Wednesday 21 March 2018

I've been having fun rediscovering my lost love for our native Irish language...

I had a date with an older man last week. A much older man! Ok it wasn't really a date. And he was a friend of my father in law's. (Dating my father in law's friend - now THAT would be weird!) He was bringing me to my first conversational Irish class, to introduce me to the others and look after me in case I made a holy show of myself. Which obviously was inevitable.

I know I know, another class! I seem to have exhausted the entire spectrum of classes - yoga, kettlebells, reading, drama....the list is endless. The only ones I haven't tried yet are Bridge and Knitting. Irish seemed the lesser of all evils!

And apart from anything else, I wanted to relearn cupla focail. I used to be good at Irish. In fact I used to be top of the class and suddenly I find myself in a situation where the only phrases I can remember are 'Póg mo Thóin,' and 'Níl aon tinteán mar do thinteán féin.'

That's simply not good enough for an Irish person, living in Ireland who theoretically believes we should be keeping the Irish language alive. I was a member of Conradh na Gaeilge once upon a time, I'll have you know. Ok so maybe the main reason was to be able to purchase cheap pints in Harcourt Street, but still you had to speak gaeilge whilst you were there.

Anyway off myself and Charles went to the pub and he introduced me to the other members - mostly men of a certain age, filling in an hour of another day of retirement, one muinteoir and a local GP. They were all lovely. They all also spoke fluent Irish more or less. I broke out in a cold sweat. Sweet suffering Lamb of Lord Jesus, why do I do these things to myself?

The conversation flowed around me whilst I kept schtum. I stuck my nose into my cappucino cup, hoping they wouldn't notice me. I decided if all else failed I could always put up my hand and say 'An bfhuil cead agam dull go dtí an leithreas?' and do a runner out the back door.

No such luck. They weren't letting me off that lightly. They forced a few words out of me, gently encouraging and correcting me as I went along. I was mortified especially when I let it slip I had gone to an all Irish boarding school for a year in my youth. By the time the hour was up I was so flustered I said hello to them all instead of goodbye when I was leaving.

They probably thought they'd never see me again. But I'm not a quitter. The next week armed with my school English Irish dictionary and a notebook, I returned. They seemed surprised but delighted. And sure once I got going, they couldn't stop me, even though everything I said was in the wrong tense and the wrong way round.

By the end, I learnt how to say, 'Ceapaim go bfhuil Daithí O Sé gneasach', I don't think he's sexy but it's a handy phrase to have! I learnt the Cork hurlers made a good effort 'rinne siad iaracht maith,' haven't a clue if they did, but another handy phrase, and I learnt red hair is gruaige rua and a black man is fear gorm.

I'm not sure how politically correct that term is but who cares. I'm having fun. Slán agus beannacht!

New Ross Standard