Thursday, May 25, 2006

Sprechen vous gaelige?

The always excellent JL Pagano takes the recent Fine Gael proposals to make the teaching of Gaelige and develops an interesting discussion. Drawing on his own education experience, he demonstrates his 'cupla focail' before having a pop at TG4 and Hector O'hEochagain.
JL does it with his customary style and no little humour.

As a child who grew up in England, I was exempted from studying Irish at secondary school. However, I did study French, German and Latin for 5 years as well as Spanish for 3 years.
Maybe I'm just not a languages person. Despite (or was it because of) these education efforts, I am unable to converse in any of the three European languages even at the most rudimentary level.

I'd suggest that the way in which we teach languages in our schools is what is wrong. We should teach our students with a view to them being able to converse rather than on an ability to read, write and correct grammar in the language. I believe the negative experience of learning Irish that many like JL recall is similarly experienced by those studying other languages in the Irish educaton system.

Maybe it's time that we considered Irish to be like any other European language. Perhaps if we recognised the abysmal command that we Irish (and our nearest neighbours) have of languages, we might be more motivated to reform how we teach our children. That the children in almost every other European country are polyglots gives us a clue to how we could teach languages better.

As an aside, despite not having a word of gaelige, I thoroughly enjoy watching TG4 (with/without subtitles). The standard of home produced programmes is consistently excellent. I watch these programmes in much the same way that I love watching French and Italian movies. I secretly hope that this immersion in these foreign cultures will one day miraculously allow me to speak these languages. Well after all, having French and German grammar beaten into me for 5 years hasn't worked.


(*) Apologies to all gaelige speakers but I've not managed to determine how to add "accent" punctuations in this basic blogger text format.


Blogger Fence said...

You know I often think I mustn't have grown up in Ireland afterall, because I have no great memories of mournful Irish lessons.

But then I recall that I still can't speak it, nor German which I studied for the leaving, and realise, yup. I'm Irish.

As for accents, usually if you use the alt gr button you can get them. Féach :) But then again, Blooger can be odd.

10:29 a.m., May 25, 2006  
Blogger KnackeredKaz said...

It's not an accent! It's a fada! You Palestines! Tsk!

á é ó ú I can get them all using Alt Gr, but not the i. It seems I doesn't want to be fadaded.

I too don't have that many 'horror' Irish lessons memories but I also can't speak the language. I recall a few well known phrases that we were encouraged to throw into the oral exam such as:

Rith me ar nos na gaoithe (I ran like the wind)

Bhi me ag crith le h-eagla (I was shaking with the fear)

and my all time favourite

Bhi an grian ag taitneamh agus nil aon scamaill sa speir (The sun was shining and there wasn't a cloud in the sky)

(Please do excuse the woeful spelling there, I don't have my Irish/English dictionary)

(Ps: I know it's Philistines, not Palestines, I was being funny!)

4:49 p.m., May 25, 2006  
Blogger Omaniblog said...

As a proud Philistine, I didn't think it was bit funny to be likened to a Palestine. But I do love the distinction between an accent and a fada.
How do you do the "boo ill ches"? So far I've only managed full stops.
I used to be fluent at Irish after time in Baile Na nGall and Ring. Surely you can't learn to speak a language without immercing yourself in a place where you have to speak it to be understood.
I'm with fence on this. The Irish lessons I did at school were no worse than the others: all my school lessons were awful - Irish didn't stand out. Simply taking the time away from Irish and giving it to say French isn't much use, if the French teaching is poor.
I suggest everyone should be offered a crash course in how to pronounce Irish words, a smattering of phrases you can use in a pub when you want to make smart remarks about the French guy sitting next to you, one short Irish poem (4 lines) you can recite just to prove you can be different.
Ever since they got rid of the Latin, it's become more important to be able say something others can't understand.
On a serious note, there's a whole load of people who make their living on the Irish. Signwriters, speechwriters, translators, columnists... it is vital for them that we continue to compel people to do Irish at school.

6:51 a.m., May 26, 2006  
Blogger Paige A Harrison said...

Fence, thanks for the alt gr tip. I didn't even realise such a key existed! Go raibh míle maith agat!

Kaz, I knew it wasn't an "accent" but though 'fada' was one of those obscure words only Ulster folk talk about. But you are quite right, 'is phaleistini mé' I'll learn those phrases off and will be able to use the 'nil aon scamaill sa speir' line one of these days!

I agree that we should be slow to make gaeilge optional. If we allowed children to make the choice about what they thought was important they'd probably drop english lit and trigonometry and (like me who opted not to do gaeilge) regret it for the rest of their life.

Omani, what the heck are "boo ill ches" and can you get a low fat version?

2:21 p.m., May 26, 2006  
Blogger Ms Ann Thrope said...

I always thought we should teach Irish in the same way as French or any other foreign language, with more emphasis on vocabulary and grammer and less emphasis on Peig. Then again, my Irish is a lot better than my French so I could be wrong.

3:57 p.m., May 27, 2006  
Blogger An Spailpín said...

Hi Paige,

For my two cents, one of the problems with Irish is that it's taught to children who are too young to take on another language. By the time they're old enough to get a handle on it they've either moved into the Higher Level and engaged in hand to hand combat with Pangur Bán and myself (An Spailpín Fánach) and are too far in to have their bad habits undone, or else already given up for lost by the system.

I know it's terribly modish to talk about being against learning by rote but Latin has survived through that very system, and children chanting "amo, amas, amat..." all the live-long day. I wouldn't knock it just yet.

Love your blog - see you around.

10:39 p.m., June 08, 2006  

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