Thursday, January 22, 2009

Gaelic is fun!

As time goes on, my schedule gets more and more complicated. Two of my classes have weekly tutorials, which I feel compelled to attend, despite the fact that they don't seem to factor into my grade in any meaningful sense. I still have Fridays off - yay! - but I'm now attending classes a total of 13 hours a week. Pretty full schedule.

By far, my favorite class is Gaelic. (It's actually called Intro to Modern Irish, but most of my classes have the word "Irish" or "Celtic" in the title somewhere, so "Gaelic" is easier.) I'm learning all kinds of handy phrases. The main difficulty with Gaelic is that the pronunciation of a word or phrase frequently has nothing to do at all with the way it looks. A few samples:

Nil fhios agam, which means "I don't know," is pronounced "neel iss-agum."
Leabhur, which means "book," is pronounced like "flower" without the f.
Go raibh maith agat, which means "thank you," is pronounced "gurra maha gut."
And to say "please" in Irish, you have to say, mas e do thoil e, (mahsh-ay-do-holay) which literally means "If it be your will" or "If it pleases you."

In addition, there's no "yes" or "no" in Irish. They couldn't make even that simple, apparently. To affirm something, you have to repeat the verb in some form, so that you end up with exchanges like this:
"Are you going to dinner with us?" "That I will." or
"Is it raining outside?" "By God, it's raining."
In fact, the Irish language is full of references to God and Mary. To say hello, you say, Dia dhuit, which literally means, "God be with you." To which the proper response is Dia's Muire dhuit, meaning, "God and Mary be with you!" (That "dh" combination in dhuit is a throaty "h," similar to the throat-clearing sound you come across in German.)

Sorry if you're not finding the Gaelic lessons fascinating, I'm kind of starting to love it. It's totally unlike anything I've ever learned, which really irked me the first couple of classes, but I'm finding it pretty awesome now. The whole language has got this character and lilt to it that you know couldn't belong to anybody but those strange Irish. :)

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