block funding of Irish-language organisations with eight schemes which will provide Irish-language services, north and south.

    Mac an Fhailigh urged people with an interest in Irish to send in submissions before the deadline of Monday, 2nd April. It was “vitally important for the future of Irish that people make their opinion known” he said in a statement yesterday. A summary of the advisory document can be found here.

  • Bliain an Bhéarla/The Year of English

    March 19, 2012 @ 9:39 am | by 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!

  • Titley on tv

    March 14, 2012 @ 9:39 am | by Pól Ó Muirí

    Just a note on Alan Titley’s new programme, Scéal na Gaeilge, which will be broadcast on TG4 this Saturday at 8.30pm and Monday (19th March) also at 8.30pm. The programme does exactly what it says on the tin – it tells the story of Irish from the year dot up until the present.

    Readers of the this paper will be very familiar with Titley’s writing in his Thursday column for which he has collected a fistful of awards. (I’m not jealous!) Alan has written Scéal na Gaeilge and presents it. (Come to think of it, I think he has also won awards for writing for tv. Beginning to get a little jealous!) Rosg have produced it – and if it is anything as good as Na Cloigne we should all be in for a treat.

    Anyway, given that Alan writes for this paper, I won’t be reviewing it but will welcome any intelligent comments if you happen to see it. Also, if I have done this correctly, there should be a promo link here.

    Sin do chuid.

  • Rosenstock leads the way

    March 12, 2012 @ 11:42 am | by Pól Ó Muirí

    One of the more traditional aspects of the annual “worth of Irish debate” during Seachtain na Gaeilge is the inaccurate impression that Irish speakers are in someway obscurantist by the very fact that they speak Irish. As one letter writer to The Irish Times wrote last week, Irish speakers often also speak another language (in addition to English) and have a great interest in languages in general.

    In my experience, Irish speakers are usually very openminded when it comes to learning (and respecting) other languages. Many of the Irish speakers I know also speak French, German, Italian and quite a few know Welsh and Scots Gaelic – languages which offer other views of what it means to be British.

    I offer one little illustration of how Irish speakers’ interest in languages can enrich. Gabriel Rosenstock is well known as a poet and translator and contributes to this paper’s Irish-language columns. Recently, I wrote a little review of one of the collections he and Hans-Christian Oeser translated – Sphärenmusik/Music of the Spheres/Ceol na Sféar (Coiscéim) by the German poet, Matthias Politycki.

    Reading Friday’s The Independent, I noticed that one Matthias Politycki has a book – Next World Novella – on the long list for that newspaper’s prestigious Foreign Fiction Prize. I would not have known about Politycki had it not been for Rosenstock and I suspect that that is true of many others. Now, however, we see Politycki being feted in England which will, no doubt, raise his profile – and more power to his elbow!

    Still, his work is available in Ireland due to an Irish-language publishing house; a positive example of Irish speakers keeping an eye out for modern literature in languages other than English.

  • Seachtain na No Gaeilge

    March 5, 2012 @ 10:48 am | by Pól Ó Muirí

    I always look forward to Seachtain na Gaeilge. It is the one week in the year when I never speak Irish. After all, I roll the language rock up the hill for the other 51 weeks and do not see why I should bother when the summer soldiers and Johnny-come-latelys all begin to annoy me to death and start their sentences with: “How do you say in Irish…?” I am sorry but you mistake me for someone who gives a francach’s tóin.

    Yes, Seachtain na Gaeilge is like Christmas when all the turkey-and-ham Catholics turn up for their annual Mass, take up the pews from the regular, actually believing, Catholics, and leave the place feeling vaguely better about themselves. It is the perfect time for this long-suffering Gaeilgeoir to sit back and watch while the born agains try again.

    That is not to say that you won’t get something out of Seachtain na Gaeilge. Far from it. The big danger is that you will get something from it – a sort of STI – Socially Transmitted Irish that, like herpes, could well be with you for the rest of your life. Irish is highly infectious and, like many infections, could lead to you having to seek medical help – though in the case of Irish, it will be psychological help that you will be wanting, so it will, for cinnte and for sure.

    First, people start abusing you verbally when you say you speak Irish. They say: “no one speaks Irish and it’s a waste of time and money and pointless and we would be better spending the money on a space programme and going to Mars and taking it over and let’s see how the Troika get their money back when we are all on Mars, armed with nuclear weapons.”

    And you will answer by going all metaphysical on your opponent with vague and heartfelt pleas to the “soul” of the nation, and the literature and the Gaeltacht and Gaelbabes. And they will say: “Soul, me arse. Can you sell that to the Troika? My Mars’ plan is better than your auld Irish – although you do have a point about the Gaelbabes. They are hot.”

    You will make that argument for the rest of your life. Time and time and time again until, after a lifetime of Seachtain na Gaeilge, you find yourself grey beyond your years and finally deciding that the ABC1s are right  – Irish culture is about buying as much as you can and a fortnight in the Algarve – golfing!

    Of course, Seachtain na Gaeilge has had its big successes. The Normans were all French speaking when they invaded Ireland but they took part in Seachtain na Gaeilge back in the 14th century and decided to give up French and go with the Irish. Undoubtedly, it is a pity that the Normans did not appreciate the opportunities that bilingual education offered but there you go. In their defence, foreign travel was limited to invading other countries at that time.

    Admittedly, it is unlikely that you will be riffing with the Holy Spirit at the end of the Week of Irish but languages can bring about changes in you that are both profound and subtle. You start asking yourself little questions and then you buy a dictionary from Conradh na Gaeilge and then a beginner’s language course. Those pimps will feed your habit remorselessly until you are standing in Harcourt Street screaming at the top of your lungs: “Oscail an doras! Oscail an doras! I gotta have some! Give me a grammar book before I burn the place down!”

    You might discover that the language has been hiding in plain sight, that your prejudices were entirely wrong, that you were – gulp – not just as clued in as you thought. Then again, you might just decide that it’s all a bit of fun and not bother again until next year to say “Póg mo thóin”.

    Whatever happens, don’t worry. The language will still be there. It is always there. Waiting for the unwary, the curious, the innocent, the ignorant, the lost, the foolhardy.

    (A shorter version of this article appeared in The Irish Times, Saturday, 03 March, 2012)

  • Stoite Nua

    March 3, 2012 @ 10:31 am | by Pól Ó Muirí

    Thóg an fear seo teach
    (le hairgead nach raibh aige)
    Is an fear úd
    Claí nó fál
    (Nár chríochnaigh sé)
    A mhair ina dhiaidh
    Is a choinnigh a fhiacha buan.

  • Foras meets and greets (update)

    March 1, 2012 @ 10:56 am | by Pól Ó Muirí

    Saw an ad in today’s Irish News for the forthcoming FnaG public meetings. Says that there will be a simultaneous translation service available. So, that might help those not fluent in Irish to give an opinion.

  • Foras meets and greets

    February 29, 2012 @ 11:45 am | by Pól Ó Muirí

    A group of international language experts have written an open letter to the newspapers in which they have attacked Foras na Gaeilge  for its plans to introduce a New Funding Model to promote Irish.

    The experts believe the model is “deeply flawed and will prove detrimental to the development of Irish”. They argue that foras “have not carried out any review of the effectiveness, or the efficiency of the Irish language organisations, and their proposal is completely at odds with international language planning principles”. They want “a permanent funding structure, based on strategic planning and long-term goals, for the Irish language voluntary sector”.

    Foras issued a statement to The Irish Times yesterday, saying they had read the letter and had invited the experts to meet with them. They would not comment on the proposed funding model in case they influenced the ongoing public consultation on the subject.

    Under the model, schemes rather than individual organisations will be funded. Foras say it will result in more Irish for your euro; 19 groups affected say it will destroy the voluntary sector and its work.

    And talking of consultations. That process was to start at the beginning of January and end at the beginning of April. As part of the consultation process, FnaG will hold public meetings in:
    Meadowlands Hotel, Trá Lí, Co Kerry, Monday 5th March, 7pm
    Cultúrlann MacAdam-Ó Fiaich, Belfast, Thursday, 8th March, 7pm.
    Páirc Mionlach Hotel, Galway, Monday, 12th March, 7pm
    Foras na Gaeilge HQ, Merrion Square, Dublin, Wednesday 14th March, 7pm.

    It all seems very late and I have not seen any great publicity campaign to alert people to these meetings. Certainly, I did not receive any press release and found these, by chance, on FnaG’s website. One wonders how well attended they will be and how exactly these meetings will inform the final decision on the new funding arrangement.

  • Tribes and tongues

    February 28, 2012 @ 4:38 pm | by Pól Ó Muirí

    A book which offers “an analysis of Irish speakers’ contemporary experience of social bilingualism” will be launched in the Aula Maxima, NUI Galway, this Monday (March 6th) at 6pm. An Chonair Chaoch: an Mionteangachas sa Dátheangachas (Leabhar Breac) is edited by Ciarán Lenoach, Conchúr Ó Giollagáin and Brian Ó Curnáin.

    They argue that “the current experience of bilingualism in minority communities is socially and linguistically beneficial to the majority language while simultaneously undermining the social basis of the minority language and its ethnolinguistic resilience”.

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