Ban the lingo — 11 Comments

  1. I spent six years at secondary school doing French and can't speak the language. I would be too embarrassed at my pronunciation and sloppy grammaire to try chatting up a mademoiselle. Theoretically I could say Voulez vous coucher avec moi ce soir? But would be at a loss for spontaneous idiomatic words if she slapped me and shouted Quelle betise. Language learning leaves a lot to be desired in Irish schools.

    • I gave up on French after a couple of years – never got more than 10% in an exam!  What surprised me though is that I can just about make myself understood in France and can survive there, though not at conversational level.  There is only one way to learn a language and that is to speak it.  Teaching grammar and syntax is fine for the technicalities but pronunciation and vocabulary are the key.

      • Language, and the learning thereof is a funny old thing. I did a year of French at primary school and then another two years at grammar school. When I went to France on my way to Asia in 1967, I could barely ask the time. I was bloody hopeless. A year or so later when I was up in the Hindu Kush, I met this rather delightful young French lady, and I suddenly started remembering some of my schoolboy French (she spoke no English at all). We ended up travelling together for three or four months, by the end of which I was quite comfortable speaking French, albeit grammatically mangled gutter Parisian (or should that be Parisienne?). Now when I'm in France, I can deal with most situations, my only real problem being that I only ever learned the familiar (tu) form of the verbs I use, which is a bit of a drawback, as the French are rather particular about that, and can be quite iffy if you address them in the second person singular when you don't actually know them.

        There is the same formal / informal mode in Greek, but the Greeks are a lot more relaxed about it, and will hardly notice if you address them in the familiar, although it is considered more polite if you use the more formal second person plural when dealing with someone who is not a personal friend.


        I think the idea of banning the Irish language is brilliant! It would absolutely guarantee that the Irish language would live on as a vibrant, living language!

        • Heh!  Three or four months would do it all right.

          I honestly don't know where my French came from.  The French teacher in school was a gay old bollix and I hated the bastard – never listened to a word he said.  On my first trip to France in '82 we ran out of petrol in the back-end of beyond.  Somehow [and I'm not sure how it happened] I managed to get directions to the nearest petrol place and to persuade the owner to open it as it was a Sunday.  Ne'er a word of English was spoken!  I suppose I just subconsciously picked up words over the years and managed to string 'em together somehow.

  2. Hi Grandad,
    Several years ago I went to an Irish festival and took a class in speaking Irish. Wow what a difficult language. But I too think it is a beautiful language. The instructor was teaching us a poem (don’t remember the poem) and he spoke it in Irish and then in English. When he was finished I said “It sounds much better in Irish!”. I’ve tried a couple of times since to learn Irish but I have a very difficult time with the pronunciations. All those vowels together defeat me every time.
    Perhaps when I finally get to Ireland for a visit I’ll find someone who is fluent and they can teach me some.
    I don’t think it should be mandatory but I too would hate too see it disappear.

    • One of the things I like about Irish is that it is very phonetic.  In other words, once you have the basic rules you can pronounce just about any word.  Not like English where "cough" and "through" are poles apart but spelled much the same.  The one aspect of Irish that beats most people is the soft "c" which has no real English equivalent.  The Dutch get it every time though.  😉

      • "…once you have the basic rules you can pronounce just about any word"

        That is also true of Greek. Once you've mastered the lower case alphabet the language is phonetic. If you can read it, you can say it – and be understood. But there are several letters that don't have an English equivalent and which some English speakers find very difficult to pronounce, like ξ (ks, as in ξέρω – ksero, I know) and ψ (ps, as in ψάχνω -psachno, I seek / search). But compared to the vagaries of English pronunciation, Greek is a doddle.

        • The one advantage with Irish is that essentially it uses a cut down version of the English one.  All the harder sounding consonants are missing – no j, k q, v, w, x, y or z.  The only thing that people generally have problems with are the "fada" [literally – long] which elongates a vowel and the séimhiú [used to be a dot over the consonant but was replaced by introducing an "h" after the letter], which tends to soften the consonant.

          To be honest, I don't know how anyone learns English.  It must be the most illogical language on the planet!

  3. Gaelic without tears can happen, depending on the personality of the teacher and the social circumstances. I am afraid that in teacher-centered Irish schools there were too many Prussian-minded teachers who instilled psychological antagonism in pupils rather than lexical attraction. On speaking French as opposed to learning irregular verbs, I agree that full immersion, like having a weekend breakdown (Mon auto est en panne, monsieur) and meeting somebody who speaks nary an English word but can help fix the jalopy, is the effective way to get into the swing of speaking it.

    • The problem with teaching the language as a school subject is that it takes any fun out of it, and it doesn't teach kids to speak it.  You could learn Peig Sayers off by heart but you still wouldn't be able to speak a word.

  4. I finished school well over 20 years ago and I can honestly say that I forgot 95% of my Irish within the first year. After moving here I lost the remaining %5. But because people here are surprised to hear that there is an Irish language I started to pick it up again. It's difficult though as I use 2 (sometimes 3) different languages each day. I always hated that it was forced on us but I don't know how the kids these will learn it if it wasn't.

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