Monday, February 13, 2006

Splitting off as Gaeilge

I've been puttering on and off trying to learn Irish Gaelic on my own -- bought the books, have CDs in the car, the whole shebang. I never learned a second language in school (well, beyond the one semester of German in high school that I have completely forgotten) and the oft-cited fact that it's harder to learn a language as an adult is absolutely true.

Why Irish? Well, I don't really have a good answer for that, beyond: I want to. I have no Irish ancestors that I know of, I don't belong to any particular groups that speak Irish. I did pick up fiddle in the last few years (also on and off) and focused mostly on Irish music, with words in Gaelic, so I guess that is reason enough.

Irish is spoken by about 70,000 people as as first language, and by roughly a million people as a second language. Until 1974, proficiency in Irish was required for government work, and it had been a compulsory class for all Irish schoolchildren. The Irish are proud of their native language, though, and have succeeded in making sure that it will continue: it will be an official working language of the EU starting in 2007. Cool!

At any rate, I've been approaching this rather haphazardly and while I understand quite a bit of written Gaeilge, I was rather quickly disabused of the notion that I could actually speak it during our month-long trip to Ireland. I'm sure I sounded like a nursery-school child, but my attempts were at least greeted with smiles and polite corrections, not outright laughs.

So, I started a secondary blog where I'll post bits about Irish and the trials of a hapless English speaker trying to learn Gaeilge. I'm not sure just what I'll include, but I figured it was a bit out of scope for this blog, which seems to swing wildly from short rants about politics to the daily events at the Phouka household. So, I've shuffled it over to a different blog, called Cúpla Focal (A Few Words). We'll see how it goes. I should have plenty of time, at least for awhile!

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