I am guessing that my regular readers want a rundown of my intensive Irish language weekend. It started Friday evening with a couple hours of class. We were divided into four levels, and I was in the beginning “never spoken the language before” level. One woman in our level was kicked up to Level Two the next day, but the rest of my classmates were as clueless as I was. Our teacher was an energetic lady from Connemara who taught us the standard greeting in her dialect, and I can’t even begin to describe how it goes because it has sounds we just don’t have in English. It basically means, “God be with you,” and then the response is, “God and Mary be with you.” Then she taught us how beginning consonant sounds change in Irish depending upon the context, like if you were addressing someone named Colorado you would say, “A Cholorado,” which is pronounced like a ch in German, basically. However, if you were standing in Colorado, you would say, “i gColorado,” which is pronounced Golorado. I was relieved that she and another teacher, who was from Donegal, both agreed that Irish standard spelling makes no sense, so it isn’t just us English speakers who think so!
Friday evening after class we played a game somewhat like Taboo, where we were split into teams with a person from each level on each team, plus a teacher. The fourth level student would try to describe a word in Irish, and then the rest of us were supposed to provide the word in Irish. The teacher was there to do some translating for us poor first level students. Then after about ten minutes we got a different fourth level student so we got to work with all of them, which is only fair since some were better at this game than others. A guy from Dublin was really good at it, not just because his Irish is so good but because he was just good at describing concepts, like he said, “A big plant in the forest” in Irish, and someone said the Irish word for tree. Our team did not win, but we came in second.
Saturday morning class started at nine, which was a bit cruel in my estimation, but I got going with even enough time to grab a coffee and croissant beforehand. We learned some useful phrases, like how to say, “My name is ____,” but if I write them for you, they will make no sense. Irish is a language best learned by hearing rather than reading, is what I got out of all this. For the most part it isn’t too hard to pronounce, though there are definitely sounds we don’t use in English. But I still could not predict how to spell something I’d heard, or pronounce something I’d seen written. One thing I did learn is that a word starting with a bhf is pronounced with a w. Doesn’t that make sense? Or maybe it’s a fbh, I can’t remember offhand, and my notes are at home.
We had a break for lunch, and I went to pray the rosary in the Perpetual Adoration chapel, but unfortunately I still have not learned how to pray it in Irish so it was just good old English for me. In the late afternoon we could take a dancing class, a singing class, or watch an Irish movie; you will no doubt be stunned to learn that I chose singing. My teacher commented on how quickly I picked up the language, and she would ask me if I remembered what particular words meant. It’s good to know I still have a gift for languages, even in middle age. At night there was a concert given by the man who taught the singing class, but I skipped it to hear Bach.
Sunday class began at the slightly more humane hour of ten, so I had plenty of time to get coffee and a muffin beforehand but not quite enough to go to Mass. I was overjoyed to hear there would be free classes in Irish here in town but then very sad to hear they would be on Tuesday evenings, right during my regular adoration hour. Today I called the chapel coordinator, and he was happy to switch my hour, especially since my boss is OK with me taking a long lunch on Mondays to cover an hour they desperately needed to fill. I should be able to stay late on Mondays to make up the time, so I’ll still get adoration in every week, plus I’ll get to keep going with Irish. So life is good.