Seachtain na Gaeilge

Thursdays are very busy days for me this Semester not least because I have to squeeze in my Irish language class at lunchtime in between lectures meetings and an afternoon computational physics lab.

Although learning a new language is challenging I am enjoying it very much and slowly getting the hang of it. I find the pronunciation rather difficult. Today we encountered the difference between the broad “c” and the slender “c” which I found indistinguishable at first hearing, but figured it out well enough to get all the questions correct on the listening test. It’s basically a slight difference in the position of the back of your tongue against the palate.

Another thing in Irish that takes some getting used to is that many words contain a string of vowels, not all of which are pronounced. At least part of the reason for that is that vowels next to consonants are often only there in order to tell you how to pronounce the consonant rather than being voiced themselves.

In today’s class we also learned how to ask such questions as Cé as tú? (which means “where are you from?”) and during the course of that we learned the Irish form of some names of countries. Interestingly some countries, such as France (An Fhrainc), have an article in front whereas others, such as England (Sasana) do not. I also learned that the Irish word for Wales is An Bhreatain Bheag which translates literally as “Little Britain”. I’m not sure the Welsh will be best pleased to learn that…

Anyway, from now until St Patrick’s Day is Seachtain na Gaeilge an annual festival of the Irish language and culture during which we are all encouraged to use our Irish language skills, however limited.

Here is the President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins introducing this year’s Seachtain na Gaeilge.

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11 Responses to “Seachtain na Gaeilge”

  1. German has articles for some countries as well, e.g. die Schweiz, der Iran, and so on. French often has articles for countries, more often for masculine ones, since the article le is implicit in au Canada, but not the la in en Suisse.

    English has some as well: the Lebanon, though many (most? all?) are dated usage.

  2. Chris_C Says:

    I understand some uses of the definite article are considered offensive by inhabitants of those countries? … The Ukraine, The Argentine,…
    … and I assume “Sasana” is related to the use of “Sassenach” for the old enemy by Scots?

  3. Bryn Jones Says:

    I don’t see why Welsh people would not be pleased to know that the Irish for Wales translates as “Little Britain”. Most Welsh people see Wales as the direct continuation of ancient Britain.

    • Sadly, the term “British” has been appropriated (along with King Arthur and all that) by others. For example, up until, oh, as recently as the middle of the 19th century most if not all references you’ll find to the “British language” meant the Welsh language. These days if you talk about the British language people are more likely to give you a blank look or to say “don’t you mean the English language?”.

      But what about the French? Gauls indeed! Tu quoque, monsieur!

      As to the Irish, once in the 1970s I flew to Farranfore out of Cork. We were greeted by a nice old lady dressed all in black who evidently ran the whole airport. After serving us drinks she disappeared briefly and then came back to say that Shannon were on the ‘phone for me about closing the flight plan (which I had neglected to do) and I could speak to them in the office if I wanted to. While I was out she asked my wife-to-be where in Ireland we came from. On hearing we were Welsh she exclaimed “Well, it is the same thing!”. I’ll take that.

    • Yes and there is la Bretagne i.e. french britanny in France. It is not a problem for the bretons. Some of them disagree with the adjective ‘’french’’ but this is a different point.

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