Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Oh The Cuckoo is a Pretty Bird,She Sings As She Flies----In English, Irish, Latin, French....

There was a brief lull in the action this morning at work. For several minutes after messages were listened to and charts pulled for the day the phones didn't ring and we got to talking about what we'd do if and when we ever have enough time on our hands. I'm there two days a week and Pat, who manages our small office, is there four days. She would like to get more time in her sewing room. I'd like that too, but I'd also like, some day soon, to be involved with teaching English as a second language. Pat, who is a very positive and encouraging person, was instantly enthusiastic and said she thought I'd be wonderful at that, especially as I knew what it was like to have to learn English..................

Ahhhh, say what?

"What do you mean Pat?" I asked, puzzled.

I speak English, have done all my life. And I can limp along in German and French, albeit causing great mental anguish to myself and whoever is listening. None of which makes me any more qualified than the next person to teach English to foreigners.

Turns out Pat thought I'd grown up speaking Irish, that everyone in Ireland spoke Irish. Which is a logical thing to assume. but so far from the truth. The Sassenachs did a grand job of almost squashing Irish. Children back in the old days got punished for every word of Irish they spoke, so very soon, being Irish and therefore brilliant, they learned to speak English instead. When I was a child, and Ireland was independent again, Irish, which is a very difficult language, was just something we had to slog through as the nuns tried to undo the damage done by generations of English rule.

It was an uphill battle. They started us in Kindergarten and pounded it into our heads every day until we left school at eighteen.  I liked it well enough, but shhhh! Don't tell the nuns, I liked French much more! That is something I can only now admit. Back then I would have been branded a traitor.  How unpatriotic! Irish was up there with Latin. I loved the words, but Dear God! The grammar!

On our honeymoon we drove all around the west and northwest of Ireland. One day, walking along a road in Donegal we met a local. He raised his hat to us and greeted us in Irish.

"Dia is Muire guit!" I gamely replied.

All those years of daily slogging should be good for something, right? And besides, I had a newly minted American husband to impress and I was quick to recognize an opportunity to knock his socks off. So I spouted some small talk about the weather to our new acquaintance. He wrinkled his weathered brow in puzzlement.  He didn't seem to comprehend a word and hit me with several sentences in a row, not one word of which I could understand. I knew he was speaking Irish, but that was as far as it went. The newly minted husband was having trouble keeping a straight face, and my own face was turning a deeper shade of red with every Irish word the man spoke.

Ochone, ochone!!

Alas and alack Patricia my dear, I won't be bringing any special linguistic brilliance to the teaching of English as a second language!



Note to Ali Honey: I don't think I speak with too much of an accent. At least not until I hear my own voice on a phone message....Then I think it's my sister I'm hearing!

14 comments:

heartinsanfrancisco said...

By Irish, do you mean Gaelic? My great nephew, who lives in County Wicklow, taught me to say "kiss my ass" in Gaelic several years ago. It sounded like "Poge mah Hoge." (hard "gs.")

I think you'd be a wonderful teacher of anything, Molly.

Molly said...

Yes Heart, you'd call it Gaelic, we call it Gaelige. Your great nephew is lucky. Wicklow is a beautiful county!

jkhenson said...

I, too, thought Irish was primary language! Good to know for future travel-Ireland is on my "bucket list". I also think you would be a terrific teacher! :) I chuckled at the thought of the man on the road talking more and more to you and new husband blushing! ;)

Thimbleanna said...

Aha! I popped in to question if "Irish" is Gaelic and I see you've already answered that question. I've never heard it referred to as Irish! And, like the others, I think you'd be a great teacher -- at least if your fabulous writing is any indication!

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

I wish I could flit from one language to another in true Eurotrash style . Sadly , now I'm older it takes a second or two to flick the switch in my brain . I tend , these days , to gawp gormlessly for a second or two till I reset my "phrase book" button . So it's just as well I never had to include "Irish" in the mix.
My cousins all seemed to go off to Galway every year to summer school but since my parents moved to Scotland three weeks before I was born I was spared the struggle .

Ali Honey said...

Thanks Molly. That happens in our family too. Especially R and his brother; they sound very alike. I do not care for the way I sound on a phone message, but that is a bit like looking in the mirror these days..."Who the h... is that?"

lgsquirrel said...

I think Gaelic is a beautiful language. I wish I knew how to speak it.

Friko said...

What fun. People who know only one language don't know what they're missing.

Does that mean you learned all those wonderful Irish poems off by heart. I don't mean poems, what do I mean? I'm afraid, I can't spell the words, much less pronounce them.

secret agent woman said...

I always feel sad when people don't learn the language of their families/country. But I could see where you wouldn't hold on to it if you didn't use it regularly.

aubirdwoman said...

oh dear me Molly were we sassenachs that wicked. No1Son had a Scottish Accent like his father although born in Aus. but is now teaching English in Taiwan.
He recently visited with some friends and I was most impressed to hear him translate.
Go for it Molly I am sure you will enjoy it. um the born a sassenach but now an aussie. (wonder if we are as wicked)

Relatively Retiring said...

I, too, blush and grovel for the behaviour of the Sassenachs.
Sorry about that, Molly!

Pauline said...

There's a lilt to the Irish tongue that just isn't there in the French. My Maman and Memere spoke French - it made my cheeks hurt when I did. And they didn't understand a word of my "school" French!

Stomper Girl said...

I think it's impressive that you can limp along in German and French. And maybe you and the man attempting to speak Irish to you had different dialects? (Are there Gaelige dialects?) My Italian-speaking friends assure me that most Northeners can't understand anything the Southerners say, and that seems to be true of many countries. (Not Australia though)

ganching said...

My brother-in-law speaks Irish as a first language and he finds it hard to understand people from Donegal. Irish does vary quite a bit depending on which part of the country you come from.